Chapter two

 

“Any action beyond the imagination of the human being, is the amazing consummation

and achievement of thinking feeling and willing.

The inherent power of a human being, motivated to live, succeeds from the derivation of creation.

Creation propagated with knowledge, has its basis in the rise of cause and effect or action and reaction, and it’s not the consequence of chance.

The snarls of creation are part of the impasses and diversity of life.

The cause of creation is the act of deliberate evolution and expansion from one component to another.

The evolutionary ingredients of creation produce the endurance of the human being, who by natural transformation embraces the principle of freedom of action.

Freedom is the natural instinct of the human being. Ensued by food, shelter, maintenance and sense fulfilment.”

                                                                                        Philosophical Meditations

 

 

    The moment he took off, Sergey followed the road along the Moselle River. At the intersection of Hohenfelder Strasse, he crossed the bridge and drove towards Kobern-Gondorf.
He knew how many kilometres he will proceed to reach his destination.  He had studied the maps for months. In fact, he had taken them with him. Fully prepared.
Now it was time to show his strong will of survival. His belief that any obstacle along his way, will be temporary, and that help will always be his companion, since he was a strong religious man. His main objective was to look for churches and hospitals, because they were the establishments, which would provide their services to him, in case of any assistance.
He was not an opportunist, far from it. He knew, deep in his heart, since childhood, and then when he was a student in Moscow, during the October Revolution and hence, that rendering service to another human being, was an eternal truth, even beyond religion.
But men of God would always be more inclined towards compassion. And hospitals will not discriminate towards rendition.

 Passing Burg Eltz, the fortress, he stayed on the south bank of the river and from Moselkern took Road 49, to Cochem.
He could see the view of the city from the bridge, the groups of houses, the church towers and the ruins of the fortresses.
After crossing many towns on Road 53, he reached Bernkastet-Kues. He stopped for a rest near Hauptplatz, the central fountain and the ornate Rathaus.
The arena of combats and destruction and devastation was on every side.
He had to continue.
Finally, he reached Trier, where he decided to take a rest. He had travelled over hundred and twenty-five kilometres.

Trier, a chivalrous city, with many Roman monuments and churches.
Sergey knew that Karl Marx was born in this city, in 1818. But his preference was to visit the church of St. Matthew, a Benedictine monastery, which was a pilgrimage site for centuries.
Now the picture was disastrous, the war had ravaged this entire historical city.
He had to hide from inquisitive Allied soldiers. His main apprehension was to be captured and sent back to the Russian command, where his destiny was a deserter's death.
He was exhausted. He took one of the hillside roads, towards the ruins of the Porta Nigra monument, and disappeared in the fields.

Before sunrise, at early twilight, he got back on the road. The riverside bike road was a combination of rough and smooth trail.
He was riding through countless acres of vineyards. He passed the valley of Grundhof and turned right towards Junglinster and Luxembourg.
                                    ***********************************************

By the end of 1944, Luxembourg was a metropolis ravaged and full of misery and suffering. The intensive bombardment of the city by the German forces, followed by the American counter attacks had left a liberated and relieved but very much ruined and destroyed city.
Through his map, Sergey, found the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and leaving his motorbike on a side street, he went in. He was so much debilitated, that tears started flowing from his eyes.
He prayed. He thanked God that kept him alive through this entire ordeal.
" Please, Heavenly Power ", he requested with an earnest entreaty, " give me strength to endure the rest of my journey".
Then to himself he repeated forcefully, " I have to endure, I must withstand any difficulty ".
He realised the importance of existence. He was never totally attached to or never totally detached from any ideals. Any affinity to good or evil would compel him to hazardous activities. All he longed for was his freedom from any kind of predicament.
He had to go to France. France was liberated now, and history had taught him that it is the land of Liberty and Equality.

Back to his motorbike, he looked at it and, " This machine is amazing ", he thought to himself. " I wonder if God has a hand in it, it is part of my destiny ".

He headed for Metz. Sixty more kilometres.  Still on the Moselle River, Metz had sustained inconceivable suffering under the German occupation. This medieval city was weeping from sorrow. In every corner, there was agony, torture and tribulation. He found the Cathedral of St. Etienne, and the Basilica of St. Pierre. Both were showing there torment. The streets were empty and the houses seemed vacant. The cloud of destruction had left behind human misery.

This was a cross road for Sergey. Would he go west towards Paris, or south towards Lyon and Marseille? Paris was not originally in his plan, because his strategy was to reach Marseille on the Mediterranean sea, and from there to find his way to the Black sea on to Sotchi. It would be easy to arrive to Gislavotzk, his hometown, from Sotchi, which was a sea resort on the Black sea, close to home.

All his moves were calculated in absolute highly disciplined covert method. In no way he dared to disclose his scheme to any stranger. It was a difficult and strenuous mental determination. It had to be that way, for his own safety.

He decided that night, in Metz, to go south, as programmed. If he could find any occasion to extend his stay in France, he would for a while, and then head home…

The next morning, he stopped at a petrol station. The attendant approached him, and with curiosity, which was not welcomed by Sergey, he said.
" Nice ' motorcycle ' ", in French, " you need air in both tyres ", he added.
" Yes ", said Sergey, in French, with an accent, avoiding further conversation.
" What accent do you have? ", asked the attendant, " It sounds Russian ".
Sergey pretended not to hear the attendant, and continued filling his tank with petrol. He had two other five-litre containers to fill, when the attendant came closer, and said.
" Where are you heading?" " Most of the roads are blocked, the Americans are looking for German soldiers ". " Here, I help you with your tyres ".
" South ", said Sergey, " Towards Lyon ".
" Stay away from German sharpshooters, they are still around ", he said, " The best route to take is through Rheims, Troyes, Sens, Auxerre and Dijon ", he added, " And after Dijon the way seems to clear ". " I am supposed to report any sighting of Germans ".
By now Sergey felt a little safe.
" Thank you ", answered Sergey, smiling to the attendant. " Would you be kind to change some German Francs, to French Francs, for me, please? ", He asked, " And if you have any food, to take with me, I will be grateful ".
                                    *****************************************************

Sergey was fascinated at the goodwill this Frenchman has shown. He remembered reading about the " gift of giving ". Only the gratified minds and hearts can intend to give. The essential conduct of a human being must be to bestow.

The attendant returned from the kiosk with some notes in his hand and a package.
" It looks like you have been on a long trip, and you intend to go further, so, here it is, I give you some preserved, salted pork meat, it will last for a while. And as far as German francs, they don't have much value; instead, I'll give you twenty French francs. Take it, its all right, I am celebrating our liberation, I want you to join ". And he continued by saying.
" Would you like to have a glass of wine, before you leave? ".

Sergey was speechless. He nodded. They went in the kiosk, and the attendant introduced himself.
" My name is Francois, what is your name?" he asked.
" Sergey, I thank you very much, … That's enough, thank you, I lost my habit of drinking, although, we used to smuggle sometimes in the camp ", he said, and realised what he said.
" But that's another story ", he added. " For another time ".
He drank to the bottom of the cup he was given, and headed to the door in a hurry, to avoid more conversation.
The Frenchman understood Sergey's bearing.
" Go on, proceed ", he said, " I wish you good luck ". " You know where I am, if you pass this way again ", he added.

Sergey left, for his next journey.

All the way to Rheims, he kept thinking about the effect the Frenchman's action of good deed left on him. When he had fallen into misery, he had never blamed others and now, when he faced merriment, he wanted to persevere his serenity.

Through the whole escape route, he hardly came across any other civilians, in the countryside.
He had the constant fear of some roadblock coming over his trail, but he was lucky, nothing happened, the times and the places were to his benefit.

The Germans were entirely wiped out of Rheims, after the war ended, with their unconditional surrender, but the city was gravely damaged.

Without stop, he passed Troyes around sunset and followed the sign for Grange
L' Eveque, proceeded on the endless rolling fields of wetlands, advanced on Courgenay and followed a hilly up and down road to Thorigny, and finally reached Sens by night.
He slept in a field overnight, and at sunrise rode again along the Yonne riverbank.
Every kilometre of land had a historical moment.
He finally arrived at Dijon. He stopped at the town intersection, where there is a large stone arch, called Porte Guillaume. Walked through Rue de la Liberte and admired the facade of the Notre Dame Cathedral.
He felt relatively safe, but he was very anxious and extremely tired. After resting for a few hours, back on his bike, headed towards Chalon on the bank of the Saon River.
At midnight he entered a small town called Tournus, he was totally worn out by now.
He noticed a church. The marble sign read St. Philibert Abbey. He left his bike and approached the door. It was open.
He took a few steps in the doorway and collapsed.
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Before he opened his eyes, Sergey, was trying to retract in his memory his where about. Last event he could remember was when he stepped into the Abbey church, and he was confused as to why he was lying on his back, at what it felt like a very homelike bed.
He opened his eyes, and turned his head, but he felt nauseous. He closed his eyes and went into a contemplative state.
He could hear from a close distance the sound of a person snoring heavily. He was not alone. He listened to the noisy vibrations for a while. That made it regain his alertness.
" I must be in a hospital ", he thought.
He opened his eyes again, and saw the ceiling on top of him; there were several other beds around the room.
" Thank God, I am alive ", he murmured. But his head was ponderous. He went through an uncontrollable shiver. He was grinding his teeth painfully.
" Calm down, calm down ", he kept saying to himself.
A few minutes later, a nurse showed up at the door. She approached Sergey, and she put her left hand on his forehead.
" You are still very warm, you have a high temperature, you have been in a stupor for five days now, I am glad you opened your eyes, can you hear me? She asked.
Sergey made a gesture of cognisance.
" My name is Sister Madeleine ", said the nurse, " I will bring you a glass of water, you must be completely dehydrated, and I will be right back ".
Sergey relaxed.
" Five days? ", he asked himself, " What happened to me? ".
Sister Madeleine came back with a carafe and a glass.
He had a few sips from the glass and his head fell back on the pillow.
" Go back to sleep ", said Sister Madeleine, " I will check on you regularly, and when you wake up next time, I will bring you a nice warm soup ". And she left the room.
" Sister Madeleine ", thought Sergey, " How attractive she is, with her golden hair, and black eyes. She looked so refined and polite and unassuming. Sister Madeleine, what a lovely name ". He reflected on her for a while and went to sleep, into an ethereal dream.

It has been already three weeks that Sergey was hospitalised. He was extremely frail and feeble to be able to get out of bed.
During this period of convalescence, Sister Madeleine was always at his side. She took care of all his necessities. She was compassionate and friendly. They had many pleasant and enjoyable conversations. She seemed to have a special empathy towards Sergey.

Meanwhile, Sergey had heard through the other patients, who were subjects of war casualties, that the doctors called Sister Madeleine "The Only One", because of her duty accomplishments. She was the guardian angel of all the injured soldiers. She had extraordinary patience, enormous courage, helping the distress and pain of the patients.

The moment she would enter Sergey's room, he would have a beam in his eyes. He just admired and cherished her.
" From where have you inherited this powerful volition? ", he would ask her jokingly, " When you are so petite in appearance ".
" The love of my country, and the love of the human being ", she would reply, with a smile.

" I think you saved my life ", " And I don't know how I can reply or return this favour to you? "
Sergey mentioned to her, one day.
She looked at him, directly, with mocking expression, at that moment and she said.
" With love, Sergey, with love ".
And with an enlightened laughter she left the room.

" I have loved you from the first glance ", murmured Sergey.

And for the first time in many, many years he felt very contented and blissful.
                                    ************************************************

Sergey was recovering steadily. Sister Madeleine and him enjoyed each other presence. The conversations were pleasant but more on an amusing and illusive level. She appeared to be totally free to express her independent judgements on subjects more politically prone. She steadfastly praised the French Resistance, and Socialistic inspirations were assertive in her wordings.
Themes that was very close to Sergey's heart. They were clearly very agreeable.

During one of their talks, Sister Madeleine, spoke of her music education, and stated the longing she had to return to the days when she could dedicate her life to her piano.
This was astonishment for Sergey. This amazing " Lady ", serving in a hospital, bandaging the wounds of injured soldiers, could easily have a happy and different fulfilment in life; she was fostering a feeling of reverence and respect in him.

She had become the total object of his thoughts. He would recognise her light walk in the corridors of the hospital. When she would come into the room he would shake from anxiety and joy at the same time. He lived in twofold emotions. A childish shyness and a poet's imagination.
At his request she would bring French books, for him to expand his knowledge of the language, and an excuse to bring her back into his room. His pure motive was to be close to her.

" You have to get out of your room, and have some fresh air in the gardens", she said one day.
Sergey wouldn't. He was apprehensive of meeting people and careful to  elude questions from strangers. He was obstinate.

One sunny and warm day, Sister Madeleine came into the room, with a pair of trousers, a shirt and a jacket, dropped them on Sergey's bed and said.
" I will be back in five minutes to take you out in the yard for a walk, it is time for you to move on, you are fully recovered ".

When they were outside, Sister Madeleine led the way to the hospital grounds, where there was beautiful greenery.
They walked side by side for a long distance, in silence. When they came close to an area with magnificent flower landscape, Sister Madeleine sat on a bench and invited Sergey to sit next to her.

" I know and I understand your feelings ", she started, " They are not much different then mine. But all I want to tell you is that, I have given my word to the hospital authorities, that I will be here for as long as they need me. The war is over, and I have to return home soon. You have to put away your thoughts about me and concentrate on your next move "

" My dear ", said Sergey, " There shouldn't be any obstacles for the love I have for you. In God's name I will never embarrass you or take advantage of you. My feelings towards you have no fear or apprehension. At the present all I want is to be close to you. I have nowhere to go. I have defected, I have become a prisoner of war, I was a slave labourer and now I am a fugitive ".

Sister Madeleine stood up, looked at Sergey, turned her back, and without a word walked towards the hospital.

" Please give me a chance ", yelled Sergey.

He sat on that bench for hours, until it was dark.
The thought of suicide flashed through his mind like a thunder.
He didn't dare to think about the future, and the past was haunting him.
The memory of his son raised a feeling of guilt in him.
                                    ************************************************

When he finally went back to his room, Sergey was bewildered by Sister Madeleine's behaviour. She had agreed that they had mutual sentiments towards each other. What was the obstacle that kept her so aloof suddenly?
Within himself, he was cognisant of the love he had for her. He had no doubt about that. Even though he had left a wife behind, and a child, but so much had taken place, so much change has transpired. The present was real and the past was an experience. The presence of love was the proof of the evolution of life. Love is not a thought, love cannot be cultured, love cannot be exercised, and love cannot be manufactured. It is such a state of the human being, when the self ceases to be.
He had powerful sense that his feelings were unblemished. He was not motivated by lust. True, he hasn't seen a woman for so many years, but his conscience was lucent, and his mind was clear of any desire. There were no any perplexities or bewilderment in his conduct. He felt in the same spirit as his childhood and youth.
He was resolved to let things take their course.

For three days there was no sign of Sister Madeleine.
Sergey had not wandered out of his room. His fever had gone up again and he was under attendance by Sister Genevieve, who brought the meals and medications to his room.
He didn't have the courage to ask about Sister Madeleine's absence.
He couldn't understand what was happening.
The fourth day, he recovered his strength, the temperature was gone and he took the initiative to wander out of his room.
He met Sister Genevieve in the corridor.
" Sergey ", she said, " The hospital Administrator, Sister Josephine wants to see you in her office, as soon as you can, " she added.

When they were sitting face to face, Sister Josephine and Sergey, the smile on the Administers face was enough to lessen Sergey's uneasiness.

" I had a long conversation with Sister Madeleine ", she started, " and you know she came to us from Paris, to devote herself to the wounded soldiers. She is an accomplished concert pianist. She has very genuine and strong sentiments towards you. She will try to help you as much as she can. During the days of your arrival, when you were unconscious and with very high fever, in that lethargic state you muttered names and places, which gave Sister Madeleine the impression that you have been in many difficulties, and you have siblings left behind. We know that you have been a Russian Prisoner of war in German camps and now you are a fugitive under the French law, because under the Potsdam Conference agreements, France has to send you back. You have no personal identification. But at least the war is over now, and we are liberated and safe from German Gestapo. The Resistance is very grateful to Sister Madeleine for her remarkable work in this hospital. We will keep her, until she decides to return.
Meanwhile, I have an offer for you. We are in desperate need of a handyman, I wish you to stay. We can provide you with lodging and food and a salary for your personal expenses.
I want you to think about this proposal, for the time being, and give me a reply as soon as you can. Or else, I have no other alternative but to let you go. At that time I will advise you to make inquiries at the French Government Interior Ministry".
" I have also something personal to tell you. My advice to you in relation to Sister Madeleine is, that you treat her with great respect. Then who knows, your relation might result to a divine attachment. It is up to her and you what destiny will bring to both of you".
" You can go now, give me your answer later, and may God bless you both ".

" Thank you ", Sister Josephine ", Sergey spoke, I have great respect and love towards Sister Madeleine. I can confess that the war brought many commotions in my life. But I am ready to sacrifice my life for her. Thank you for your advice, I will visit you later about your offer. Again thank you ".

The same evening, Sister Madeleine called upon Sergey, in his room.
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She had an exquisite dress on, lavender in colour, reaching below her knees, with a white bolero worn over. She was smiling with a radiant face.
" How do you like my new look? ", she asked, " I just returned from home, in Paris. I did a quick trip, for two days, to see my parents, and to tell them about you. I also had to meet my best friend Christine, whom I haven't seen for more than four years, and to tell her about you too ".

Sergey was dumbfounded and overwhelmed by her current appearance and her inquisitive news. It took him a few seconds to find his words.
" You look exquisite ", he said, " And, what did you speak to your parents about me? ", he asked.

" You know ", she said, avoiding the question,  " There are thousands of foreign soldiers at the
Quai d' Orsay, which is the interior ministry, and they are all exploring the prospect of getting French residency ".

Sergey fell into a contemplative mood.

" What's the matter ", she asked, " Is there any change in your bearings, why are you so silent. Have I said something inappropriate? ".
" Would you like to go out in the lawns and sit on the grass, and we talk? She asked again.

" Maybe we should go out for dinner ", said Sergey.

This suggestion overjoyed her. She was not expecting such an offer.

" Let's go ", she said.

Once outside, they held each other's hands, and silently walked down the street, adjacent to the hospital. Not too far, they walked into a small bistro, where there were a few other couples lost in their own world.
They ordered a bottle of Beaujolais and an Alsatian dish called choucroute.
They sat quietly for a while, glancing at each other with a blissful enlightenment.
After the first glass, and after the first cheering.
Sergey was curious, about Sister Madeleine's trip. But the moment he opened his mouth…

" From now on, I am just Madeleine", she interrupted, " I don't know why I was called a "sister", I am only a nurse ".

" Fine with me ", said Sergey, " Why don't you recount your conversation, that you had about me, with your parents? ".

" You know ", she said, " I discovered about you, more than you think, when you were in an unconscious state, you were calling your son… is his name Vladimir? She asked, and continued, " Nothing mattered to me, except to get you well, and then, I found out what a remarkable individual you are, so, when I went to Paris, I told my parents that I have found a soul mate, and I would like them to meet you as soon as possible, I told the same thing to my friend Christine, she wants to meet you too ".

Sergey looked at her for a moment and began talking.
" My life has changed from the moment I saw you Madeleine. I cannot deny my past; I can only accept it as the inevitable part of my life. But only if you accept it too, I will be able to start this new life with you. And you have no idea how much I want that to happen ".
" I feel like I just graduated from the university of life ", he continued, " And I am stepping on a responsible new carrier ".

" I think you are, she added, " And I think I am too ".
                                    *****************************************************

Sergey poured the glasses again for a third time.
Cheers followed and wishes and hopes were exchanged.
They were in a merry humour, like the Italian saying that, " Wine makes you sing ".
" Do you mean, you will support me in any of my resolutions? ", asked Sergey.
The conversation had such sincere base, as if they were totally stripped from any unease.
" Would you like to stay in France? ", she asked suddenly.

" I will stay only for you, if you will accept to come to Russia with me, that will be a benison too", " Is it reasonable? " he asked, " You see ", he continued, " All I want is to be with you, no matter where ".
" I have to evaluate the definite consequences of my return, because of my status as a deserter, something the Soviet Government is not keen about ".

" My affection and dedication to you is increasing after each glass of wine", she joked, " But I promise you that I will help you, if you stay, and I will help you, if you desire to return. The love that is evolving in me, towards you, signifies that I exist for you and you exist for me. Do you agree? ". She asked.

" Without the effect of the wine", joked back Sergey, " I agree, and I know "." And I am also learning about French women ".

" And I am learning about Russian man", she answered with a smile, and took his hands into hers, and affectionately kissed them.
" To be realistic and practical, nothing important relating to government can be done here in Tournus, you know ", she added, " With have to go to Paris to be able to find answers to your queries, but I promised Sister Josephine that I will stay for another month".

" That's very well ", said Sergey, " Sister Josephine asked me if I can stay, because she needs a handyman to fix things in the hospital ".

" Oh, Sergey ", cried out Madeleine, " Do you think Heavenly Powers have a presence in our destiny?

" Always ", answered Sergey, " You are heaven sent, aren't you?"

They laughed. They were becoming so close to each other. Moment after moment they were transforming to full happiness.

" You know Sergey", she continued, " Through my piano I have been influenced by Russian composers, specially Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev and many others, I always admired their genius, and I always wondered about the country that produced such talents. Even your literature is extraordinary, not that French writers are less remarkable. I will introduce you to the French culture. I am proud of it".

" Maybe my French is not the best, but as a student I learned German and French, although my German turned more fluent, because, as a prisoner in Koblenz, I had to converse in German. But I read quiet many French authors, like Rousseau, Zola, Dumas and many others".

" Bravo, Sergey ", she acclaimed, " I love you more ".

It was past midnight when they decide to return to the hospital.

" I'll go and see Sister Josephine tomorrow ", said Sergey, " I'll tell her I'll stay for another month, and I think she will understand ".

" I will write a letter to my father and mother, telling them we will be back in a month, I am sure they will welcome you as a very special guest ".



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