Glass Curtain by Thaddeus Hutyra

chapter 51

 

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Marek & Robert Vangard,the brothers of Tadek Vangard...

Author:Thaddeus Hutyra

 

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 healing steadly.
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 brother.
-“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.”
-“Well,we’re brothers.”
-“Brothers or not,you better stay both out of your ways and away from each other.”
-“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 evening…”
-“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 mobile telephone.
-“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 other.
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!…”
She wept.
-“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 renovated.”
-“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.
-“No,my brother.”
-“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 answered shortly:”Robert”.
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 floors.
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 homesick…
To be continued…
Author: Thaddeus Hutyra,e-mail address: tadekhutyra@hotmail.com  or: clubbers@funworld.be
All Rights Reserved.