“ There are divergent breed of human beings, who aspire to achieve accomplishments in distinctive different pursuits.
The materialist enjoys the full-fledged stipulation of tangible satisfaction.
And there are the ones, who through intellectual intuitiveness, procure knowledge about the nature of substantial delectation, but keep themselves distant from illusive way of life.
One has to distinguish their aspirations in the process of their life, and regard any lack of harmony to be the reason of our imperfection.
The consummate culture, contrives the human being to accept the simple requirement of life or to observe the highest rectitude, for the enlightenment of human life. “
Christine and Emile were waiting at the Orly Airport for their son, Victor's arrival, from the Soviet Union, after four years of University Education.
It was the end of July 1964. Paris had declared holidays.
President Charles de Gaulle was in power.
The moment they saw their son stepping out of the Russian Tupolev Aircraft, their joy was immense. Christine had cheerful tears in her eyes. Emile was all excited and proud for his son's achievements.
They were surprised when after hugging their son, he declared that he had no other luggage, but what he had in his hand, since he had left all his belongings behind.
" I'll tell you when we get home, as to what happened to my belongings ", said Victor."
" First, son ", said Christine, " we are going to Maman, because she his extremely anxious and she wants to find out, how is Madeleine and Vincent, and how things are moving for her return, do you know ?, You look so much grown up, my dear, you have become a man. I missed you so much. You have lost so much weight, were you eating all right ?. Maman has prepared a great meal for you, leg of lamb bordelaise, mashed potatoes with garlic, cassoulet and many other dishes, vegetables and fruits ".
" I am so glad I am back mum, how are you dad ?, I missed you both so much. Of course I couldn't write everything that happened to me, but I am ready to write a few articles, if your newspaper will print them unchanged, dad. We might have a few disagreements…".
" Son, only if you tell the truth, that's the most important criteria, in journalism. I don't see any problems. You can submit them to the Editor in Chief, Raymond Fourrier, let him decide, all right ?, I never be on your way ".
Maman was waiting at the door. Victor remembered how Madeleine was standing at her door, when he arrived at Ostankino. He had goose bumps all over his body. She hugged him as if it was Madeleine, she cried, kissed the young man embarrassingly, over and over again, and finally she collapsed on a chair, short of breath, sobbing. After a long interval, Emile broke the silence.
" Maman, he is a hungry boy, moreover, he wants to tell you about Madeleine and Vincent ".
" The table is set up, let's sit. Christine can bring the hot food from the kitchen. Victor, please don't talk to me about the tragic life that they had, I don't think I can endure the pain. Tell me if they received the cheque that your father send through the Soviet Embassy. I don't care how much they want, I'll sell my house to bring them back ".
" Don't worry Maman, please, they are doing fine. I think by the end of this year they will be allowed to return. Khrushchov is not Stalin and the foreign relations has ameliorated. He is at the concept, that if you're a foreign national and you don't want to stay, you get a penalty, but you can leave. I was with them two days ago, we spent all night together, talking and drinking to everybody's health. I gave my camera to Vincent, he wants to become a photo-Journalist. He is very intelligent. He said, a still photo is more than thousand words. He is almost sixteen and graduated from High School. He will find a job this summer at a photo development laboratory. At eighteen he will be called to military service, but I am sure, by then he would be here. They think of you every minute. Madeleine talks about you, not only as a mother, but a friend, a teacher, a mentor, and an educator. She owes everything to you ".
Maman composed herself and she put to rest all her anxieties, after Victor's comments.
" It's all a matter of time, from now on ", said Emile, " They will finally come back after all the trials and errors, in which I was included too ".
It was the first time Emile had acknowledged his participation of Madeleine's tragic circumstances.
" I cannot wait to see Madeleine coming in from this door ", said Christine.
" All I can say, right now to all of you ", interrupted Victor, " is that, you will not find the same Madeleine, similar to when she left, seventeen years in harrowing conditions, has had its toll. Dad, that's what I want to write about. I want to write about the life of an immensely suffering people. That has been my promise to the hundreds and hundreds of tormented individuals I met. Dad, can I borrow your typewriter when we go home, because the fever of expressing myself is very high at the moment ".
" Of course, son, as I said no matter what you tell in your writings, the most important ingredient is the truth. Nobody can contest truth. I am glad you have inherited the passion for expressing yourself in writing from me. I will encourage you with all my capabilities ".
As soon as they arrived home, Victor took the typewriter from his father and retired in his room.
For three days, he almost locked himself in his room, interrupting his typing only on occasions to use the toilet, or to have a tea and a sandwich.
Neither Christine nor Emile interfered at his movements. They could hear the strikes on the machine all day and all night during those three days.
The fourth morning of a hot August day, he took a long bath, something he longed for years, dressed up with clothes that he had left behind four years ago, had a pleasant breakfast with his parents and asked to be pardoned, because he was going to " Les Pages Française " to submit one of his first three articles to the Chief Editor.
Emile didn't ask to read any of his writings, he regarded them personal. And both his parents wished him good luck.
Two weeks had passed since Victor had handed his writings personally to Mr. Fourrier, with a warm handshake and a friendly welcome.
Everyday, during those two weeks he had gone through the pages of the newspaper, anticipating that somewhere he will find his column. His title was bold. " Go and tell them the Truth ". Alas, he gradually was getting into a disappointing setback. Surely two weeks was long enough to have an article edited and published.
He was a recluse in his own home. The subject was never brought up, because he avoided his father, and dodged confrontation.
The end of the third week, he visited Mr. Fourrier. His secretary made him wait for more than an hour to see him.
When he entered his office, he immediately felt the tension and the sentiment of not being welcomed. He noticed his papers, on the desk, in front of Mr. Fourrier.
" I was wandering if you read my papers, Mr. Fourrier ? ", he asked in a humble way.
Fourrier, held the papers and with a surprise motion, hurled the pages at Victor's face. Got up from his chair, and pointing to the door he yelled.
" I will never publish such a rubbish, Mr Georgiou. I am astonished that after giving you one of the best educations in this world, by sending you to Moscow, all you come up with is an unforgivable and ungrateful attitude. I would strongly suggest to you, to question your sincerity and think about the consequences. You can go now. I will have a word with your father ".
The only thought Victor was going through was the magnitude of the influence of lies, fabricated by the Communist Party, to convert truth to believable falsehood, how amazing.
The effect of the insult to himself and to his opinions, were sensed later, when he returned home and contemplated on the incident.
A spirit of challenge and a resolution of ideological warfare arose in his mind.
The only solution was, in order to have a clear conscience, not let down himself or the people he represented, to approach the opposition.
No matter what, truth had to come out. The people in the Soviet Union deserved justice.
He took all the pages, shamefully thrown to his face, put them in order, took an envelope, addressed it to " La Revue Quotidienne ", and mailed it.
He never said a word to his parents.
He went on buying a copy of " La Revue ", everyday.
The fourth day, to his amazement, walking by a news kiosk, he noticed on the front page of
" La Revue ", the following headline " Go and Tell them the Truth ", " a diary of a student, who has just returned from the Soviet Union, and tells his experiences. We will continue publishing, as long as he provides with more material ".
Victor bought two copies. He had a immense feeling of satisfaction within himself. He was not looking for fame, neither for revenge, but he was proud of being part of the dissident movement. The struggle should go on, inside and outside the Soviet Union, for the people of the Soviet union.
Soon, he was in front of the typewriter again, recounting the daily perils of a nation, governed by an oppressive party with no conscience.
But this time, he personally walked into the publishing house, introduced himself and asked for an interview with the responsible editor.
While waiting in the reception room, he noticed that several people curiously were pointing at him, causing a nervous tension. But, not long after, a gentleman approached him, extending his arm, for a handshake, and introduced himself.
" My name is François Genault ", he said, " I am glad to meet you Mr. Georgiou. Would you like to step into my office, please, we would like to get acquainted with you. You have made a great impression on all the staff, they all want to meet you ".
Victor was in seven heaven. He was not expecting such a gracious welcome.
Sitting in Mr. Genault's office, being served with coffee, and by turn meeting the employees of " La Revue " was an honour.
" By the way ", Mr. Genault recalled, " this envelope belongs to you, it is the reward of your first series of articles. We strongly hope that you'll stay as correspondent and contribute to the effort of disclosing the falsifications of the Soviet Union, with regular articles. Am I correct in assuming that?"
" I hope so, Mr. Genault ", I thank you for the envelope, I never expected anything. I write with an ardent instinct and about very personal encounters. During the four years as a student in the Soviet Union, I was exposed to numerous revelations, and I have promised to many friends that I will do my best to write about them, on my return ".
" You are a new voice, with an original point of view and an authentic observation. We appreciate your contribution. Can we agree that you will supply us an article per week and designate a column for you?"
" Well, I have brought with me four more articles, each relates to a different subject. I like to allocate an article for every subject. But I don't want to obligate myself to any specific topic, because on the long run, I have intentions to compare the East with the West. I was too young when I left for the East, and eventually I want to find out how the West treats their own people, how the Western culture plays the game of democracy. Will that be of interest to your readers?"
" I have no doubt, Mr. Georgiou, good journalism is always welcomed ", said Mr. Genault and got up from his chair, " I hope to see you next week, it was a great pleasure to meet you ".
On the way home, Victor, although feeling that he had conquered the world, he also was very sensitive of his parent's reaction. Was he letting them down? What would Mr. Fourrier, from "Les Pages…" tell his father?. Wasn't he free to act the way he wants?
On the second day of Victor's article publication, Mr. Fourrier comes to Emile Georgiou's office, closes the door, sits down across Emile, and with a demanding high voice…
" Emile, we have a problem, your son is committing a treason, he has joined our enemies, this is an act of treachery and it is intolerable. I will advise you to prepare a confession, disowning and renouncing your son in public. That is the only way we can save our dignity ".
" My son, Mr. Fourrier, deserves the highest merit and dignity himself. Don't you ever dare to address me with such a conduct. As a matter of fact you can go to hell. Get out of my office right now ".
And he collapses. The loud dispute gets heard all over the offices. Several of the office workers assemble near the door, while Mr. Fourrier, opens the door and says…
" Call an ambulance, please, I think we have a sick man…"
By the time the ambulance arrived and took Emile to the nearest hospital, he never regained consciousness.
Christine arrived at the hospital, when it was all over.
She was lost. She sat next to Emile's body, crying. She was told about the aggressive moral assault by Mr. Fourrier. That was no of importance for Madeleine; she had lost her husband of twenty-two years.
The nurses came and told her the body would be removed to the morgue.
She asked the nurse to telephone her son at home and announce the tragic news, and to meet her at the hospital.
Mother and son greeted each other in a heart-breaking scene.
All the members of " Les Pages Française ", decided to take them home. The only place, where mother and son could grieve their loss.
They were to organise the funeral arrangements. The last departing ceremony was in two days.
More than five hundred mourners were packed in the small chapel, inside the Père Lachaise Cemetery.
Christine and Victor seemed collected inside themselves. The mood of the entire mourners also seemed very sombre.
The death of Emile Georgiou was totally unexpected.
There were several eulogies, among which Victor's was the most distressing.
" Farewell Father. I remember you when I was five years old, when you gave me so much love. I remember you when I was ten years old, when you fell asleep next to me, while helping me with my studies. I remember you just a few days ago, when you instructed me to always tell the truth, under any circumstances. Farewell father. I will always remember you, for you honesty, and your integrity. You were dear to everyone and everyone was dear to you. Farewell father. Your legacy will live as long as will live. Farewell. "
He finished his eulogy with an uncontrollable sobbing, and then he sat between his mother and Maman, who hugged him, and cried quietly.
After the burial, members of the newspaper, who had prepared several dishes, escorted them to Maman's house, where they spent the rest of the day comforting each other, and tried to have a feed.
Victor was shocked and angered, when he heard the way his father had collapsed and died.
Just when he wanted to return all the love and affection his father had bestowed upon him, he was gone forever. It was just not fair.
He was a catalyst, in assisting Vladimir in his search for his father, who was on Russian soil.
He was a catalyst, in assisting Madeleine and Vincent to return to their homeland.
He had succumbed to a nervous breakdown, which was the result of those factors.
He was deprived at receiving his diploma.
And now he had lost his father in an unjust circumstance.
It was just not fair.
A house in mourning, Christine a widow and Victor an orphan. Indescribable atmosphere.
And life should go on.
Victor's conviction had received a slap on its face. He had been discharged of emotions.
Christine appeared more reasonable. Her maturity was a saviour's weapon. She had gone through Emile's two heart attacks and that had prepared her for the inevitable. It was time for her to give strength and hope to her son.
A week was enough to shake her grief away. She was not going to let the " Heir ", as they called Victor, with fondness, to be knocked down. So she decide to have long conversation with her son.
Around dinner, that day, she asked her son.
" Victor, my son, our sorrow will turn to expectations, in order for us to survive. Your father knew that you had an article printed in " La Revue Quotidienne ". Confidently, he was proud. He told me so. He was also overwhelmed with your style of writing. If that's what you want to do, to become a writer-journalist, please son, don't give up. My position in the library is sound and I am satisfied with it. Your father is owed an indemnity and a compensation, which will secure us in case of any hardship. You promised during your eulogy, which was magnificent, that you will continue to make your father proud of you. I think it is time to move on ".
" Yes, mother. I will continue my writing about my knowledge of the Soviet way of life, until I have exhausted the subject. But after that, I don't know really what I want to do as a career. My breath on this theme is deep enough for another year, what will follow, is a question mark.
Have I told you that I am getting paid for my articles? That means that financially I am independent. I will chase opportunities, until I will feel comfortable to adopt a field, in which creativity is the major component. But I tell you things that I have in my mind. You know Madeleine's step son Vladimir. I will always be in touch with him. You will promise me that Maman and you will pursue to bring Madeleine and Vincent back to France this year. Since the case is in motion, to delay the pace will be disastrous, because the political conditions are to their favour. That might change overnight in the Soviet Union. Believe me. Mother, we never had the chance to converse with each other, until today, I like you to read my articles with a critical eye and tell me your opinion. My academic life was overwhelmed by the gruesome social encounters that I had in the Soviet Union. I will carry those scares with me the rest of my life. I hope you will understand ".
" Son, we only have each other now, you can talk to me about anybody and any subject, any time. There will be dinner on the table everyday, and if I am not here, I will be at Maman's. And I promise you that we will bring Madeleine back to France, as soon as possible ".
During the next few days, inspired by the spirit of existence, his typewriter produced some extraordinary creative writing. Every paragraph resembled to a masterly painting, depicting the darkness and the glitter of his subjects. Each article filled by real images of stories described with fervent anticipations of the Soviet people. Their disappointment, their hopes and their dreams. The belief that the history of the Russian people is the faith of their land.
Proud of his achievement, he took them to the publishing house of " La Revue Quotidienne ".
He was taken to Mr. Genault's office, at his arrival.
" Welcome Mr. Georgiou ", began Mr. Genault, " please accept my condolences. It was a shock for all of us, losing your much-respected father. He was an illustrious Frenchman. We have been receiving numerous letters complimenting your chronicles. Before I forget, there is an envelop with my secretary, please pick it up on your way out. She will have an envelop for you each week. By the way, have you come across yesterdays " Les Pages Française "? Our policy is never to engage in mud slinging with our opponents. I would like you to read it. My secretary has a copy. I can see you have new articles for me. Thank you ".
On the way out, Victor asked for the copy of " Les Pages…", and his envelop. He sat on a chair next to the secretary and read.
" We like to say a word about the young man, who recently returned from Moscow, after having free education. We have just find out that he never attended his classes for four years, and if anybody wants to meet him, you can find him wandering around " Place Pigalle ", mingling with the ladies of the night. That's the standard of his moral. "
For a whole year Victor created original themes for his articles. He had become a disciplined writer, and he was told that he had a huge number of followers.
Around that period, an advertisement appeared in " La Revue Quotidienne " about an opening for the position of a translator specialised in Russian language, located in Munich, West Germany, for radio station " Radio Free Europe ".
At the same time they had reliable news that Madeleine had obtained permission to leave the USSR, specifically for health reasons. Her dangerously advanced diabetes, had caused many physical problems, from heart, liver and unspecified other diseases.
She was due anytime with her son Vincent, to arrive by airplane. The moment the Soviet Embassy in Paris would know the departure time, they would phone Madame Findji, Maman, who in turn would phone Christine, to arrange to meet Madeleine and Vincent at their arrival in Orly Airport.
There was a curious and alleviating excitement in the air.
Victors mind was spread in all directions. He didn't want to miss the opportunity to apply for the job in Munich, and at the same time the arrival of Madeleine and Vincent had taken priority. He thought the best thing is to ask Mr. Genault from " La Revue…" if he could be a candidate for the position.
Mr. Genault's enthusiasm was apparent.
" But of course, my dear Victor ", he said, I will personally write you a letter of recommendation, you can attach it with your Curriculum Certificate and a letter of introduction, I am sure they will grant you an interview, we wouldn't have advertise the employment, if it was not a serious search for some body who has mastered the language.
Go ahead and try, I wish you good luck. You can come tomorrow and get my letter ".
What an encouragement. Victor was ready to travel again. He had to leave his mother, behind, alone, but Madeleine, her best friend would be her companion, and Munich was not that far to fly back. He organised himself, made a copy of his Certificate, wrote an introductory letter and with Mr. Genault's letter, in which he had no hesitation whatsoever to recommend him for that position, mailed the envelop.
It was Twentieth September 1965. He was Twenty-five years old.
A week later Madeleine and Vincent arrive. The emotions flew like a river. Hugs and kisses, tears and laughter. Christine took a week off from her job. The occasion was worth celebrating. Madeleine was gone for seventeen years, Vincent had grown to be a seventeen year old handsome and bright young man. Maman was living in euphoria, she had Vincent sitting next to her, caressing him, kissing him, to recover all these years of deprivation from her grandson. For Victor, both Madeleine and Vincent were not changed. But for Christine it was a shock to see Madeleine's fragile physic. She wouldn't mention a word for now, but she definitely had to be hospitalised.
Madeleine sensed Christine's worrisome looks and regardful gestures.
" I am sure ", she said, with a sad voice, " When the authorities saw the diagnostics, it was enough evidence for them to let me go. I was becoming a headache for them. I am not well my dear Christine. The past, stole from me my health, the courage to live. This journey, I made was only for Vincent, I have no desire to live. I lost everything, my music, if you have noticed, I didn't even look at the piano, I lost the man I loved, I lost everything, everything. Vincent will be all right here. He wants to become a photojournalist. He has to go to school. Mother, is Doctor Farris is still alive, I have to go and pay a visit, I need blood tests to be done.
You have no idea being here, what it means to me. Maybe Victor will understand a little. It is like returning from death. It is like waking up from a coma. Thank you Maman. I kiss your feet, you saved my child. I'll be fine ".
" Mother ", interrupted Vincent, " you promised me that you're not going to be sad any more, remember? You see, all the people you love are here. Grandma, where is the room my father occupied, when he was here? Can that be my room? Victor, come on, come with me, I have to talk to you ".
They walked into the room where Sergey had spent sometime, before moving alone to St. Denis.
" Victor, you're my best friend, I know you care about me. You're the only person I have been close too and I can talk too. I just want you to know that my mother is very ill. After you left she was admitted to hospital, her heart is very weak, her liver doesn't function properly, she has some wounds on her toes, that they don't heal, the doctors over there told her that they might have to amputate some of her toes, before further advancement of gangrenous affection. She doesn't want to tell Grandma, because she is not well either.
Vladimir spent the last night with us. I gave him this address and yours. He was very upset when we left. He is still looking for my dad, of course his dad too. He promised he will write letters to you and me.
I brought your camera, which you gave it to me, with me. You should see the photos I took before we left, when we open our luggage, I'll show them to you. You think I can go to photography school, here in Paris?"
" Sure you can, your French is good enough, thank your mother that she spoke French to you all these years. I'll tell you a secret. I might not be here for long. I might get a job in Germany, a city called Munich, MÜnchen in German. They are looking for a translator, from Russian to some other language or from other language to Russian, I don't know, but I send them a letter to apply for the job. Please don't tell anybody, I want to surprise my mother. I don't know how long we are going to be here, but tomorrow I'll come and take you to Paris. You have to start learning your way around, by metro.
I am hungry, let's see what is there to eat. Are you hungry?"
" I am starving to death ".
Christine and Madeleine knew their sons. The table was ready when they got out of the room.
Maman had a bite, and apologised to retire for a nap. The events were overwhelming for her.
Madeleine did the same. She was very frail. She said she'd be fine if she closes her eyes for half an hour.
In the living room, Victor opened the conversation that Vincent had started about Madeleine's health deterioration, to his mother.
Christine knew there was something wrong, but how much wrong she never suspected. They were the same age, but Madeleine looked twenty years older.
" There is nothing to upset her any more, boys, she needs to have a very restful life. Vincent, you have to be watching her all the time and helping her in every way. I will give you my telephone number at work, and if anything happens, that you cannot take care, you ring this number and you ask for me, do you understand. I will phone Doctor Farris tomorrow, let him visit her, here. Now, you two know each other for long time, so you organise your lives helping each other. Victor, you have to help Vincent find an institute for Photography. Don't worry Vincent, everything will be all right ".
When Maman awoke, Christine had a talk with her too. Maman was shattered. Her daughter was very ill. She was supposed to be the one to be looked after, and now she had to find energy to look after her daughter. Christine told her she would help them as much as she could.
Madeleine was asleep for so long that it worried Christine. She walked into her room couple times to check her breathing. Everything was fine.
At last, when she showed up in front of her door, everybody in the room had a smile on their faces.
" I had one of the best sleep for a long, long time. I feel good now. Maman, I have to hug you again to make sure this is not a dream. Christine you too. Thank you God that you reunited us. My prayers have come through. Maybe slowly I will recover from all these diseases I am carrying. You know what was strange, in my dream, I saw Emile, my God, he was so good looking, Christine, just like the first day we met him at the Club Commune, in St. Denis. I don't remember our conversation, but we talked for a while, and he was saying, " Sorry Madeleine, sorry Madeleine ". Then I answered him. " I am alive, am I not? Then why are you sorry for? ", And he vanished. He was gone. I yelled, " Emile come back, Emile come back..", Give me your hands all of you, let's say a prayer for his sacred soul ".
With the passing days and weeks, Madeleine's health was stabilised. A calm and habitual life was restored. Every moment was cherished and thanked for. The realisation of being out of the Soviet Union and finding herself in her home after seventeen years of "exile" was hard to comprehend at the beginning. Day by day she reassured herself and re-acquainted to her re-established life.
Meanwhile, Vincent's age was the major ingredient for his immediate moulding and transformation. In couple weeks he new his way all over Paris and he started classes at a photography institute.
Both, Madeleine and Vincent were encouraging Victor to continue his articles, providing him with new stories, which would unveil the horrors within the Soviet regime.
While everybody had regained a normal life. A new anxiety was conceived.
Victor had succeeded an interview with a representative from " Radio Free Europe " personnel, and he was offered a position, with a one-year contract.
" Mum, I want you to understand, please. It is only for one year, but at the same time it is a big organisation, I can revolve it to a career. There is nothing dangerous in it. It is news broadcast to the Communist countries. My position is to translate manuscripts. I deserve to have the chance to try it. It is not that far. Munich is six hundred kilometres from here. I can be here in two hours notice. I am not leaving you alone, you have Madeleine and Maman and Vincent. Please, give me your blessing ".
" You know, son, when you were born your father joined the Resistance. He left me many times by myself. Life repeats itself in different forms. I know you have to gather experience in your life. I want you to write me letters regularly. As soon as you find a place to live, you send me your address, and let me take the telephone number from the letterhead you received from them. We will have a going away dinner at Maman tomorrow, I want you to advise Vincent to sit put and finish his course. You know he intends to replicate everything you do. That will be catastrophic for Madeleine ".
W W W
A week later Victor was in Munich. The management had arranged a room in a Hotel, near the Isar River. He soon found a small-furnished apartment, with walking distance to work.
He was appointed strictly for translating manuscripts with contents of cultural, musical and sporting news.
He was not involved with any political features or broadcasting.
He met Inga Schumann in the cafeteria. She was a secretary to one of the leaders of the Polish section. They became good friends, she could speak French and that was a blessing, because Victor's German was something to be desired.
They spend a lot of time together, mostly visiting areas of interest or staying at Victor's, eating, drinking and making love.
Victor was not happy with his job. There was no creative stimulus. He was glad it would only last a year, of which five months had gone. The earnings were very good, so he could save.
Six months in his job, Christine, his mother, unexpectedly telephoned at work announcing very sad news. Maman had died in her sleep. She was seventy-five years old. The main consolation was that she had spent over seven months with her daughter and her grandson.
His mother told him that there was no need for him to be present at the funeral, but a letter of condolence, offering sympathy, would have a calming and sooting effect on Madeleine and Vincent.
A month before ending his contract, Inga introduced him to an American gentleman, who invited Victor to a luncheon, explaining to him that he had an offer for another job.
During the lunch, the American, introduced himself. Charles Bennett. An employee at the American Embassy in Frankfurt, who was interested with individuals who were expelled or deported from the USSR, and would like to know there stories, the circumstances of their expulsion, their past background and their immediate interests.
" I know, Mr Georgiou, that you went to the USSR at your own will, and returned when your education was ended. I also know that for over a year, you wrote many articles in " La Revue Quotidienne ", disclosing many true social problems within the USSR. This past year you spent time in Munich, but according to Inga, who works for our organisation, you were not happy. I have a challenging offer for you. But before I reveal the nature of my offer, I want to talk to you about our organisation. We work for the Security of the United States of America. To work for the security of the USA, means gathering intelligence information, to help the USA to prepare itself against Communist opportunism. I hope you understand what I mean.
If you decide to join us, the first step will be, to take on, a high level of security clearance on your past activities. That procedure will take around one year, because we have to go back and check all the locations where you have been, and make sure that you're not a trained agent, who wants to infiltrate our organisations. Once you're cleared, we will send you to New York for a special training on Clandestine activities and Surveillance. And find a territory for you to work in. Now, during that period of one year, we would like you to stay here in Munich and continue your present task, even if its uninteresting. The " Radio Free Europe " Management, will ask you to renew your contract, with an increase on your present salary. Just for one more year. We are taking away Inga Schumann from this area. Next year, at this same date, I will visit you again to give you the result of your Security Clearance, and if you're clean, we will send you to New York. Please ask me any questions you wish to ask. "
" If you have doubts about me being an agent, Mr. Bennett, your offer is to prepare me to be an agent for the USA. Is that correct?"
" True, our offer is not for long term. After your training in New York, you will be assigned a country, or a city where you will create contacts, or you will be given contacts, to collect information, for a few years. After that, we will offer you a permanent position in the United States, including " The Voice of America ", radio station. And a United States of America Citizenship."
" Do you want my answer right away, or will it be possible to ponder a few days about it. Your offer is attached with great responsibilities, Mr. Bennett, I have to think about it."
" If you agree we will meet, here, at the same time, same day, next week ".
" Yes, that will be all right ".
They departed with a warm handshake.
That night, Inga didn't show up. Victor's mind was disturbed. He had contradictory thoughts. He blamed himself, for not asking the name of that organisation, Bennett had described. Was it CIA. But what's in a name? The type of work he had illustrated, was very challenging. Was it life threatening ?. Was he going to be involved in military conflicts? Was he going to carry a pistol? He wandered which country they will send him. Inga, undoubtedly she was an agent, planted to survey him. What a job !.
He couldn't sleep all night. What if he refuses? He doesn't want to, but would they hurt him if he refuses. Why should he refuse, Americans look after their own people. Besides, it just for a few years, and then he will have a permanent job, maybe at the " Voice of America". Now, that's enough to relinquish a few years of his life for a good future.
Yes, he will accept. As soon as the radio station management ask him to stay for another year, he will stay and write a letter to his mother. Does he have to tell his mother about his project? He'll ask Bennett how secretive should he be.
The next day, after lunch, when Inga was not in sight, he went to the location where her section was. They told him, she had left the radio station for another job. It was true. This organisation must be very powerful, he thought.
A week later, at the same time, on the same day, in the restaurant where they had met before, Mr. Bennett, was waiting for him, on the same table.
He questioned Victor for more than four hours, from the moment of his birth, until that very moment. Day after day, sometimes hour after hour, every activity he was involved in. At the end, he stood up, shook his hand, and told him he will meet him a year later. And left.
Another year appeared like endless time.
It turned out to be a year of self determination, of self realisation and of self preservation.
He had given his word for a venture, of which he had not much knowledge.
Was he joining the battlefield of the great powers ?. What role was he going to play ?.
For larger part of the year, he was engaged with self inquiries, following with self doubts and assurances.
There were no close companions to confine. He was being emerged in a secretive life.
He had formed misgiving towards the opposite gender. Among the females he had cared for,
Marise had broken her promise and had never exchange any correspondence. Anaïs had a hidden agenda behind her relationship, and Inga was on false pretences, and deceived him.
During this uncertain waiting period, he received a letter from Vincent. He had just graduated from the photography institute, and wanted to know if he could visit him for couple weeks.
It was a perfect timing. He needed to talk to somebody whom he could trust.
A week later he was waiting for Vincent's arrival at the Bahnhof Platz, Munich's railroad station.
They greeted each other like brothers. They both had stories to tell.
" How is my mother, how is your mother ", asked first Victor.
" Your mother is like a nurse to my mother, Victor. After Grandma died, mother became very ill. Your mother stayed with us for a long time. She used to go home once a week to feed the birds. But she spends most of her free time with my mother. She gives her insulin injections twice a day, she checks on her blood pressure twice a day, as I told you, she has become my mother's personal nurse. But they are happy with each other, sometimes they go out, shopping or site seeing. They have an eternal friendship ".
" And how are you, Vincent. Are you looking forward for an exciting career ?".
" Victor, I want to travel so much, this was my first escape. I don't think I would have dared to leave my mother, if you were not here, she wouldn't have let me come. It looks like you are well liked in your job that they asked you to stay for another year. Are you happy, or you want to come back ?."
" I am happy for the money that I make, Vincent, or else my job is very boring, and I have been promised another position, if I could stay this year, so I stayed ".
" That's marvellous, of course they like you, What are you going to do next ?, do you know?".
" I have no idea about the details, but in general, I know that it is sort of a secretive assignment. I will be travelling, and maybe staying in different countries for a while. You have to promise me that you will not open up this conversation with anybody, not even our mothers. Will you promise me that. You remember when we were in Leningrad, the man in dark suit was following us, I have a suspicion that it might be a similar scheme. I am not sure, Vincent, but you are the only one who knows this, you are the only one who I trust. If I am not going to see you again, be sure I will find a way to let you know where I am, and what I am doing. Our Mothers are very weak to be confronted with anything disturbing. I expect you to divert their concerns towards me, to interests away from me ".
" I will carry out your wishes as you like, and I promise to be mute on your affairs, but you promise me that you will always be in touch with me and be careful with yourself ".
" Let's go and have a nice dinner on Max Joseph Platz, there is a well known restaurant there. We'll visit other places later. When I am at work you can wonder around the city and take photos, there are quiet a few architectural marvels around ".
" I will do that, but primarily I came to see you. I realise more and more, that without you, we would have never been allowed to get out of the Soviet Union. I have to thank you for the care you showed towards my mother and I. When I return, I will write a long letter to Vladimir, telling him all about us, with a cautious mind, not to harm any of us ".
Victor had a week to complete his second year in " Radio Free Europe ".
He was terribly anxious to hear from Mr. Charles Bennett.
Employees in his section had organised a departing party. While engaged with the revelry, the head of the section presented him with a letter, telling him that he just received it in his mail, and it was addressed to him.
Victor took the letter and put it in his pocket.
After the celebration, when he got home, he opened the letter. There was a cheque for a thousand Deutschmark, and a typed message.
" Dear Victor,
The way is clear. I like to meet you on the First of November, at the lobby of the Hilton Hotel, in Frankfurt, at ten in the morning.
That was excellent; he could spend a few weeks with his mother, Madeleine and Vincent, before embarking on a new venture.
On his arrival, in Paris, joys and cheers were back in fashion.
Christine was proud of her son.
Madeleine looked as if she had gained some weight and was more alert.
Vincent was exhilarated.
Victor was in front of a dilemma. He didn't know how to explain his mother the reason, the place and the length of his departure, this time.
He had to lie. A white lie. A harmless lie.
" Mother, while I was working for " Radio Free Europe ", I met an executive from " The Voice of America ", who offered me a position in that organisation. If I accept the job, I have to meet him in Franfurt on the First of November. They will fly me to New York, and have some interviews there and then if I will decide to take the job, I will stay there for couple years. I know I am going to leave you again, but this is my life and so far, I think, I have done pretty well. I will always be in touch with you, no matter where I am ".
" My dear child, when you left last time, I went and visited your father's grave. I had many prayers said for you, Madeleine, and Vincent. I asked God to guide me. I heard a voice inside of me saying, leave everything to me, I will take care of everybody. Following that revelation, I am sure you are protected, and I will not feel abandoned. Just be aware that your father is watching you and never betray yourself. I don't know what " The Voice of America " is all about, but you know as well as I do, that the French society wants to dissociate itself from the great powers, we are out of the Common Market and NATO at the present. Although I can see that General de Gaulle disenchants the majority of the people. Your father was a believer of Communism, and you witnessed how they treated him. I know you're angry with that, but turn your anger to constructive activity and be happy. You have my blessing no matter what you do, I only ask you to be in touch and share your sorrows and successes ".
" I promise you to fulfil your wishes, mother, I love you very much, I will never let you down ".
They had wonderful time together.
During the day, when Christine was at work, Victor and Vincent would spend their time with Madeleine, talking about the dreadful days of the past. Or go to Monmartre and walk around, up and down the hills, Vincent with his camera, and enjoy the view of Paris, which can be like an unquenchable thirst, a never extinguishable desire to observe the panoramic view.
In the evenings, Christine would prepare a wonderful dinner and cherish each moment together, knowing that Victor would leave them soon, and who knows what would happen in the future.
Time came and Victor left for another experience in his life cycle.
Franfurt Hilton Hotel. A massive building with splendid views on the Main River.
Victor occupied a room with a balcony, overlooking directly the greenery, the trees and parks along the riverbank.
He had awoke early and enjoyed the view.
As the hours were getting close to his meeting, the butterflies of expectation had given him a short breath and a stomach cramps.
At five minutes to ten, he went down at the lobby. He chose a chair facing the entrance of the Hotel, to detect Mr. Bennett's entry.
Not long after, he felt a tap on his left shoulder, he turned around, there he was, Mr. Bennett, smiling and extending his arm for a handshake.
" Good morning to you. Did you have a goodnight sleep ?. You must have a beautiful view from your floor. Have you had breakfast?"
" Good morning, Mr. Bennett. I just came down, I didn't have the chance to eat anything ".
" Please call me Charles, Victor, Let's go to the cafeteria and have breakfast ".
Victor followed Charles in the very back of the cafeteria, away from other diners.
" Well, I am glad to inform you that your clearance was successful. Later we will go to my room, and I have to take a passport photo. Have in mind that you will be here for couple more days. On Thursday, I'll meet you here again, to give you your itinerary for New York and your airplane ticket. I will not be able to explain to you about your training programme, once you arrive in New York and you settle in your hotel, you will be greeted by one of our agents, and he will explain to you, your entire agenda ".
" I have my French Passport with me, do I need another passport? asked Victor, naively.
" Well, your French passport has Soviet visa stamps on it, when I give you your new passport, I will ask you to give me your old one to me. Just for security reasons ".
After breakfast, they went up to Charles' room and Victor got some passport photo shots.
While waiting for Thursday to come, Victor wandered around Franfurt. The famous Hauptbahnhof, the Railway station circle, where there are hundreds of shops. Walked here and there, along KaiserStrasse, with its fashionable stores. In the parks. One night he went into a nightclub, where " The four Tops ", the black American singers were performing, and one of their famous song " Bernadette ", made the night unforgettable.
Thursday morning came faster than expected.
At the meeting with Charles he was given a passport with " Bundesrepublik Deutschland,
Federal Republic of Germany, engraved on it in gold letters.
He opened it. His photograph was clearly there, on the second page.
He had to sign his name, Victor André Georgiou, right under his photograph.
He was also given his airline ticket, from Lufthansa, return trip to Beirut, Lebanon. And ten one hundred US dollars.
" Everything will be explained to you, when you arrive in New York ", said Charles, " I will give you a name, which I don't want you to write it down, just remember, OK ?. After customs procedures, take a taxi to Statler Hilton Hotel on Seventh Avenue. There is a reservation for a room to your name. The same day or the day after you will receive a phone call from a person by the name of Bob Taylor. Bob will tell you from then on what you have to do. Is everything clear? Do you have any questions? As you can see, your birthplace and date are not changed. You have nothing to worry about ".
" I leave tomorrow than. Thank you Charles. My heart is pounding, I don't know if it's from the excitement or from the concerns I have in my mind. I'll follow all the instructions you gave me, and hopefully the trip will be successful. Why am I going to Beirut? That puzzles me ".
" To tell you the truth, I don't know either. But remember you're in good hands. Everything will come up to the clear surface, once you conclude your training. Goodbye and good luck."
On landing at the John F. Kennedy Airport, his sit window was covered with snowflakes. The heavy drop turned the trip to his hotel almost invisible.
Everything went smooth and the porter took his baggage to his room.
He was totally exhausted, not only from the long flight, but essentially with his preoccupation about his return trip to Beirut, Lebanon.
He new a vague historical fact about France's participation in Lebanon's independence endeavours, but beyond that he was totally ignorant about the present. He decides to buy some New York newspapers to see if he could find some correlation between his occupation and the Lebanese political realities.
After resting for an hour, he looked out from his room window to see across the street a sign saying " Madison Square Garden ". The Mecca of basketball. The famous boxing arena.
A general sports center. But what was most amazing was the hundred of thousands of people walking up and down the Avenue. He became fascinated by that view. From his seventeenth floor window, the people down the street looked like ants, thousands and thousands of them, seemed aimlessly running to reach nowhere.
He left his room to go down to the lobby and buy a newspaper.
" The Washington Post ", had a front-page article about the " Third Arab-Israeli War".
No wonder, he thought for a second. The area was an arena for the Great Powers to play their chess games.
The judgement was not his. All he wanted to have was a broad understanding of the region, the rest was to be instructed to him after.
The next day was altogether different from the snowfall of the previous day. The sun was radiantly shining, the warmth was spreading, it was a gorgeous day.
He decided to go out and explore the city, famous for its skyscrapers. He asked at the reception desk for a guidebook. Fifth Avenue appeared to be the attraction. It was an easy metropolitan city to stroll. The streets ran from south to north and the avenues, from east to west.
Now, he found himself within the bustling people, rushing after their daily businesses.
He has never seen so many people in such a small area. Manhattan was a small island, only 35 square kilometres, which couldn't expand its width, so it lengthened its height. Soon he detected that he was walking with his head up towards the sky, to be able to consume the skyscrapers.
He walked along Fifth Avenue, passing the Empire State building, The New York State Library, which was an impressive architectural building, St. Patrick's Cathedral, with its Gothic splendour, Rockefeller Center, its ice skating rink and the festive spirit manifested by the Christmas tree, until he reached Central Park with its romantic horse-drawn carriages. That was 27 streets. Almost one fifth of the island.
On the way back he walked along Broadway, back to Seventh Avenue, where his hotel was situated. He was in a dream world; truly New York rightfully deserved its fame.
New York was not Paris, of course.
Paris was not New York, either.
Paris had charm, New York had reverence.
Paris had elegance, New York had extravagance.
Paris was feminine, New York was seductive.
Paris had sophistication, New York had unmistakable style.
Moscow or Leningrad? he asked himself, full of landmarks with prospective heritage listings, but lifeless and dispirited.
Up in his room, he felt content and peaceful. He had enjoyed enormously his walk and what he saw. Reviewing the newspaper again, he discovered that the involvement of the United States in the civil war in Vietnam between the Communist North and the non-Communist South had substantial opposition by the American people. A reality that the French themselves had experienced.
Suddenly the phone rang.
" Mr. Victor Georgiou, this is Bob Taylor, I hope you had a nice trip. I will visit you tomorrow at ten in the morning; I will give you a call from the lobby of your hotel, before coming up. Have a comfortable night. You're welcome in New York ".
The next morning, when Bob Taylor arrived, he announced that Victor will partake into a vigorous programme, which will take six months.
In order to have him spent in a more homelike atmosphere, he had to move to a furnished apartment on First Avenue, between Fifty sixth and Fifty seventh streets.
Bob helped him move. It was an ultimate pad. He never had such a comfort.
" Settle in today, go out and get familiarised with your neighbourhood, it's up to you how you want to have your meals, whether you want to eat outside or cook inside, it's a fully furnished place, if you need anything, you can buy yourself, just give me the receipt. I will leave you now, tomorrow I will pick you up, at ten, in front of the Fifty six street entrance, remember the building has two entrances on each side. I'll furnish you with a notebook and pen; you will destroy all your notes before you leave New York. Myself or your teacher will pay you three hundred and fifty dollars a week, for your personal expenses, you don't pay rent. Do you have any question?"
" No Bob, thank you, I'll see you tomorrow ".
W W W
He couldn't follow exactly where he was being taken. The Avenue was Third, and he missed the street. But when he got out of the car, he noticed thirty-six street. They went into a tall yellow building. Bob pushed the nineteenth floor button, in the elevator. The door had 319 numbers on it. Bob gave three knocks on the door. The door opened and a tall, thin, grey haired man appeared at the door, with a smile and as if he knew Victor from a previous meeting…
" Hello, Victor, please come in, I am Lesley Frank, I'll be your teacher for the next six months. Have you settled well? How do you find New York so far?"
Victor was looking around. The rooms were full of school desks. Blackboards on the walls, just like
" Glad to meet you, Lesley ", he said, " I have a very nice apartment, and I am captivated by
New York ".
" I leave you with your teacher, Victor ", said Bob, " I'll be in touch, and Lesley is the one who is in charge now, adios ". And he left the apartment.
" Sit down, Victor. Feel comfortable, and ask me anything you want, OK? I know everything about you. So, let me explain to you who we are.
After Second World War, the Soviet Union with its Allies in Eastern Europe, brought the Iron Curtain down, closed its borders and engaged in a gigantic arms build up. Relations soured and it got a name, The Cold War.
We have a name for the post you will be commissioned. Clandestine activities and surveillance. There is absolutely no violence, no physical conflicts, no arms, no enemy contacts in your affair. But there is intellectual challenge, because you are primarily being devoted into information gathering, plus the interpretation of these information. Since you have the background, you also have the capacity to think any problem through, especially from the Soviet point of view.
Surveillance involves following a particular persons actions. You will learn that shortly.
Recruiting an informer and how to work with the informer, creating places and systems of clandestine meetings. You will also learn successively.
Provide word by word, what your agent or informer had heard or seen during a certain period.
Ask me why are you doing this?
The fundamental activity of a member of our organisation is to gather foreign intelligence, for the top government officials. Then they can make decisions, based on all compiled information from around the world. In a simple explanation, you are an information gatherer and transmitter for other members to analyse and to report to their superiors. Thus the chain of information originates highly refined judgements.
It's enough for today. I know your taking notes; these notes will stay here when you leave New York, OK? Now, tell me how you feel, what you think about your program ".
" I have the feeling of extreme flattery and I thank you very much, I'll see you tomorrow ".
The classes would start at 10:00 AM (all hours had to be recorded by military time), and would last from two to three hours, daily. Then he was assigned tasks, which had to be performed outdoors, in the streets, in the subways, in museums, art galleries, cinemas, theatres and parks.
First outdoor assignment. Lasted two weeks. Somebody is following Victor around the Rockefeller Center, on Fifth Avenue. Victor had to identify the person, by a system called
" street works ", which meant, first to make sure he was being followed, then he had to change his destination. Second by lingering in front of store display windows, and through the reflection of the windows, capture the physical features, the attire and any conspicuous appearance of that person. Third, he should try to vanish, so that his follower will loose him.
On his return home, he should prepare a report, by giving accurate description of the follower and itemise the whole venture.
It seemed easy, but it took one week, for Victor to identify a follower. Sometimes there were more than one follower.
In the classroom, after submitting his reports, he was shown the picture of his followers; some of them were accurate, some not even close. But the most amazing part of this exercise was, when he was handed a photograph of him, taken a few metres away, facing a hidden camera, from head to toe, by one of his followers, which he had never noticed, or seen.
The training continued.
In the subways, this time, he was the follower. It took another two weeks to follow an "agent", who by changing platforms and directions was avoiding being pursued. The success of the venture was to arrive to the final destination, when one "agent" will meet another "agent". And the report, should have total accuracy.
Twenty Fifth of December 1967. Christmas day.
The city was dressed in green, red and white. Beside the towering Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, the festival atmosphere of Times Square, the enthusiasm of the shopping crowds, the seducing spectacles of music and decorations, the most outstanding character of the season was the energy that the city was radiating. The sprawling city was glowing and glistening.
Victor had two weeks holidays. He freely went on to discover the remarkable culinary varieties, the theatres' magical charm, the art galleries unrivalled selections.
First of January 1968. A New Year, and his Birth Day.
For the occasion, he decided to spend his evening at the Radio City Music Hall. It was an evening of musical extravaganza, which electrified the senses and offered a feast, both for the sight and the mind. Unforgettable.
Soon the training went on into another phase.
Meeting of two "agents", which can take place in museums, in art galleries, in cinemas, theatres or parks, any time. The approach in this situation was, not to be identified or photographed by any other "counter agent". This exercise had to be brought to perfection, and therefore it took more than a month to achieve success.
How challenging it was for Victor.
After intense training on the various aspects of covert operations, he was given an explanation on his mission in Lebanon.
"The United States was prepared to foster any nation, requesting assistance against armed aggressors from any country, controlled by International Communism. Since the Middle East has become a centre of Communist activities, directed by Moscow, the United States would assist the Middle Eastern countries to preserve their desire for order and peace."
On his arrival in Beirut, he would check into the St. George Hotel, and wait for an initial contact.
He had another week to enjoy New York, and by May 1968 he had to be in Lebanon.
It was the beginning of Victor's engagement in the struggle against Communism.
A few days in Beirut and Victor had established the fact that the city was one of the most beautiful metropolises in the world. On the Mediterranean Sea, the beaches equalled the Côte d'Azure and the Black Sea resorts. The panoramic views from the mountains, running parallel to the coast, were modern day summer resorts. What was most fascinating was the mix of historical monuments, left from the great Phoenicians and the contemporary buildings with their latest architectural innovations.
There was no doubt that the existing culture was influenced by European, mainly French and American directions, but through that influence, had created its own character.
To make things more ideal, he rented an apartment, a street away from a famous beach, which accurately was called " Ras Beirut ", the " Head of Beirut ", at the very edge of the city.
It was time to go to work. Contacts were already made, and his " Superior ", was the Director of an air-parcel service, called " Universal Parcel Service ", his name was Pete Manning.
He could visit Pete anytime, since the company was free of any suspicion.
Soon he was introduced to the Soviet Agent, who would be his principle informer.
Ivan Chernov. He was the official Chauffeur of the Ambassador of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. He was not only a chauffeur, but a body-guard and sometimes a confident.
The highly covert meetings would be held in Victor's apartment. Ivan had to be extremely security conscious. For his own good. That meant, that from the point of start, whether that be his home or any where else, he should watch, constantly if he was being followed. That's why before entering Victor's building, he had to be dead sure that he was not being followed. Before entering Victor's building, there was another code to be observed, the two blinds overlooking the beach in Victors apartment, should be drawn, meaning Victor can receive him safely. The meeting days, were Tuesday evenings at 19:00. The days Ivan was off.
The information was based on the Ambassador's activities. Where he was driven, who was with him in the Zil Limousine, the content of the conversations. Simply, everything that happened during the previous week, in the car and in the Embassy.
His weekly pay, against his service was two hundred US dollars.
Pete had given Victor a short summary related to the information Ivan had so far provided.
On his first meeting with Ivan, Victor realised that his "agent", was reluctant to give specific details on his material. Victor had to continuously ask, where, when who, how, what. At last, he asked him what was his problem. It turned out, that he wanted more money. That was the only reason he was committing treason. The pay raise was granted.
Victor's first report, as much as he wanted it to be espionage secrets, instead were gossip like information on the short travels that the Soviet Ambassador had taken to a few nearby Newspaper Publication buildings, a long trip to Damascus, Syria, to the Soviet Embassy there. He himself was disappointed and hesitant to submit his report to Pete, but having nothing else to give, he went ahead. Later, to his surprise, Pete had complimented him that his report was well received.
As the time went by, his reports began to be more and more lengthy and full of activities.
But, that was not enough for Victor. He had the assumption that he was not getting adequate information from Ivan.
He wanted to follow Ivan, to find any irregularities from his testaments. But how?
I am writing this letter to let you know about some important news. I am sure by now you have read in the newspapers about the student revolt. I have never witnessed such street fighting. The protest started by the students, who were asking for reforms within the education system. The students occupied the Sorbonne, and riot police with tear gas, concussion grenades, nightsticks charged again and again on the students to force more than ten thousand of them into the side streets of Quartier Latin.
The unrest spread to other universities and finally workers joined the protest and about nine million people participated in a general strike.
I was on Boulevard St. Germain, when the student rioters, blocked the streets by overturning buses. They never felt threatened by the police, on the contrary as if they were in control and elated. There was an excitement in the air, but I got scared and left the area in a hurry.
Things are back to normal now and I think the students won their cause.
Well, after receiving your letter that you're in Beirut for a while, and reading about the Israeli raids on the Palestinian refugee camps, and the destruction of civilian aeroplanes at Beirut International Airport, it gave me the courage to ask the magazine " Paris Images", if I could fly to Beirut as a freelance photo-journalist, to send them images that reporters cannot write about. Just for a few months, I want to take on this "business", to sell my photos. I know the physical risks involved on the coverage of a dangerous area like that one. But I have a strong feeling that I will succeed and come up with some exceptional photos.
I shouldn't forget to tell you that Vladimir had a reply to my letter, and he is now a Headmaster of a school in central Moscow.
Before I end this letter, I want you to know that my mother had to be submitted to hospital, because of the advanced gangrene on her toes. But she is stable and communicating all right.
Your mother is well and caring for my mother with all her attention.
As I said, I will be in Beirut very shortly, as soon as I arrive at the airport, I'll take a taxi to your address. See you soon.
The moment Vincent arrived he discovered Victors engagement to espial activities.
There existed blind trust and faith towards each other.
Sitting one night talking, their imagination went wild. By the description that Ivan had given, the Soviet Embassy was an entire block of land, surrounded by high walls, like a fortress. Inside, there were six two story buildings. The entire Embassy staff lived within this compound. The Ambassadors residence, the Embassy building, the Consulate, the residences for the staff and a school for their children.
" It will be so easy to take aerial pictures ", ingeniously spoke Vincent," Let's go and find a high building overlooking the Embassy ".
" I know there is a building across the Embassy, but you have to go and see if there is an apartment available high enough to overlook the Embassy, I cannot do that ".
Luckily an apartment was available, and Vincent rented it. He decided to live there, although the rent was paid by Victor.
Victor presented the idea to Pete, who agreed in principle but cautioned him to be extremely careful.
In a few days they had a telescope and an ultra-wide angle lens camera mounted on tripods, spying on the fortress below, through veiled curtains
Victor could now be able to check the exits and the entrances of the Ambassador's limousine, to compare with Ivan's stories. Also they were taking photos of cars going in and out of the compound, whether they were with diplomatic license plates or Lebanese.
The scheme was intelligent and reasonable.
But Vincent had other plans in his mind. His photo-journalistic fever was incurable. He had a defiant and adventurous nature. He would leave his apartment early in the mornings to go into intensely menacing sections of the city, sometimes daring to go into Palestinian camps and to photograph their retreats.
This was unacceptable by other factions of the community. All foreigners created suspicion.
One afternoon, when Victor was listening to the radio, occupied with his telescope, Vincent's name was announced.
" A French photographer, was killed this afternoon, by a sniper bullet in the vicinity of Ain Roumanieh. An ambulance has taken the body at the city morgue… ".
" Impossible, impossible, I don't believe it, this cannot happen to Vincent ", Victor kept repeating to himself, " What can I do?, where shall I go ?, how can I…?…"
He was devastated, shattered.
He took a taxi and ordered the driver to take him at the French Embassy.
He noticed on the way in, that the news had already distressed, aggrieved, confused and bewildered the entire personnel of the Embassy. They didn't know who Vincent Findji was.
Victor approached one of the staff and told her that he knew the dead person.
Immediately they decided to visit the morgue for identification and later to make the necessary arrangements to transport the body to Paris.
All the way to the morgue, Victor couldn't pronounce a word. He just couldn't believe what had happen. His mind wouldn't accept the reality. It couldn't be true.
" How, how, how, my God, how can this happen?" One moment alive and full of energy and next moment cut off from life, ceased to exist ".
It was Vincent, peaceful, as if fallen asleep, colourless, motionless, heart breaking.
Victor had a long glance at him, lost in his painful, lamentable thoughts.
The member of the Embassy held his arm, tried to take him away.
" He was my brother ", he said, pulling his arm, " let me be with him for a few more minutes ".
" What am I going to say to your mother, Vincent? ", he shouted, " Why did you have to follow me? Why? I will live with this guilt the rest of my life ".
The Embassy employee told him that they will take care of all the arrangements and notify the family. Victor gave his mother's name, phone number and address, explaining that Vincent's mother was in hospital and his mother was looking after her, so all correspondence should be directed to his mother. He avoided explaining what he was doing in Beirut.
In his apartment, he instantly took the phone and called his mother.
From the very moment Christine heard Victor's voice, she new something horrible had happened. The conversation turned hysterical, it was at that situation Victor broke down and started crying openly. It was an inconceivable pain.
Christine had burst with tears and couldn't talk on the phone.
" Madeleine, Madeleine ", she said, after calming down, " How will I be able to explain what happened to your son, how? Victor, my son, is the body being sent here for burial? it will be impossible for Madeleine to leave the hospital, she is having her left leg amputated in two days. I have to bury him next to Maman; I'll make sure the grave is ready. There will not be any funeral for Vincent, my poor boy, he will go quietly. Victor, my child, this is a terrible end to a young man full of life. I don't think I'll tell Madeleine, until the operation is over. Would you agree?"
" Yes mother, I think after the operation when she gets home and you think she can take a news of this nature. I am very sorry; I feel I was the cause that Vincent wanted to come to Beirut. I lost my best friend, I am left alone now. I should write to Vladimir and give him this tragic news. I am worn out, I have no strength to even think. Please telephone me after Madeleine's operation. I think I am going to get very drunk tonight and forget my existence. Goodbye mother. I'll talk to you later ".
" Goodbye son, look after yourself, I hate to mention, but what are you doing in foreign places, think about it. I like to see you differently, I hope you understand, Goodbye".
He hung up the phone. He had a bottle of Johnnie Walker, bought on the aeroplane, opened it and started drinking right from the bottle.
" Mother ", he went on like an orator, " I don't see any foreign places left in this world. There is an invisible line running between all nations and between all races. The line is drawn from East to West and From North to South.
The line of freedom and oppression. The line of democracy and autocracy. The line of wealth and poverty. The line of good and evil. All spread out on the same invisible line.
The line of the unity of contradictions. The unity of diversity. If we can only understand this truth."
His mind couldn't reveal any more thoughts. He was totally drained. After a long silence, he went to sleep.