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Fairytale Story

  • Date: 19 May, 2007 at 2:43AM,
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  • When Mrs. O. arrives at the hotel, she orders salad with a comment, “I’ve got to lose some weight.” She suggests she will begin with her childhood, informing me “What I am going to tell you is what I heard from my grandma. I don’t remember because I was a baby when my dad, as a forester, found a wounded man who was shot by the security police. He gave him shelter at our home. Then he brought in two young physicians to treat the wounds. The two physicians, for that medical emergency care, were arrested shortly after and hanged.”

When the security police came to arrest her mother, her father was in the woods. The employees of the small farm attached to the gamekeeper’s home ran away, and a two-year-old child was left behind alone. Mrs. O. believes, “Fortunately for me, on the third or fourth day after everybody disappeared, my parents’ friends arrived to begin their vacation. They found the cattle roaring from hunger, and they found me. They took me to their home and tried to locate my relatives. Six months later they found my grandma.

Her father was warned by his friends not to return home. He hid in the woods for two years before the security police caught up with him. Both her parents were sentenced to sixteen years imprisonment. She remembers her grandparents, “They repeatedly told me, ‘it’s your daddy’s fault. If he would take all the blame on himself, like a real man, your mommy would be free’. Since then I remember having a kind of bitterness towards my dad.”

When she was about nine or ten, one early morning, two men in leather coats stopped her grandmother. She says, “Yes, they were in long leather coats, just as you hear about it. They asked grandma, ‘are you Mrs. V?’ She said, ‘yes’. They said, ‘come with us’.

Obviously I didn’t know what was going on.” Mrs. O. does remember how she was separated from her grandmother, taken to a room with only a table, a chair and a man, who asked her repeatedly,”Tell me what your grandma and grandpa talk about in the evenings. I cried and asked him for my grandma. I didn’t understand what he wanted. That man had a plate with two sandwiches. I still see those two sandwiches. He put them in front of me and asked me, ‘are you hungry’? I said, ‘I am terribly hungry’. And he told me that I would get the sandwiches after I told him what grandma and grandpa talked about in the evening. I don’t remember how it ended; it’s erased from my memory. Must’ve been night, they grabbed my hands and pushed me into a car. My grandma was in the car, crying so much. Suddenly the car door opened and they showed grandpa in the front seat. They held him somewhere else; we didn’t even know they took him too. It was the first and last time I saw my grandpa crying. They brought us home, threw us out in front of the house. We walked in. The house was ransacked. There wasn’t a thing in its place.”

Her narration is in a matter of fact style. She somehow knew her parents were in prison but does not remember how she was told. That issue was discussed only in whispers with a warning from her grandparents, “Don’t tell anybody your parents are imprisoned, it could hurt you terribly.” Based on her grandparents’ warnings that by speaking about her parents someone could be “terribly hurt,” she was concerned about her third grade teacher who mentioned her family in class. “I happened to be first in my class and he commented, ‘how come a child from such a bastardized family is such a good student? What are you trying to prove? You won’t go to any school anyway’! And that’s what happened.

She applied to high school, she received no reply. She suspects her school principal did not even forward her application out of fear about his own career. She adds, “My grandpa got mad and he did something he had never done in his life. For me he humiliated himself and begged them to let me study. The town hall’s school commission sent a letter stating a child from such a family had no right to study. Then grandpa even wrote to the Ministry of Education after he decided he had nothing to lose.

A few months into the new school year, she was accepted to an industrial technical school she was not at all interested in. Brought up believing that she had to study no matter what, she agreed and eventually graduated.

She remembers when she was fourteen the bell rang at her home; she lived with her grandparents. Mrs. O. has a vivid memory of opening the door and seeing a man standing there. She says, “I knew it was my father even though I never saw him in my life. He was looking at me. I was looking at him and I said, ‘you’re my daddy’. He began hugging me in the middle of the door. I thought he was going to smother me. I dragged him in the room through the hallway. Then the shock came.”

Before describing the shock, Mrs. O. explains that her mother when she was released from prison moved into an awful little apartment. She continues about the look of horror in the faces of the grandparents when they faced her father, “My grandma said to me, ‘You can’t do this. He doesn’t belong here’.” Her father stood up and left. She remembers, “I cried my eyes out because I got this longing to have my parents together. I wanted both so much.”

Mrs. O. drinks some water; it is almost midnight. With sadness in her voice she says, “I really haven’t mentioned the main thing yet. That is, unfortunately, I repeat unfortunately, my mommy and I never found a way to reach each other. We both realized it.” She did not see her father for many years. One afternoon during a Sunday outing with her husband and two children, Mrs. O. suggested driving to her father’s native village; “Something was drawing me to find him. We began to see each other. I told him how my folks forbade me to look him up and what they had against him. He told me, ‘you know girl, those were awful times. Even if I took it all on me it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. She was my wife and they knew how to prove that she knew about it. Once they got you into their net you didn’t have a chance. They arrested everybody who was in close or distant contact with me. The proof is that physician couple. They got executed because they helped some stranger, because I brought them to him’.” Mrs. O. explains, “Of course, I changed my opinion about him and the whole thing.”

Her father died shortly after. Mrs. O. returns to the relationship with her mother who moved out of her life when she was eleven or twelve years old. Towards the end of her mother’s life, “We visited often. I had no responsibilities because I was by then a widow. Occasionally I spent a night at my mom’s place. Once, only once — about half a year before she died — we rested next to each other on her bed. For the first time in my life she held my hand and said something like, ‘my baby, all my life I didn’t even know that you were mine’. We both cried the whole night.

My question is, ‘will her story be believed’? How can I find words to translate what some surely will, or will want to, perceive as a fairytale?

©Jana Svehlova 1999