He rushed to the bathroom,shaved himself,put a white shirt
and weared dark blue trousers and a jacket of the same colur on himself,combed
his golden hair and was ready to go.To his beloved wife!
However strange was her behaviour he loved her and could not imagine a life
without her.Not even a single day! God,there must have been a
misunderstanding.Her parents must have had a wrong picture of him and
brainwashed her in a negative way.He was determined to repair the damage.To
speak both,to his wife and her parents.There was never too late to try.
-“Father,I go to Barbara’s parents!”- He called to his parent through a
bit open door.
-“Good luck,son! I had the same problems with my wife and your…”- He heard
his father say but did not listen more,perfectly knowing what his father wanted
to say.He ran out the house towards his Polonez,sat down inside the car,turned
the engine on and moved the car swiftly away from the garage gate towards a
small path which was connected to a street a hundred meters further.
It took just ten minutes to get all the way from his house to the house of
Barbara’s parents.He parked the car just on the side of the road and
unconcerned about locking it,he opened the garden gate and hurried towards the
main door of the house.He noticed a face of Barbara’s mother in the window who
jumped off it the moment she relised Robert Vangard looked up at her.He
approached the door and reached for its handle.He realized the door was
locked.He pressed a bell at the door.There was no answer.He waited a moment and
then pressed the bell again.There was nothing but...a silence.
Only then did he realize the gravity of the situation was harsher than he
thought.It looked nearly unthinkable to him.What was it? Why they treated him
this way? He would understand their behaviour if he really mistreated his
wife.But it was not a case at all.He did not even used some brute words,so
common in broken families.It was something else.Most certainly the wrong image
of him on the side of Barbara’s parents.They wanted their daughter for some
reason out of him.True,he had problems with his alcohol addiction but he fought
with it and never tried it since he was back at home.He should have been
applauded for it,cheered and kept in good spirits.They chose an opposite path,so
cruel to him!
-“Barbara,open,please.I want to speak to you!”- He yelled through the
door.Sure,they heard him.Yet there was no reaction.
-“Barbara,why do you do this to me? Come over to me! You know I love you!”-
He called once again.
And this time there was no answer at all.A despair overwhelmed him again.God,he
loved her and he could not neither see her nor speak to her.
-“I want to daddy!”- He heard suddenly a voice of his older son,Szymon,who
began to cry.
He began to knock on the door.
-“Barbara,please,open! I won’t be angry at you.I promise it to you.”- He
tried again through the door.Also this time there was no reaction to his call.He
no longer heard his son what meant they took him to one of the upper floors.A
tear appeared in his eye and he sat down on the stairs.
He then got up and went to his car,a broken and resigned man.He returned home
and had no strength to do anything.He was so much overwhelmed by a despair he
felt as if he was hanging over an abyss.Whatever he did or did not brought a
mental suffering.Sitting on a chair was too much for him,lying on a bed was
unbearable to him because it felt as if he was lying on something what burned
him.Nothing could give him a comfort.Nothing but the return of his wife and
children.The night was filled with such a number of nightmares he sweated.The
next morning it was cold in the apartment and a sadness looked from every
corner.The rest of the day and the following night were again filled with
nightmares and his discomfort realizing from them.So,when his wife has still not
returned home on the third day he just reached for his winter coat and went to
Parkova restaurant,the one his mother worked for years in when he was a kid and
the one as well he had great time with his friends,the other villagers ever
since his adolescent age.It was partially in that restaurant when he got
addicted to alcohol and he risked going back to it this time once again.He
prayed his wife would somehow appear before him,at the right time,just before he
enters the restaurant.There was snow everywhere around,on the street,on the
trees and the roofs of every house he passed and on the slopes of mountains
around the village.He was bewildered so much snow appeared just in one night but
this realization did not bring a comfort to him.Yes,there was a little spark of
light within his mind when he imagined his children and his wife alongside
him,happy at seeing so much snow around.But the spark went off as soon as it
appeared in his mind.The village was all white thanks to the fresh snow but his
state of mind and wellbeing was all black.What a contrast! He was saddened by
the fact he expierenced all that just a few days before the New Year.Heavens,he
did not even dared to think about the New Year! Parkova restaurant was located
next to a large square,so large many towns would be jalous about.There were
several important structures around the square,the ones which decided about the
social life of the villagers.Firstly,of course it was a monumental church in
which there was a painting of Madonna,the mother of Jesus Christ,gifted to the
villagers by one of the Polish kings in the seventienth century.So the village
had historic roots! At the other side of the square was the restaurant which he
was just entering.There were also a number of shops,a school and a large
garden,yet at another side of the square.The garden belonged to his father
before.There was their house in the garden,long demolished ever since his father
moved to another house he built.Originally,his father did not want to give up
the house and the garden.Unfortunately,it was a communist country then and
approximate rules applied in the relationships among the villagers and the
communist rulers.The council of the village wished to build a department store
and perhaps a hotel exactly there where their house and the garden were
situated.His father,wanting it or not,had to agree to sell his estate for so
little money that one would have a difficulty to buy a used car in the West for
that amount of money.Fortunately,his father was an enterpreuner of a small scale
business and made enough money to be able to build yet another house and enjoy
good,old age.He did not foresee a desease would wreck that plans.The sorrow of
human life at an old age!
Parkova restaurant was quite a modern one.One side of its walls was nothing else
but glass.It was monumental and there could be as many as five hundred guests at
a dancing lot.The stairs to the first floor, built of concrete, were wide for
five meters at least.There were about forty steps to get to the first floor and
in fact it was a second floor,from the standpoint of an ordinary house
owner.Grand floor was occupied by a long bar for those who enjoyed drinking beer
and a café with darkened lights,which was popular among lovers.His mother used
to work both in the restaurant above and in the café downstairs.She got the
jobs after she divorced his father and worked as a waitress in the restaurant
and then as a director in the café before she got a romance with her present
husband and moved to Katowice,the second largest town in Southern Poland.How
many times he rushed up and down the stairs when he was a kid! Thousand times!
And he was always so careless then! So happy! What happened with him now?
Now,when he was an adult,a husband and a father?! What was wrong with him? Why
did he always have a tendency to fault himself for deeds which were not of his
making? No,he felt excruciating pain in his head.He dreamt of meeting someone.He
could no longer stand being alone.He went up the stairs now,not a step by step
but by taking three or even four steps at once.He saw them.All his friends from
his childhood and later on.They sat together at a table,laughed and enjoyed time
at being together.There was lots of beer on the table.There were also alcohol
beverages on the table.He did not mind it any more.He just directed himself to
them.They saw him.
-“Hey,Robert,you’re back! Come here!”- They shouted to him.He approached
them and greeted with each other.The pain somehow was gone.They were so
friendly,so happy,even so enthusiastic.He instantly felt better among them and
The moment he intended to sit down at the table he noticed that some strangers
he has never saw,at the next table,looked at him.They must have been the
Russians he heard from his wife about! A waitress came and he ordered beer for
him and his friends.He was going to enjoy the time with his friends.Perhaps the
nightmares would go away that way.He forgot the strangers at the next table and
concentrated himself on his best friends.Some of them were his age and some of
the age of his two brothers.They instantly poured on him so many questions he
had difficulty to choose what answer to begin with.They wanted to know how was
it in Belgium,could he manage to stay there so long without his wife and
children,how friendly were people in Belgium and many other things.They wanted
to know also about his brothers;the one who lived in New Zealand and the one who
moved to Bielsko-Biala.Their curiosity was endless.But also he had many
questions to them.What happened in the village at the time he was away,what
people did,what new romances there were,who got married…He thought that maybe
he might succeed in discovering why his wife behaved so strangely to him.
There was a guy in the village she once had an affair with and he even caught
her and him seating side by side to each other at his home.Has she continued the
affair? Was she in love to the guy? There were so many questions unanswered.
There was no theme they have not talked about.
Once when he glanced outside through the glassed wall of the restaurant he saw
the village's most famous citizen,their priest at the entry to the church.He
smiled to himself remembering the teachings of the priest every time their met.
-"Robert,never drink alkohol.It's the devil's nest."- The priest used
to say to him.He was the tallest of all inhabitants in the village,probably as
tall as two and twenty meters.But also the fattest of all of them.He was perhaps
the only one who was not afraid of the communist rulers and criticized them
openly at his Sudays' sermons.Villagers knew he was a friend of the present
pope,John Paul II,who had twice a visit to the church when he was a bishop of
Cracow.The villagers were proud of that.
In the meantime Robert Vangard and his friends at the table talked a lot and had
a lot drink too.
Strangely,he felt he was somehow relaxed.He even enjoyed himself.He tried not to
think about his wife.Enough was enough.Perhaps he lost his wife but he had his
The alcohol did already some inroads within his mind.He knew it and did not
bother about it.What was important the headache was gone.And with it the drama
and the nightmares.He was happy again.
There was no theme they would not talk about and the most popular one concerned
the United States.
”America”,as they used to name the legendary country,which was dear to the
hearts of ordinary Poles.There was nothing strange in that.Polish people were
robbed of their political freedom for long decades,as a result of Yalta and
Potsdam agreements among postwar superpowers.Partially they were abandoned then
by the Western countries and partially what happened was a de facto result of
the incredible strength of Josef Stalin,the Soviet leader.No country was ready
then for a third world war as would surely be a case if the Soviets were
challenged.People were devastated
by the long war against Adolf Hitler’s army and dreamt about return to
peace.Unfortunately,it was Poland and a few other Central and East European
countries who had to pay a price for that.Nevertheless,Polish people never
faulted the Americans for that.They loved the country which had everything they
were deprived of and the United States political system was a model for their
future Poland when it would regain its independence.When they heard the news of
assassination of both Kennedys,the President and the Senator,they,the Polish
people,despaired then as much as the Americans did.Robert Vangard remembered the
word “Kennedy” was pronounced often in his house as well as in every
household in the village.People kept pictures of the Kennedys,the way as if they
were members of their families.The word “Kennedy” and the images of the
Kennedys was something special in his mind, a memory which had its own
taste,something what was hidden deep in his consciousness,as if the Kennedys
were his own family.How could it be any different way when the images were so
original,the members of the family and some friends sitting around the table
till late at night,with candles on the table and their eternal flames,passing
the pictures of the Kennedys from hand to hand,listening to "Radio Free
Europe" or "Radio America" and talking politics
and the world affairs for hours,something for what they would land in jail if the communist
authorities learnt about it.
He was then a four or five years old kid !
Such meetings happened nearly in every family house around the village and in
every other countryside and town of Poland.People
tried to live the western way,bought jeans for the last money they had and kept
solidarity aginst the communists.Sooner or later the system would fall down.
It happened finally after long decades and people now had to confront their
dreams with a harsh reality…
Lunch time came and his friends went to
Robert Vangard panicked a bit when he realized he was again alone at the
table.He looked at the Russians at the neighbouring table and was surprised to
learn they looked at him.And not only.They actually gave him signs he can join
them for companionship.He did it.He got off his table and approached them.
He introduced himself to them and they did the same to him.
-“Sasha,Grisha,Masha,Basha,Borys,Antonov…”- He heard their names and sat
down on a chair they got from another table.One of them got a bottle of vodka
from a pocket of his jacket.
-“That’s Smirnov,comrade!”- He said.
-“Oh,Smirnov! It’s a vodka with high percentage of pure alcohol.”- Robert
-“-“Yes,indeed,comrade! Seventy percent alcohol!”
-“What are you doing here,in this village?”- Robert Vangard asked.
-“We’re skiers.You’ve got exellent conditions for skiing! So much snow,the
mountains around,the fresh air…And especially so few other skiers! There is no
place in the Alps for skiers anymore…And here we have all the mountains for
Robert Vangard knew they were not really skiers,remembering what his wife told
him.But he was not intending to spoil his time.He continued a friendly
discussion with the Russian strangers while they treated him with new and new
glasses of alcohol.Soon he felt himself stranger and stranger,as if he were
swimming in the water.Nothing but the waves and waves…He knew he was
drunken.Yet they got another bottle and treated him even more with their
Smirnov.He refused but they asked him to have yet another glass,and then yet
another one,and another one…The world was definitely too fluid now to
him.Nothing but waves around him.And ocean…
Strangely,he recalled his wife and children in his mind.Perhaps they were
already back at home.He had to go to his house because they must have been
there.They must have waited there for him.He cared no longer about the Russians.
He just got off the table,heard a rumble of the fallen chair and began to walk
to the exit.How difficult it was! He had to cross,or swim rather,across that
ocean,that powerful waves of the ocean around him.He found himself above the
The ones of concrete!
They looked to him like some sort of dinosaurs.
But he had to be back at home!
His wife and children must have surely waited for him!
He made one step and then a second one.How difficult it was to walk down the
stairs! Unbelivable because he rushed uncountable times up and down that stairs
since his childhood.He no longer remembered which step was it when he made a few
steps further down the stairs.What was it? The waves were definitely too strong!
They actually got over him,over his head.He was powerless,thrown this and that
way,so much unbalanced.He could be swept aside at any time.
He saw that wave,the most powerful one,the one called jaws…
It came at him with such an incredible strength he had no chance and was indeed
swept aside.He has fallen on the stairs and hit with the back of his head at one
of the steps of the concrete stairs.
There was some sort of explosion within his head and then the light began
rapidly escaping him and at the same time he felt some strange warmth spreading
all over his brain.It was then when he felt awoken.He understood what happened.
-“God,what I did! Forgive me!”- He whispered and witnessed the light getting
smaller and smaller until it became just a point and then just switched off.
The day of the funeral was the busiest one.
All family members,friends,the villagers and even some people from other
villages came to pay tribute to a young man who died so tragically.They came to
pray on behalf of his soul.It was no mystery to them he got addicted to alcohol
because of the system and the poverty.He painted their houses and they treated
him with alcohol.Sooner or later it had to happen.
Barbara Vangard cried nearly all the time.She bursted out when her mother tried
to comfort her.
-“Go away from me! You told me the opposite what I should have done! If not
you he would live! God,what I have done! I loved him!”- Barbara Vangard
despaired but let her mother to take her into her arms.She knew she had to
gather strength.One of her sons,the five year old Szymon,behaved strangely.He
vomited,wanted nothing to eat and often cried.It was strange because she did not
say to her sons their father died.She did not know that her son actually went
down the stairs the previous night and entered the room in which his dead father
lay.He spoke then to his father and even tried to wake him up.He realized
somehow then that there was something terribly wrong with his father.Despite
that he was only five years old he realized his father was…No he could not
bear to say that word…
Everybody from the family was present.Robert Vangard’s mother,Emilia Barton
arrived with her husband as well as his sister,Dorota Starcz with her husband
and his oldest brother,Marek Vangard with his wife.All of them felt totally dumb
and pained to the core of their beings.Emilia Barton said nothing,was pale and
looked with a tragic face at her dead son.She felt already for a long time
something terrible was going to happen.And it happened finally with a
vengeance.Robert Vangard’s father looked as much pained on his face.It was also
to him a terrible drama because his youngest son was chosen by him to continue
the family tradition and,hopefully,to care for him at his old age.His dream was
It must have been devil’s finger in what has happened!
Marek Vangard was shocked uttermost and could not imagine how he will be able to
announce the Robert’s death to Tadek,their brother who lived so far away,in
New Zealand and for whom there was no way to attend the funeral.Thousands of
people have already formed outside the house,in the street next to the house and
in the road all the way towards the church.Their noble priest,the one towering
above all of them,came and allowed the
family members to do farewell to their husband,father,son and brother who died
in such a young age.
His wife,Barbara,kissed him and cried.
-“It’s my fault,it’s my fault…Forgive me because I loved you,I really
loved you”- She repeated.She had to be taken away from her husband by her
Jozef Vangard,the father of Robert Vangard,tried the best to approach him
despite the advanced sclerosis in his legs:
-“Oh my son!"- He bursted finally out.-“I had it all for you!”
He looked up at Emilia Barton,the woman who was his wife for long years and who
was Robert’s mother and there was a silent exchange of their thoughts,with a
motion of unspoken drama because of the death of their son and then he turned
again to Robert,touched his cold hands and began to cry.He was the only member
of the family who could not attend the funeral all the way to the church and the
cemetery.First the sickness brought him down and now the death of his son who
was supposed to care for him at his old age.He also was taken gently away from
Then Emilia Barton came to her son and silently,with tears in her eyes,kissed
-“Be with God,my dear son.”- She whispered.She had enough tears in
her life and was not going to show them off.Then came his brother and sister and
all the other members of the family and bid farewell to the one who never harmed
anyone in his life.
It was an incredible day,that funeral day.
It was the first of January and the day was frosty.There was even more snow,deliciously fresh and white,
than just a few days ago,covering the
streets,the roofs of the houses and the slopes of the nearby mountains.Despite
that,and especially despite the freeze running down to minus twenty deegrees centigrade,there were thousands of people who participated and the church was
full,the mass at its best and the organ music unforgettable.Dorota Starcz was
nearing to bursting with a loud cry.Just a few days earlier she was at a concert
in Cracow where she had oportunity to see and hear a phenomenal compositon by
Krzysztof Penderecki,named:"Seven gates of Jerozolima".The echo of the
devine music overwhelmed her mind.
Finally,they found themselves at the cemetery.
Emilia Barton had impression there was a lightning high in the sky when the
first grudge of earth was thrown at the coffin in which her son lay.
It was a sign from God alone…
To be continued…Author: Thaddeus Hutyra,e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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