& Robert Vangard,the brothers of Tadek Vangard...
When his love affair to Raquel Hendrics was over Tadek
Vangard moved to a private hostel called “Beethoven House”,situated in
Brougham street which was one of the streets and alleys in the vicinity of Mount
Victoria.The house was owned by a New Zealander of a Singaporean origine,a very
original man in his forties,who used to play on a piano every morning at seven
a’clock.Breakfasts with toasted sandwiches,jam or srambled eggs and coffee or
tea were for free.
The hotel was popular among the backpacker tourists,many of whom had their own
guitars and travelled for several months or longer across the world.One woman in
her early twenties,quite beautiful,with thick and long,black hair was away from
her home in Sacramento,California,already for over two years.Tourists liked to
listen to her when she sang Indian ballads in the evenings,seating around her in
a ring like circle,under the open sky pierced by the rays of the far away
stars.Tadek Vangard felt there at home and the wounds of his broken heart were
One day he decided to call his older brother,Marek,who stayed in Poland.He sent
to him some goods,mostly clothes,shoes and toys in the ship containers and was
curious how was the business going on.Besides,their contacts in China were doing
the same.Marek Vangard was certainly very busy there in Poland and primarily the
success of their enterprise depended on him.
-“What’s new,Marek,with you?...And with Maria?...And with our parents,with
Robert and Dorota?…”-Tadek Vangard asked.There was some sort of hesitance on
the other side of the telephone line but fairly soon he heard the voice of his
-“Tadek,everything’s fine with us.We probably get married soon,Maria and
me.Tomorrow morning we go to Kurow Suski,the village of our grandmother as you
know.Many family members we’ll be present there.Our grandmother celebrates her
birthday.She is eighty years old! You have greetings from Maria.”
-“Should I send anything else? More shoes? More toys?”
-“We have not enough shoes for children.If you can manage to find ones you can
send them to us.”
-“How many do you need?”
-“Ten thousand pairs is just right.”
-“O.K.I’ve a contact in Bali.I’ll arrange a new shipment.Pass greetings to
everyone in our family.”
-“We miss you,Tadek.”
-“I miss you all,too.”
It was already the middle of the day when Marek Vangard and Maria Bartosz found
themselves in the vicinity of Kurow Suski,a small village in the Beskidy region
of the Carpathians.There was nothing around but the hills covered splendidly
with woods and lots,absolutely lots of snow.The street was icy and only such a
good driver as he was could manage to keep the car firmly on the road.He cursed
in his thoughts the government,the first one in the postcomunist Poland.There
was talk about the so-called “Shock therapy”,but in this village of only a
thousand inhabitants,cut off from the rest of the country inhabited by nearly
forty millions people,life had its own path and there was certainly no
difference here between the everyday life a hundred years ago and the present
life.Except for the television sets,mobile telephones and expensive cars which
once for a while appeared briefly in the village.Marek Vangard had a BMW
car,which he purchased less than a year ago.He could afford it because the
business he shared with his brother,Tadek Vangard,prospered quite well.He
thought about his yesterday’s conversation with his brother.
-“Maria,what do you think is he homesick?”-He asked his girlfriend who just
listened to a compact disc from which a lavine of devine singing by duet of
American primadonnas,Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand,sweatened their heads.
-“Whom do you mean?”- Maria Bartosz asked impatiently,not happy about being
somehow disconected from the lure of the song.
-“I mean Tadek.He lives so far away from us! Somewhere there on the outskirts
of this world.”
-“You’re forgetting New Zealand belongs to the first world to which our
country is just aspiring.”
-“O.K.So what do you think?”
-“I’ve no idea.I think it is better he is there.If you were together in one
place you might fight with each other every morning and evening.You
see,Marek,you both are very determined individuals.Tadek is like an eagle but
you are like a tiger.You both are fighters.”
-“Brothers or not,you better stay both out of your ways and away from each
-“You mean we sholdn’t do business together.”
-“No,this I did not say.You can do business together but from a distance.”
-“Well,this is the case with us!”
-“You’re right,Marek…You’re my birdy.I can’t wait till the
-“Maybe we stop here somewhere on the way and…make a love”- Marek Vangard
grinned to her.She began to laugh.
-“Oh Marek,you’re crazy! The snow would cover the car fast entirely.We’d
be wiped out from this world!”-She just continued to laugh.
It took additional two hours for them to get to the house of Marek Vangard’s
grandmother.Normally,especially in the summer,it did not take more time to get
there than just a quarter of an hour.They were greeted at first by Gienek
Bondas,the youngest son of Aniela Bondas,the grandmother to Marek Vangard.He was
married and had two children.When they found themselves inside the firmly large
house they encountered many other family members,over twenty at least.It was
joyfull inside the living room with a fireplace at the far end corner.Who
wasn’t there! Marek Vangard's grandmother,naturally,and his mother,Emilia
Barton with her husband,Wolfgang,sisters of Emilia:Hanna Ropuch and Maria
Palciata with their husbands and their kids who were already grownups.The Hanna
Ropuch's sons were already over twenty years old.Marek Vangard did not like them
but also they did not like him.Neither of them could explain why.Maybe this was
because of some rivalry among them? They came up first to Aniela Bondas,the
grandmother of Marek Vangard and gave her their presents in which was included a
Persian carpet and a Nokia mobile telephone.
-“I see you want me to live long enough to welcome the new century and new
millennium at once,with that little,fantastic thing.It’s only eight years left
to year 2000.”- Marek’s grandmother,Aniela Bondas,joked,having in mind the
-“Sure Boma,sure.”- Marek Vangard answered and grinned to her.As always in
his life whenever he had a contact with her,he was not sure whether she is
looking at him or someone else in the family,due to her crossed-eyed squeeze.He
liked his grandmother very much.Nobody else read to him so many fables as his
grandma when he was a kid.She read books whenewer she had free time.Mostly in
the evenings and by the fireplace.It was so familiar to him.He was sure she must
have read thousands of books in her life.She was bigger than life.Only then did
he notice his youngest brother,Robert Vangard,who conversed quietly with his
wife,Barbara.Waiters appeared,it seemed,from nowhere with trays full of glasses
filled with champagne.
-“Hundred years,hundred years…may she is living…”- Everybody began to
sing the traditional song in every Polish household whenever someone celebrated
his or her birthday.
-“Thanks a lot,my dear family.Let’s go to the dining room for
dinner.”-Aniela Bondas invited everyone graciously.She still looked great for
her eighty years.Only the hair on her head,white-grey,suggested she was as old
as she really was,a woman who expierenced a tremendous amount of tragedy in her
life.They moved to another large room and were seated around a long table
covered with white table-cloth.Marek Vangard,strangely,was seated next to Darek
Ropuch,the son of Hanna Ropuch.Strangely,because they both disliked each
other.They conversed politely but there was a venom in their talk.
-“I think general Sikorski was killed by the allies because they had their own
plans concerning our country.They intended to sell Poland straightaway to the
Soviets as much as all the other Slavic nations what eventually happened during
the infamous conference in Jalta when the division of Europe to two halves was
stamped by Churchill,Roosevelt-or Truman,I don't remember-and Stalin.General
Sikorski,if he lived,he would call on Poles to fight against the Soviets till
the bitter end.”- Marek Vangard said at one point.
-“You’re forgetting,Marek,the Soviet troops stayed in our country and this
was a de facto new reality nothing could be done against.”- Darek Ropuch
answered.They both meant,of course,the last stages of the II World War,somehow
turned in the wrong direction,from the perspective of the Poles.
Marek Vangard,naturally,did not like this answer.Whatever Darek Ropuch said
contradicted his own opinions.Darek was taller than him,ten years
younger,but,somehow,still lacking some sort of personality.He was still a so
called "mom’s baby",influenced very much by his own mother who was
over-caring towards her children despite that they were already adults.Gradually
they moved to some other themes in their conversation and they felt highly
irritated by then.When they began to talk about religion and state issues they
were already red on their faces.Darek was of opinion religion,any religion
should be split from the affairs of state.Marek in the meantime was deeply
religious and said there in Poland was a place for one religion only,the
Catholicism,because ninety eight percent of Poles were catholics.Darek Ropuch
objected saying this was not a real picture of the countrymen and if they were
given a free hand by the clerics and the society they would choose some other
denominations within the variety of the Christian religions.
-“People should have right to choose a religion for themselves,any
religion.This should be a private matter of every citizen.Religion should no
longer exist as a sort of system because in this way it breads fanatism and
intolerance.In some cases it is more cruel than any other system in the
world,crueller even than communism,because it uses God against its
victims:emancipated women,free thinkers,homosexuals…”
Marek Vangard thought he can no longer stomach it.
-“It looks strange to me you support homosexuals.They live against
nature.”-Marek Vangard said bitingly.
-“Against nature?...What don’t you say,Marek.Homosexualism and nature are
two different issues! In the end,if you want to stay with your
“nature”,remember that what a human being thinks,what is in his or her
mind,their feelings,wishes,desires…these all is their nature! Human beings are
not animals.You can’t degrade a man to following the nature as you mean
it.Firstly he must live according to his own nature,the one within his mind!
Bacause only then he is a human being!”- Darek Ropuch exploded.
-“Why do you defend homos?...Aren’t you sometimes one of them?...”- Marek
Vangard said aggressively.
This was too much for Darek Ropuch.He jumped off the table and gave a blow into
the Marek Vangard’s face who also jumped into both of his legs and they began
to fight with each other as if they were on a boxing ring.The family members
looked stunned at them at first and then rushed to separate them from each
The stage took now mothers of both antagonists,Emilia Barton and Hanna
Ropuch.They were a step from doing the same what their sons did a moment ago
despite that they were sisters.
-“You became jalous because you see my sons make a fortune and one of them
even lives abroad!”- Emilia Barton said to her sister at some point.
-“You think so,sister! Since they began to do a business you became strange!
And your sons too! Look at your youngest son,Robert! Why they don’t help
him?”- Hanna Ropuch was red faced with anger.
-“This is not your business! You better look at your own sons! Make people of
them!”- Emilia Barton retorted.
-“Stop it! Stop it!”- They heard suddenly a powerful voice of their mother
and grandmother to others,the voice of Aniela Bondas.She shivered with
anger.Tears went down her cheeks.She took her hands into her face and simply
cried.There was now a total silence in the whole of the house and a tremendous
embarrassment.The only what they heard was Her cry.They have never seen Her
crying.She was bigger than life.When her husband was taken to the concentration
camp at the early stages of the war she had to feed them all.Eight children!
-“Why you do it to me?”-She still cried.Her grey hair seemed to be even
greyer.-“Why do you do it to me in such a day? Haven’t you forgotten it is
my birthday? What a family have I brought up?! God,first I had to defend us all
from the Adolf Hitler’s troops,then from the Joseph Stalin troops,do
everything to have enough food for each of you,work from four a.m. till
midnight,look after our animals,do things normally no man,I mean a male,would be
able to do and now…this!…”
-“My husband and your father,and a grandfather to many of you,somehow survived
the concentration camp but returned a man deeply seek.Shortly afterwards died of
pneumonia.I had to bring you up again counting only on myself,against the cruel
reality of long years of the communist rule.God,and now this! You don’t
appreciate my birthday!”
Her sons,Gienek and Rudek came up to her and took her into their wide arms.
-“Mother,don’t cry,don’t cry…It’s only a dramatic misunderstanding.It
won’t happen again,we promise!”-They spoke as if for everyone in the
house.Aniela Bondas took a handkerchief from a pocket of her traditional dress
and wiped out tears from her face.A transformation happened within herself in a
split of a second and she looked up at her family members now demandingly.
-“O.K.I believe what you say.I forgive all of you but you must forgive each
other.You must remember nothing is as simple as some of you might believe.Life
is very complex as much as whatever you say.Nature,normality,freedom,whatever
else...have complex meanings.Every human being has his or her right to exercise
his or her own belief and point of view.But you can’t,you absolutely can’t
deny rights of those of you who disagree with you.And you can’t react
violently! These are the words from someone who got over all the cruelties of
the second world war and the long nightmare of communism! Forgive yourself.Give
your hands to each other,please.”
They did as she asked them to do.Emilia Barton and Hanna Ropuch apologised to
each other,the same did Marek Vangard and Darek Ropuch,and everyone else in the
family.Peace returned to their minds and soon afterwards they were able even to
joke to each other.They dined and then nothing else was left as dancing till the
late night hours.Robert,the youngest brother among the Vangard brothers was the
best dancer.He looked definitely handsome,a blondman,tall and sporty.Marek
Vangard was satisfied his brother has not drunk alcohol but instead spent his
energy on the dance floor.Darek and Jurek Ropuch were also quite good
dancers.Halina,Grazyna and Barbara,the daughters of Olgierd Bondas who was one
of the sons of Aniela Bondas but was already dead,from heart attack,paraded with
quite modern technics of dancing.Around midnight Marek Vangard noticed that his
brother,Robert,switched to drinking.Nobody else seemed to notice it except of
him.His brother was an alcohol addict ever since he began to work as a
professional house painter welcomed in every household with one or some bottles
of Polish vodka.This was the speciality of the communist lifestyle,gone by
now,when Poland became an entrepreneurial country but the habit or rather the
addiction stayed in him.Marek Vangard came up to his brother.
-“Robert,so what is your decision,do you go to Belgium with me next month?”-
He asked.They have already discussed about the trip some time ago.Marek Vangard
has bought a house there,in Antwerp,a beautiful harbour town,for money which
belonged to him and Tadek,who agreed to purchasing the house.
-“Of course! You know,Marek,we need much more money than we have.Barbara is
not happy with the state of our finances.”
-“You’ll have enough work to do in Antwerp!All the house should be
-“Great! You can count on me,Marek!”
-“But,Robert,you promise me you won’t drink?…”
Robert Vangard grinned to his brother.
-“Sure.”- He answered.But as soon as he said it his smile vanished and a
sadness crossed his face.He probably knew it won’t be easy for him to get rid
of his drinking problem.Whatever private house he went to work in he was always
gifted with a bottle of vodka or sometimes even forced to drinking with
others.It was the leftover of the habits from the communists times.A very
complicated was this family,he thought.All had dramatic lives.Their grandmother
forced by the cruel reality of war to bring alone her eight children,his mother
married to a man she never wished to get married to,his father hating his mother
as much as she hated him and their divorce put to end,finally,the bitter horror
of their lives…Nearly everyone lost someone in this family.The youngest
daughter of their grandmother,Maria Palusiak,lost a four year old son when he
was taken away by a strong stream of water in a river Sola in Rajcza,a village
in the Beskidy mountains where they lived.She had yet two children,Ania and
Ryszard who were approaching their adolesxcent lives.Two sons of their
grandmother were already dead.One died in a car accident the other one from
heart attack.His own mother,Emilia Barton,also lost a daughter,Lucyna,when she
was only fourteen months old.He had two brothers and one sister.Tadek was away
in New Zealand,Marek,the oldest of them was not married but had a nice
girlfriend,Maria Bartosz and sister,Dorota Starcz was married to Mirek and had
two children,Paulina and Kamil,by now.Both sons of Hanna Ropuch were adults and
had yet a younger brother,Bartek,who was only fifteen years old.Only the oldest
of them,Jurek,was married and had a daughter,Renata.Olgierd from Golonog nearby
Katowice in the Silesia region who was the oldest son of their grandmother was
dead,from heart attack,but left three beautiful daughters after
himself:Halina,Grazyna and Bogumila.Another son of their grandmother,Rudek
Bondas,lived in Wroclaw situated in the south-western part of Poland and had two
daughters: Zdzislawa and Joanna.Gienek Bondas,the youngest son of their
grandmother had three children of whom one died in an accident which occurred in
their own household.He had a sister,Matylda Wojaczek,second oldest in the family
who had six children left by her husband who hanged himself years ago.She had
also difficult life being forced by the reality to bring up six children.Yet
some of them reached their adulthood and one of them,Christoph,has even finished
university.He,Robert Vangard,had two sons,Szymon and Tomek and lived in the
house of his father,Jozef Vangard.In one word,it was a tragic family! Yet they
had luck to survive.Thanks to God.
The next day Robert and Barbara were brought home to Orlica where they lived,by
Marek Vangard.The trip in the BMW was comfortable once they got onto a regular
road ten or fifteen kilometres away from the Kurow Suski village.
A month later both brothers,Marek and Robert were on their way to Antwerp in
Belgium where Robert would stay for half a year or longer and renovate the house
Marek Vangard bought for the money which belonged in half to Tadek
Vangard.Robert was astonished Marek shared the house with Tadek only and not
with him.They could have given to him some substantial amount of money which he
could give back later on in the future,and this way they could have made him a
co-owner of the house.How much proud would he feel! But he said nothing.He
believed one day he will manage to be able to invest money in many
things,perhaps even in buying a house.One only thing he had to overcome:his
weakness to alcohol.God,what he saw in that satanic drink? The urge to consume
alcohol was in him nearly as big as the urge to love women.Nevertheless,he was
faithful to his wife,Barbara and hoped she also was faithful to him,especially
now,when he left her for at least half a year.Twenty hours later they found
themselves in Antwerp,the biggest town and quite picturesque one in the Flemish
part of the country,which was devided into three federal provinces governed by
the Flemish people,the Wallonese people and the German minority in the eastern
part of the country.
It was possible to live only in one room in the house which Marek Vangard
bought.All the other four floors had to be renovated from the scratch.It was
better not to walk up the stairs which could collapse at any time.When they were
inspecting the house from outside their neighbour,Alice,who was about fifty
years old and looked just average but had energy for two people,went out her
house nad said “hello” to Marek Vangard.
-“Your friend?”- She asked him,unable to hide her curiosity.
-“The one who stays in New Zealand?”
-“No,Alice,the one who lives in Poland,the youngest one.”
-“How are you? What’s your name?”- she asked the
newcomer.Robert,naturally,did not understand because he did not speak neither
English nor Dutch but could imagine what the question might be about and
Marek Vangard began to laugh.
-“Alice,Robert does not speak English.”-He said.
-“No problem,he’ll learn fast!”- Alice joked.
-“You learn English fast,sure!”- She said partially in Polish to
Robert.Marek Vangard knew she met some Polish people who worked in the Antwerp
region and assisted them with advice on immigration matters.She was probably
also in love in one of them.But it was her secret.God defend her if her
husband,Emil,would find it out!
-“Sure,I learn English fast!”-Robert answered her in Polish and a bit in
English,proving to her he had indeed ability to learn fast the language.
In the evening they met yet another Flemish person,a man whose name was Guido.He
was tall,had beard and was about fifty years old.He must have been a handsome
man before because his wife was still a beautiful woman with whom he brought up
three sons and a daughter.He liked Robert instantly.
-“I like you.I think we’ll become friends quite soon.”-He announced to
Robert Vangard.In fact they were already friends.It was arranged that some days
during a week Robert would work in the Guido’s garage and would renovate cars
and polish them,so they could be sold out for a good price.
Then they went to the town’s most prestigious square,the so called “Grote
Markt”,situated next to tremendously beautiful Cathedral and surrounded by old
and historic houses.All square shined in thousand and one lights and there were
cafes and restaurants in the basements of every house.Often also on the upper
It was December and rather cold.Christmas trees,decorated splendidly,were
visible in every corner of the square.
-“You’ll see in the summer,Robert! All these cafes and restaurants have
tables outside.You can enjoy the night under the open sky and its umbrella of
shiny stars.”- Marek Vangard said excitedly.They got inside one of the
restaurants,”De Preud’Homme”,which was just off the square in the street
called Suikerrui,and dined there.They could see part of the square via the
restaurant’s window.Robert Vangard looked for a moment at the main statue of
the square called Brabo,portraying a naked man holding a cut off hand in one of
his hands.Around him were sculptures of naked females.
-“Marek,why he holds a cut off hand?”- Robert asked his brother while
pointing at the monument.
-“Oh,In the summer it turns into a fountain! It’s marvellous then! Brabo is
a legendary hero.There was a very bad guy,a dictator,who ruled the port of
Antwerp ruthlessly in the legendary times.One day came here Brabo who challenged
the ruler,cut off his hand and threw it to the sea.This gave the name to the
town.In the Flemish language Antwerp is called 'Antwerpen' and literally means
or meant so in the ancient times:'to throw a hand away',from 'ant',or rather
'hand' and 'werpen' what means:'to throw away'.Therefore the name Antwerpen in
Flemish and Antwerp in English.”
-“It looks to me it’s a fascinating town! I’ll have to bring here one day
my wife and children!”- Robert announced excitedly.
A few days later Marek Vangard went back to Poland with three cars.He sat in one
of the cars and his Polish employees in the other two cars.Robert Vangard was
left alone and if not Alice and Guido he would feel himself devastatingly
To be continued…
Author: Thaddeus Hutyra,e-mail address: email@example.com
All Rights Reserved.