6 'A Sentimental Journey through Sydney;' edited
Few people know Australia collaborated with USA during Cold War. Menzies government joined in the criminal Vietnam war. All through Cold War years policy was anticommunism. Living standards were high for a selected White population. Here 2 migrants.
6 ‘A sentimental journey through Sydney’ edited
Fernando García Izquierdo
The Kimberly Range of Mountains, as pure and torrid a desert as one coud ever fancy, situated in the north-west of the Australian Continent, is the most isolated of all the isolated big portions of the earth; even the stones there reach burning temperatures, and when one of the expatriates lodging there throws away an empty bottle of brandy, gin, vodka, whisky or bourbon, the fine transparent matter starts at once moulding itself into different forms of beautiful brilliant statues, at times of different hues, gold, pink, red, or lapis-lazuli.
Now that he had found a job which he liked, Luis Galvao seemed satisfied with life and ‘didn’t whinge’; he met people at work, in pubs and during his studies. He loved the sun which nearly every day now shone overhead and upon that most colourful city, the parks with many flowers, shrubs, trees small and big and at times with coloured leaves, red and yellow like the tongues of a raging fire. To say nothing of the sky, pure cobalt blue, or the deep blue of the sea in the bay and the deep ocean with the rolling waves which you saw breaking on the sands; the waterfront, large ships, small boats, the inflated sails of the yachts.
On the sentimental side, it had come to be that a divorce had now become possible, or so had Luis Galvao been informed by his solicitor and good friend Alexander Scziadovo. There were news that Malgorata’s stranded husband was hiding in the Kimberly Range of Mountains with no intention of returning to live in Ultimo.
More importantly, she was again a first rate artist, who was giving violin lessons to young players, their neighbours, and lately in the City itself. Everything seemed to be going well for the couple.
He was just at this moment contemplating the grand metropolis from the window of his new office, the streets and avenues, the city-dwellers and the commuters with residence in one of the many suburbs surrounding Sydney; admiring the new buildings, the wealth and splendour daily on display about him and the other happy citizens of a lucky country, selected among others by the Lord Above, not only to enjoy all the fruits of the earth, but also to own the earth itself.
Kent Street, which extended before him, right and left down below, leading to the Garrison, the promontory where the First Fleet built the military fort and arsenal which would eventually lead to the conquest of the entire continent.
… a woman running to catch her bus in the street down below, the crowded bus-stop at the beginning of the Bradfield Highway, the road pointing north, the left. And the Harbour Bridge looming high in the distance.
… in the opposite direction, still on the footpath, the beginning of Clarence Street, and citizens going in great numbers to the City. Nearby there is a High School for Girls: we shall soon glimpse a crew of beautiful uniformed girls.
… two men in flannel suits and hats, swinging their leather briefcases as they bound forth towards the building’s entrance. Young women also entering the building in patterned cotton dresses, almost certainly barmaids.
… to go and work in the cafeteria in the entry-hall or perhaps on the higher floors, pushing a big trolley to distribute mid-morning tea in the different offices. A solitary old man on a bench eating his lunch out of his sandwich box.
Contemplating all this with admiration was lawyer Luis Galvao, when the intercom rang behind him. He picked it up. He was being summoned to the managing partner’s office, where he was greeted by Mr. Hutchkinson and Mr. Whyte, both standing up. There was another person in the room who had stood up at the same time as the others.
Mr. Kim Hutchkinson made the presentations. The third man was Mr. Sheldon Pariente, a New York lawyer who had just joined the partnership in Sydney. The name was not unknown to Luis Galvao, who had had some professional correspondence with him, the newcomer having come directly from the firm of Salomon, Green and Salomon, of Manhattan, very well known to him.
Although not formally linked to Hutchkinson’s, the New York firm had acted for many years in Australia through the Sydney firm (this being a retainer sort of arrangement), all this in the name and representation of big United States corporations, always in matters of patents, trade marks and the transfer of technology to developing countries.
The American was a big dark man, of forty-five to forty-eight, with a very pale face, black hair and pronounced features. He smiled at Galvao and looked quite friendly.
The first time the two men had a conversation on the premises, Mr. Pariente spoke to the junior lawyer about the Kimberley Range of Mountains, which surprised the latter not a little, for he had never given a thought to the region or had ever thought the Australian desert could be a motive for devoting a moment’s intellectual or professional work in the law (although he was greatly mistaken, the region was now a suject of intense exploration.)
But he was a stubborn young man. Intelligent, but narrowminded in some ways. The American added that he was planning to fly to Western Australia and asked Galvao whether he would be prepared to accompany him, if need be, and the Spaniard gathered that a multinational was interested in the subsoil of the region, kind of starting an exploration programme on mining, or perhaps oil extraction, with great innovation in the way of patents. However Mr. Pariente did not say a word about the subject to be tackled or give the name or the actual nature of the company or persons that might be involved in the case.
Their offices were contiguous and Mr. Pariente, instead of using the intercom to summon him, sometimes walked out into the corridor and entered the jumior’s office, which Luis took as an act of great consideration, never seen in the other partners.
One day Sheldon Pariente asked Luis Galvao, out of the blue, what he knew about a Ladislaw Cruscsov, a Ukrainian. The latter replied in the negative. There was a long pause, as if the American were trying to read the Spaniard’s face. Luis fixed his eyes on a copy of The Sydney Morning Herald on the partner’s desk, in order to keep calm and let the other lead the conversation.
‘And yet you know him well, amigo Galvao,’ he said no more.
Galvao felt quite defeated. For the other seemed to laugh at his ignorance. His sometime excessive pride made him think that the New York Jew was trying to humiliate him; but then (he said to himself) he has always beem so correct. And, as often happened with him, he destroyed in a minute all the good will gained in a week. A rather tactless remark, in the circumstances, about the struggle going on in the Middle East caused the loss; for he was reading the headlines of the newspaper on the table, and it was about the war in Palestine, the Israelis bombing Gaza.
Mr. Pariente did not appreciate the remark and. after a short silence produced a long monologue to the effect that Jewish people had suffered a good deal during the war and they had the right to have a home of their own. ‘Now, you tell me, Mr. Galvao,’ he shouted, ‘are we a people condemned to be eternal wanderers upon the earth, without a home; besides, the foundation of Israel was approved by the United Nations.’
Luis Galvao could not resist the challenge. ‘No man,’ he said, ‘has the right to enter another man’s house and send him packing.”
Mr. Pariente turned very pale. “Okay, Mr. Galvao,” he murmured between his teeth. “Let’s leave it for today.” He rose from his armchair and left the room; leaving the other on his seat.
To Galvao’s surprise, no word was said about that conversation when they met again. But in his heart of hearts he was not satisfied. That is, he knew he had been tactless the previous day, and wanted to correct his stupidity. In doing so he compounded his mistake, complicating the situation still more.
They had gone out to have lunch together at a posh restaurant in town, ‘Le Chalet Suisse’, where the world of finance and commerce often met to talk and make plans in a world in constant growth: succulent “working lunches” and “working dinners” that had the added advantage of being nearly free of charge, as the bill was passed on to the house accountant and at least part of it was paid by the Revenue.
When the meal was over, there was still some Burgundy left in the bottle; and they drank Mrs. Pariente’s health and Malgorata’s health, for the partner had already been acquainted by the junior lawyer of his present family situation. It was the moment chosen by Luis to sing ‘mea culpa’ concerning his unnecesary remark about Gaza on the other occasion.
‘Pray, Mr. Pariente, let me show you,’ he began.
‘Oh, please, call me Sheldon,’ interrupted the other, “and I’ll call you Luis, o.k?’
‘Of course. Quite pleased. But let me mention… to show my lack of prejudice… that one of my four grandparents descends from a line of Hebrew Spaniards. Castile. You said the other day your own origin is also Castile.’
The other looked up, but said nothing.
‘You know, those Jews that, in preference,… that preferred to convert… to the christian faith, rather than leave the country. My grandmother on my father’s side. She’s now passed away.”
‘What was her maiden name?’ was all the other said.
‘Yes,’ said Pariente. He looked at his watch. ‘Twenty to two. Time to go back and do some work.’
One other day, after a long afternoon working together, he invited Luis and Malgorata to his home: a barbecue party he was giving next Sunday, he said. Never had any other of the partners, or senior members of the firm, even talked to him about his house or family, never mind inviting a New Australian to his home.
Arriving home in the evening, he said to his Malgorata that they were invited to a barbecue party, and showed the partner’s visiting card: ‘Sheldon and Helena Pariente - 9, Kurraba Road, Neutral Bay.’ This was a suburb on the northern side of the bay, the nearest by ferryboat to the City, as the crow flies.
On Sunday Luis and Malgorata were the first to arrive at the Pariente party, and after the first greetings and presentations, Mrs. Pariente took Malgorata by the arm and proceeded to show her the house, a two-storey brick building with an attic, surrounded by lawns and a garden of great beauty.
The Parientes had three boys. One of them, Raphael, was in Australia with them. He was employed on some secret mission, which Galvao gather had also to do with Krappov. Not so sure, and he did not ask questions concerning what was obviously a secret mission. Raphael Pariente was also a lawyer.
For his part, Sheldon Pariente took Luis Galvao with him through the shrubbery to the brick barbecue at the other end of the garden. Beyond there was only a large poin-settia tree.
Pariente deposited a big ice-box he had been bringing with him on a stone table which, together with some iron chairs, occupied the space around the barbecue, where a newly-kindled fire was crackling and spluttering, giving illumination to the big tree behind, whose leaves were red, the colour of waratah flowers.
He opened the ice-box, which contained a varied assortment of victuals: joints of red beef, T-bone steaks and steaks of other sorts, as well as veal and lamb chops and other bits of expensive edibles, all of which he began laying on grills and wire trays which, once full, he slid on into the brick construction.
Galvao gazed at he fire, which was already on, and while Sheldon worked distributing some meat for roasting, Luis shoved some trunks of hardwood in the fire, and when he had done he simply stood gazing, making figures in his mind like abstract drawings, meaningful only for him: abstract art, lines, circles, forms and combinations of colour in a black background: tongues of raging fire, turning right or left with the wind, bright and colourful reds and yellows in the murky sky above around the barbecue enlivened by the constant presence of a million ashes and sparks.
… I was so very hot I thought I might be fainting; but did not seem to notice anything except that I passed the sleeves of my shirt over my sweaty brow, feeling the intoxicating smell of burning wood.
Quite unconsciously Luis Galvao brought out his hand to remove from one of the walls of the barbecue a loose brick, which he must have thought was disturbing the harmony of the colourful picture he was witnessing.
‘Stop that!!’ Mr.Sheldon Pariente screamed. Galvao stopped short at once and turned round to his colleague, who said: ‘Had you touched that brick, dear Luis, you would have been unable to work for a few days, for your fingers would have been badly burned.’
He came to sit at the opposite side of the stone table. Pariente spoke of their imminent flight to the west, the Kimberleys Range of Mountains.
“No problem,” said Galvao. He still did not know what they were going to do on the Western Australia desert.
‘I need your help, to identify the individual,’ said the senior lawyer, and after a pause, he added, ‘the named Cruszcsov… Krappov, if you prefer.’
At that moment they heard voices in the house, indicative of the arrival of some other guests, and Mr. Pariente turned round and hastened off towards the building. Galvao stayed by the barbecue, where the fire was catching and the noise of burning and cracking was increasing.
At length, seeing the meat in the grill slowly but surely changing from red to darkish brown, and never in his life having been in command of a barbecue, he began to panic. All the pieces were dripping grease into the fire. Nearly a hundred pieces of valuable meat burning! Lest Sheldon did not come back at once: for he was absolutely useless, passing the time, holding a barbecue fork in his hand and getting hotter all the time, when who should appear, walking forward from the house but his good friend and solicitor Alexander Scziadovo.
‘Lasek!’ he exclaimed, ‘You know Mr. Pariente, then!’ They rushed to shake each other’s hands; after a brief moment, Lasek grabbed the fork and took command of the grill and burning meat. Then they sat side by side, both watching the fire.
‘I’ve known him since the end of the war,’ answered Scziadovo. ‘We came acros each other in Hungary, escaping to the West. You know the confusion reigning in “Mittel Europa” towards the end of the war. I came from Poland with my Mum; he came from Ukraine with his. We four were more dead than alive. We became friends for life.’
At length they saw their host coming back, who took over the task of sorting out the different chunks of meat and put new reddish pieces which at once began to roast, filling the air all around with the smell of burning meat, ready to be devoured by rational animals..
The shrubbery was now full of people, all approaching in a most friendly attitude towards one another. In an instant everyone was standing around the barbecue, devouring pieces of meat and holding in the other hand a pint of frothing beer or a glass of ginger ale, or gin-´n-tonic, served around by a female servant who had built her own bar with board and trestle.
It was a most successful party, everybody eating and drinking a lot: small groups of mingled men and women, and several conversations going on at the same time, all beneath a glorious starry sky.
Luis and Malgorata made some interesting new acquaintances that night and all the time gloomy Luis was asking himself why the Parientes, just arrived Down Under, knew more Aussies than themselves. He and Malgorata talked part of the night with Lasek and Giselle Scziadovo, who also introduced them to other couples.
One of the couples came from Scandinavia, Stig and Sade Meinbrink. They both were very learned, and she also played a musical instrument very well, the clarinette. There was the coincidence that Stig, who had lived in Australia alone before Sade joined him, had seen first-violin Malgorata Dmitra from Cincinnati in the Sydney Town Hall (before she was taken to Callan Park Mental Hospital.)
For her part the couple were in the same difficulty as Malgorata and Luis. Sade had come to Sweden from Estonia, an escapee from communism, abandoning her husband. They met in Katrineholm, near Stockholm.
“And you now are a New Australian, Sweden being a rich country. How come?” “Oh, no,” replied the other, “I haven’t come as an immigrant. I am the president of SKF Australia PTY limited.
Luis and Malgorata were the first to leave the party, as they had been the first to arrive. There was a reason for that. Early in the afternoon, when they started the trip, they had had in mind to drive the whole way to North Sydney and Kurraba Road; but on arriving at Circular Quay at 4 p.m., before hitting the Bradfield Highway and then the Harbour Bridge, they had changed their mind, left their Holden in Caltex House and went by ferry, to cross the bay in no time. Leaving the party, they just managed to catch the last ferry at Neutral Bay Wharf. The boat was practically empty, at that hour, and the bay almost free of maritime traffic. A great spectacle opened before them as the ferry advanced on the soft surface of the water, the great spectacle of the City beyond the sea, the lights of the traffic on the thoroughfares descending to the Quay, the lively colourful advertising floating as it were in the murky air as they approached the jetty. At Bennelong Point, on the left, they saw a lot of activity and high lights where the new Opera House was being built.
They walked up to Caltex House, got their car out of the first underground carpark, and drove through the main thoroughfares of the City to the nearby suburb of Ultimo and home.
That autumn, through interesting and very instructive conversation, both on the one side with his Spanish friend, Manuel Suárez, and on the other with his associate and chief, Sheldon Pariente, Luis Galvao learned things that, combining with actual knowledge and the use of a good imagination, told him a good deal about the man who had been his landlord and husband of his adored Malgorata.
The man he had come to know as Leonidas Krappov, male nurse for a short time in Callan Park Mental Hospital, and then a foreman at the Portland Cement factory at Penrith, was in reality a spy paid by the US central inteligence agency. The commander of a group of ruffians, likewise escapees from communism, he was an indispensable link in the struggle against communism. He had been an officer in the White Russian Army, sustained at the time by the British Monarchy. In 1934, when the Soviets, finally triumphed against the counterrevolutionaries, he went underground, and it was the Catholic Church, first in Ukraine and then in Poland, that helped him; in 1939, when the Germans invaded the country he at once joined the nazis and became a ‘kappo’ in a concentrration camp, taking part in the extermination of Jews in eastern Europe. Now he collaborated with the U.S. military, ordering the training of a group of tough individuals to be eventually smuggled into the Soviet Union in order to cause havoc in the first communist state in the world.
One day, two or three weeks later, meeting his friend Luis in the lift, going down, in Caltex house, the American lawyer told him. “Come to see me tomorrow at my office, nine o’clock.”
He was there at the stipulated hour.
“You remember I spoke about a possible journey to Western Australia? It is no longer on the cards. Why, the assassin is no longer in the Kimberleys: been taken to Woomera.”
“Are you telling me we are changing… flying to South Australia, now?”
“No, nowhere. A conflict of interests in the high command. The Pentagon wants to keep Ladislaw Cruscsov,” in a low murmur, and he said no more.
‘I’m sorry about the change… got curious about the Kimberleys,’ was saying Galvao, when Pariente cut him off.
“Please, don’t mention the subject any more. I’ll you, nevertheless, that Raphael has flown to Tel-Aviv. I mention it because I esteem you very much. Full stop. Forget all I said to you, or you might have otherwise heard on the subject.”
Luis certainly never again mentioned it in the office or anywhere else, except in his friend Lasek’s presence. His father had been a communist and died in Auschwitz during the war. He never forgot where the enemy was, and had been an active member of the Australian Labour Party until Bishop Santamaria of Melbourne caused the split into two, propounding a religious conflict in Australian Socialism.
‘Two allied nations,’ the Spaniard said, doubtfully, when Pariente briefed him on the subject. He thought that Israelis and Americans had always acted together in foreign policy. Why, in connection with the Ukrainian’s crime, did one country now want to condemn him and the other to eliminate him.
‘Come to me again again before you leave this evening, 5 o
clock’ said Pariente, in conclusion. Seeing the state of depression in which the young man found himself, she did not ask any questions; except that remembering perhaps he suffered from hay-fever when they met at her wedding, she very discreetly said he should see a doctor and, like in the spring, talked of the Royal Alexandra Hospital. ‘A bus at George Street, all the way to Parramatta Road.’ He saw she was in the family way, and found her very pretty, always smiling. ‘And Vitas, always well?’ he asked. ‘Such a nice man.’
‘Yes, yes, let’s say no more. I shall be there.’
Also in the autumn there was the visit of two very strange individuals who had come unexpectedly to Caltex House. Luis Galvao had been dictating to hls secretary all that morning, mainly letters to be typed in the afternoon, and he was at that moment standing by the window, putting on his jacket, preparative to his going out for lunch, when he saw two men, arriving in a large limousine at the entrance of the building down below; then he saw them marching together with great precipitation and martial step as if they were soldiers instead of businessmen, which was what they had to be. They entered the building swinging leather cases and wore broad-brimmed Stetsons and silver-marked leather boots.
He came out of his office into the corridor, passed the reception hall and, going towards the lift, practically bumped into the same two individuals, who were entering the premises of his law firm of patents and trade marks.
He caught his own lift down. ‘No,’ he mused. ‘Either soldiers or cowboys, but not lawyers or anything of the sort.’ And later on, eating his lunch at the usual café: ‘Obviously, bloody Gringos. Everywhere. Like an invading army!’
Coming back to the office he asked Ivy, the receptionist, about the mysterious visitors. ‘They’re American by their accent,’ she said. ‘Came to see Mr. Sheldon Pariente, Mr. Galvao, with whom they’ve gone out, the three partners, too. For lunch, I should say.’
In the evening, going back home, Luis chose to walk all the way along the waterfront. Though not a beautiful thoroughfare, Sussex Sreet was unusually wide and well paved: full of workers at the rush hour; not today, for the wharves were empty today.
And who should come up the stone steps from the docks of Darling Harbour, as he crossed Pyrmont Bridge, if not Heribert Wormser. The German passed a friendly arm around his shoulder, laughing, and both directed their steps together towards Ultimo and Harris Street.
‘How are you doing,’ greeted Luis, ‘aren’t you on strike?’ (In effect, the Communist Party had ordered the wharfies to stop all work, protesting against the Vietnam war.)
‘Not on Pyrmont 13, the overseas terminal. Just the rest of Darling Island, and of course Woolloomooloo and all those parts, yes,’ the German said, giving an evasive response. Then quite choleric: ‘I’ve nothing to do with Vietnam nor with the fucking commies. Besides, I need the money.’
Luis knew he was trying to accumulate a certain capital, as he was leaving Australia soon.
‘What do I care, sheisse.’
Luis shrugged his shoulders. ‘Heribert, I’m worried about Krappov coming back. Malgorata, you see… she’d fall back … the old illness, you know? We’re so much … so near to obtaining a divorce… bloody hell! Bastards, Krappov and the rest.
‘Bother Krappov. The fellow’s not interested in Malgorata. Didn’t you know? You should have been in Ultimo, old boy, two years ago. No Nino, then. Ninnies, yes. Ay! Haven’t you noticed? Nino’s the very representation of Krappov.’
Luis was thinking, as they reached Harris Street. ‘During the bolshevik revolution,’ he said, ‘I’ve been told he was one of the Whites. He reached a high rank, the same as all that gang of escapees he calls his Rangers.’
‘Not surprised,’ the German replied. ‘Aye, Luis, you can never trust those Slavs. And today agents of the CIA or who knows, yes!’ he laughed aloud and, after a few more strides together, went on: ‘By the way, I did not know your Malgorata herself was connected with those angels of hell you’ve mentioned, yes.’
‘What do you bloody mean?’ asked the Spaniard, getting nervous at once.
Whereupon, the German told a story about a limousine arriving that morning at Harris Street, as he was leaving to go to work. Two strange guys, wearing cow-boy boots and Stetson hats knocked at the door which he had just closed, and Malgorata opened it to them.
Luis did not listen to the rest. He had shot out like a bullet towards the house and, on arriving, dashed into the bedroom. He found Malgorata lying on the bed, not lengthwise, but broadwise, legs and head hanging on the sides.
‘Malgorata, my Malgorata, darling!’ he screamed, flinging himself forward, grippng her precious head and lifting it with both hands.
For minute he felt real anguish, laying one hand on her broad brow. She opened her eyes slightly; he cried, meeting her eyes, those irregular eyes he had come to love. ‘Oh, my darling! Come back to me,’ he wailed, ‘I have… we were…’
‘They… those men,’ she wailed back, ‘they’re taking me to Woomera, in the desert.’
She was still mumbling, weak and trembling; kissing her hair, her brow, her cheeks, her gaping mouth, he heard the door opening and woman appeared on the doorstep. It was Sylwia Bilska, their Polish neighbour.
Walking along the bridge like a soul in pain, Luis reached Market Street, passed Kent, and into Clarence he stumbled, like a drunkard, like a body without spirit. He had had no breakfast, having run at eight o’ clock to see Silwia, she would be a better nurse than he could ever be, poor unhappy husband without a wife, alone, always alone. At the corner with Erskine Street there was a big Chemist’s shop which he entered. He talked to the pharmacist, who made him sit down and rest for a minute before giving him a tranquillizer. Luis Galvao arrived very late at the office. Maureen found him very pale and worried, abnormally trembling. She instantly knew he needed help, her help. In the afternoon, she advised him to see a doctor as soon as possible and then go on compo for a few days.
Those were very bad days for poor Luis, and worse for Malgorata, who recovered very slowly indeed: and he became pessimistic, coming to the conclusion that it was all his fault. She had just lately got the possibility of becoming an acclaimed artist again (she had had contacts from orchestras in England, in the United States and even Sweden; but he, the lawyer, the honourable, well-paid Luis Galvao was a macho, with an immense international career ahead.
One day he went to see his friend Alex at his office in Barrack Street. Irina came out to say ‘Hello! Mr. Galvao.
Scziadovo and Galvao stayed together one hour and a half: the lawyer let the other talk and thus to open his heart to him as a friend and as a soliicitor. Generous Lasek! He spoke of the conflict of interests. It might had been better if the Israelis had been able to hang him. But it’s not to be.
‘That’s how Sheldon presented the case to me,’ Luis replied, in gloom.
‘Looking for the Bear, to make him face a court and pay for his crimes. My word.
‘But why should the Gringos always be so contrary? Why should they want to take my Malgorata with them?’
‘The Americans are a queer lot. It suffices for the Commander of the Woomera base to be a new-born christian…’
‘If they wanted to make her a convict. There’s no suggestion of that: you heard Tomek the other day. They want to catch her, because the bishop in Poland won’t have Krappov if there’s not proof of his being married.
After that the two friends went on talking politics. Alexander Sciadovo had been a member of the Australian Socialist Party, until the split caused by Bishop Santamaria. He had never forgotten his own family had suffered badly in Europe in the hands of the Germans, and hated fascism and nazism.
Back home in the evening, Manuel was talking to Malgorata in the lounge, and Luis was pleased to see her animated. He stopped to talk to them. Luis appreciated Manuel as a romantic link with his student days of Madrid, and he had these last few day been seeing him quite often. He always wanted to help his countryman, who knew better than anybody the mystery of the Ukrainian’s behaviour and, specially, why he was not coming to Sydney anymore.
On the solution of this quandary depended the continuance of his happiness, perhaps even his formal engagement with the woman he loved. Both Pariente and Scziadovo had said that the Ukrainian’s days were numbered.
Malgorata had been daily getting better, though she had not recovered completely. She was very thin and pale and had suspended her violin lessons to all but Sylwia’s children.
‘My adored wife!’ he sighed. She had really been frightened by those two U.S. Army men, masquerading as businessmen, who came to tell her to be ready to join her husband.
Not to disturb his beloved Malgorata and to allow her, in this as in other ways to recover from her illness, Luis Galvao had been sleeping most days in his former bedroom upstairs, profiting from the fact that Heribert was on night shift.
As he woke up he heard the chime of the bells of St. Catherine’s, situated half distance between the house and the main central station in town, and thought it was time to go downstairs to the kitchen and prepare a substantial breakfast for the two. A moment later he was crossing the landing and quietly moving downstairs, step by step, to make sure he did not wake her up. He was reaching the lower floor, where the passage and the brickarch leading to the lounge and kitchen joined, when the street door was flung open and Krappov (as he still called him) entered the house, with great precipitation. Seeing Galvao on the stairs, he grunted but actually said nothing. He proceeded as if Luis were merely an object barring his view.
Such a confusion stole in Luis’s mind that for a moment he was unable to react. His enemy was moving towards the bedroom, his matrimonial room, his bed of love. Even in his state of semiconsciousness and fear he found that unbearable and meant to show it to the bastard. He bounced forward and tried to stop him. Not a word had been exchanged until then between the two.
But now, unhesitatingly, the Ukrainian taking his hand to his armpit and howling, “¡hijoputa!” extracted a small silver revolver, holding it by the barrel and banged it fiercely on the Spaniard’s head, who stumbled towards the door of the kitchen, through the arch and past the lounge, until he got his bloody head under the tap of cold water in the sink.
He heard the voice of a man asking something, a woman’s whimper: the man’s voice again, the woman answering with a monosylable or two, then a prolonged moan, a moment’s silence and a prolonged terrifying scream: and almost simultaneously the sound of an object being smashed against a hard object, accompanied by a discordant musical note or two.
Next Malgorata stumbled into the room. She looked wan and unearthly holding in her hands the destroyed body of her violin. She sat at table, with her legs apart in a torn nighgown.
‘Malgorata!’ he called in a whisper, sitting down, ‘Let’s escape… go, go far away…’
He was interrupted by the entry in the kitchen of the man. As he approached Luis Galvao stood up and simultaneously discoved he hardly had any strength left, and fell back on his chair.
A black kitten walked to meet the man, miaowing as if wanting to make friends, only to have the monster give it a tremendous kick in the stomach that made the poor thing fly, yelling, all the way to the back yard. The poor woman rose from her chair, intending to follow the cat, the man clutched her by the wrist.
‘My breakfast!’ Double quick!’
Born a human being, born free, she was a slave, and as such scampered directly to the cooker to hide her human dignity. The macho she was serving, in the meantime, had found a bottle of vodka. He pulled the cork out with his dirty teeth and, applying the nozzle to his lips, took a good swig from it, gurgling the liquor as if washing his teeth with it. The young woman, meanwhile, tumbled right and left, fulfilling her obligations as corresponded to a married woman among the savage Cossacks back home. Luis, getting out of his lethargy, laid his hand on Malgorata’s, as she passed by; the beast pulled his gun out, gave a tremendous thrust on the table and it was then that the other reacted.
‘Oh, no, no! Go!’ the girl, throwing a pitiful glance upon the man she loved, half-opened her mouth in a whisper, ‘go away, save yourself.’
… a descent into the most profound abyss, a thousand devils devouring my most beloved angel transformed into a sacrificial lamb like in the most savage of many savage religions: a civilisation where man’s private property, the end of communism and the enslaving of all the women in society is possible.
… the copper-boiler has been lit. The noise of boiling water. A maid sacrificed to the Lord by a terrifying aristocratic-sacerdotal cast, obsidian knives cast into the maiden girls on top of the Grand Pyramid, tender hearts, now rolling down with blood torrents serving thus the criminal, the Only God.
It was the gurgling of the whisky, and those dirty teeth, those tiny grey eyes darting on his own. What could Luis Galvao do? The monster was pricking his fork most fiercely in the sausages, taking them like an ogre about to devour his victim, splashing grease and blood over his moustache, and washing down each mouthful with vodka from the bottle. Galvao could not withstand it anymore. But before he could do or say anything, the unhappy woman, swift like the wind, stood up and placed herself behind her husband’s chair, her hands clasped together, telling her beloved without words, imploring him with her lips, to wait, not to do anything rash. The copper-boiler in the corner had begun throwing up steam, and although the netted door and windows were open a sickly smell now pervaded the whole place. The Ukrainian went on drinking his vodka, with an occasional leer at the Spaniard. Malgorata sat down again, pulling down her hair, which told of her state of mental anguish. This caused him to advance towards his enemy.
‘Now then,’ he shouted in a tone that shook Krappov. ‘What are you up to, nazi bastard?’
Whereupon Malgorata uttered a cry of grief, and the monster, looking wildly round, clutched her by the wrist, dragging her forward to confront the lodger. ‘Son of a bitch!’ he growled with a deadly look at the lodger.
In a moment Galvao fell upon his enemy with a boldness and passion which made him draw back in surprise. ‘You bastard, nazi scoundrel,’ Luis screamed, catching hold of Krappov’s throat, ‘you traitor, you valiant torturer of defenceless women and children, foul murderer!’ But the Ukrainian was a giant of a man, and he easily got rid of his attacker and at once threw himself upon the Spaniard, pummelling him with all his might, and finished driving him against the wall, where he would have strangled him had not Malgorata got hold of the khaki coat, then placed herself between the two men, screeching like a person possessed. Her husband, without looking, hurled her to the floor with a powerful backhand. Then he grabbed the bottle from the table and turned to Galvao once more, grunting and foaming; and he stumbled forward, going for his enemy.
Luis swiftly moved aside, and Krappov found only the wall and fell with a crash on the floor, whereupon he dropped off into a drunken slumber.
All this had been witnessed from the passage by the German lodger, who was returning home; he now stepped forward to kick the fallen drunkard, until the body was lying face upwards, and they discovered that it was stained with blood, for the bottle had been smashed to pieces which were now covering the floor.
A commotion was heard at the street door and Manuel rushed in, followed by the neighbours, Tomek and Silwia Bilski, all of whom had been together at St Catherine’s .
‘Oh, dear me!’ wailed Manuel, crouching, tenderly stroking the drunkard, who at that moment was beginning to move; then, standing up and addressing himself to Galvao, ‘Luis, dear you’re in great danger, and turning to the others, he shouted. ‘Oh, please, take this dear crazy man away! There’s going to be murder in the house.
In the meantime Luis had turned to Malgorata and was holding her in his arms; but she was lost to him: he knew it.
… a sublime artist, far superior to him as a rational human being, she had suffered, as an escapee to the most horrible regime that there is. She had had the time to consider, calculate, compare, to judge.
… he had not yet chosen; an escapee from fascism he had had as well the time to judge the capitalist regime, not at all a democracy. His friend Sheldon Pariente, now back in the States, had told him: remember, Luis, loyalty.
Standing up and grabbing the lapels of his flannel jacket: ‘Madman!’ Manuel howled once again, ‘It’s all your doing.’
Galvao turned to go.
‘Wait! Luis!’ said Manuel, pulling at his elbows, ‘it’s you who must escape! I’ll try to hide her from Leo now.’ He turned round to get hold of the girl, who was at that moment falling down in a faint.
‘But he’s going to take her to the mountains,’ said Luis. ‘That’s why he’s come.’
‘Go, please, go!’ cried Manuel, while on the floor Malgorata was coming to.
And Heribert was calling Tomek and Manuel’s attention to Krappov. ‘He’s moving’, he said, taking the poor woman with him.
Luis saw his beloved angel being dragged up the wooden steps by Heribert and did not have strength enough to oppose the move. For Manuel and Tomek were confronting him manu militari. The blond Pole being a strong, stocky peasant from the easternmost part of his country, he quickly dragged away the poor, weakened Spaniard.
As he was being pulled down the street, he caught sight of the Pyrmont Power station in the background, white clouds of smoke, the infiniite blue sky above. Some double-decker buses were turning left, where the wharves and the wharfies were respecting The Day of the Lord: other buses were turning right towards the City. It was desolation.
Luis stopped on the middle of the bridge facing the bay called Darling Harbour, clasping his hands upon the grimy iron bar, shaking badly, bending backwards and forwards on the rail. His Polish friend stopped behind him.
… I feels like doing it, right into the water down below; into the dirty surface, the ripples of an otherwise beautiful sea; a rowing boat; the HARBOUR POLICE launch, enforcement of the customs laws. Oh, the law.
… through so much suffering, so much anxiety, oh man! The vision you have seen many times from Caltex House. It was then a clear vision; you saw this bay and the larger one, a loyal lawyer at last.
‘What d’you intend to do now?’ he heard the Pole ask.
‘I don’t know. I know what I should have done.’
‘I’d have killed that bastard, grabbed his gun from the table, fired it at his ugly mug.’
‘Damn him!’ Tomek exclaimed. And after a pause, pointing towards one of the wharves where a P&O ship was berthed, ‘Cheer up! Three thousand new migrants arrived last week, mate.”
‘I know,’’ was all the Spaniard said.
‘I sympathise with you. You deserve more luck. But you’re in a new land, man, cheer up! Who knows what the future reserves us.’
“I know… I know what my future…” Luis was weeping.
‘Come on! Don’t fret,’ Tomek said, passing his arm around Galvao’s shoulders.
Galvao said nothing. He was holding the iron railing with both hands, shaking backwards and forwards.
‘Luis, pull yourself together!’ his friend said, full of compassion (he was almost ten years older than him,) and felt at this moment fatherly.
‘But they’re going to murder her!’
‘Not at all. Haven’t you seen Silwia? She’ll look after her. Manuel, too, they’ll hide her. They sympathise with her. A child prodigy, you know. You’ll yet come together again. And now, I must go. We’ll, well, we’ll all be together again. Such a good teacher, we know, we do. Such a good teacher, my boys say.’
‘Can, can I ask you a…?’
‘No, nothing… noth… oh, my adorable!’ he wailed, ’we’re losers, my darling, you see, the wind blew us that way and… ay! ay! it’s my fault, I’ve always been alone, alone, nobody wants to back a losing horse…’
He said no more, turning round he shot off like a galloping horse gone mad.
‘Luis, Luis! Wait! Just a few more words!!’
Turning right along the bridge, then left into Sussex Street, along the warehouses. He wanted to reach the open harbour, and to go on, past the city, until he reached a place where he could lie on the grass until six or six-thirty, rest, get back his strength, and go back to the fight.
The surface of the sea glittered towards the east, and in the middle of a streak of sunlight, he saw the bluish silhouette of a man fishing, enjoying as it seemed the bliss of solitude. Striding upon the long jetty, he approached the angler. The man, on a folding stool, was holding a rod, almost invisible in the shining beams of the sun, more a silhouette than ever, surrounded by a light-blue sky.
‘Hullo, mate! Are they biting this morning?’ he asked, shading his eyes with one hand.
The long slightly curving rod firmly in both hands, his gaze still fixed on the glittering surface of the sea, the floating cork, the angler replied: ‘I mike the best ov it.’ The intruder puts out another question, short and to the point. And after due consideration, the solitary figure replies: ‘My word.’
And again the noise of Galvao’s clanking boots on the wooden planks of the long abandoned jetty. He strides for a while along the promenade until finally there is a open space like a small square, right on the point of the land.
There is an empty bus waiting there. The only two persons thereby are employees of the Transport Company, a woman conductor talking quietly, by the forward entrance, to a man, the driver. Both wear the uniform of the company, the man trousers and the woman a skirt down to the knees. Luis Galvao goes tumbling to the big back door and climbs up the winding staircase. Not a word has been exchanged between the two sets of citizens.
He shuffles towards the front seats and waits entirely by himself for some minutes. It is only then the tired man realises they are underneath the highway that crosses the bay at its narrowest portion. What he had taken for a public square, full of flower beds, shrubs of all kinds and specially roses, is only the space between the two South Pylons.
On his seat relaxing, he perceives the sound of music, and out of the window sees an animated crowd of citizens. The Salvation Army, nothing less: skirts lower down their knees, lady officers in their blue uniforms, fluttering red ribbons and the sound of cheerful music. And the men in well-ironed trousers. Soldiers of the Lord all, with power of attorney to save the world, the playing of trumpets, bugles, tambourines, drums, a trombone, and loud singing. The enthusiastic participation of a numerous public, happily surrounding the musicians, onwards legendary Crusaders! Go Christian Soldiers and convince the Multitudes! Music! Music! Music!
… a life of reverie, I dream, “¡la vida es sueño! I remember when I was a young religious boy, a member of Acción Católica in Madrid, the postwar, three years and then fascism, the family’s arrival at the ruined city of my school days.
… oh, days of immense happiness at uni. And here in this double-decker bus. Why? Where am I? Why so very few passengers, where have all the crowds gone? I must not fall asleep. All was easier for me then, I did belong there.
The sun was laughing in the sky, and he was still weeping when he arrived back at length in Harris Street, Ultimo.
On the horizon, above the grey chimneys of the power house and the entire suburb, a dark line of of dangerous-looking cirrus clouds which is cutting the blue sky in two.
‘Dago, hurry up!’ he hears a screech coming from above and sees old Amy. ‘They’s takin’ yer girl awiey!’, gesticulating on the protruding balcony above the corner store.
‘Jesus!’ he exclaims, ‘Hell on you! I have enough to bother about the bloody Gringos!’
For he has just seen the big limousine with the engine running parked by the pavement on the right. The two big men from the embassy, wearing identical high broad-brimmed Stetson hats are inside, one on the driver’s seat, the other on his left, chewing, chewing-gum.
The house where he was lodging, gloomy, dirty and ghastly, has bills on the windowpanes announcing that it is for sale.
Just then, a door opens. A man of great bulk, in black, a golden star on his cap comes out upon the pavement, carrying a sleeping Malgorata over his shoulder.
‘Ay, hijoputa Krappov!’
A piercing shriek is heard, coming from inside the house.
Krappov straps unconcious Malgorata to her seat, in the back of the limousine and the four speed away towards the highway and the Harbour Bridge.
Then Luis Galvao, who has been running in pursuit of the precious lost jewel, stops short, breaking into sobs, like a baby, dodging the traffic, which has suddenly increased. Evening is approaching. His steps lead him now to the door of the boarding house, which is wide open, and enters a place full of noise. He goes through to the lounge and comes across a hysterical Manuel, pacing up and down the whole length of the room, which is unlit, for the televison set is on. Galvao can hardly hear what he is trying to convey.
‘Leonidas just gone is furious, absolutely, never seen him in such a state,’’ mumbling on, throwing his arms around Galvao’s neck. ‘’Oh dear! Worse than… a calamity! You’ve brought all this upon us. You, you you! He’s selling the property. What am I going to do now?’’
Galvao pushes his friend into a chair, and it’s only then that he sees Heribert lying full length on the sofa. Falling on one knee, he gets close to the German, who appears to be badly hurt.
‘We… we both have lost…’ he hears a feeble voice.
Luis perceives the presence of a third person, sitting on the sofa near the television set, a blond lady who now stands up. Luis had forgotten altogether about Silwia. ‘She’s here to help the wounded German.’
It is Manuel who now talks to her, and both attend to the wounded fellow. ‘Oh, he lost his mind,’ Luis Galvao overhears his countryman talk to the lady as he proceeds upstairs…
‘Oh, yes! He was in love with Malgorata,’ Silwia was saying, now in the distance… Seven against one. We all are crazy, Mrs Bilska… in this house!’ Manuel was clawing his temples with his fingers.
He had thought of going into his bedroom, pile his belongings in his Holden and flee from the place never to come back again, but on arriving, completely exhausted and very thirsty, he drank a bottle of tepid beer that he found there. and fell asleep on his former bed.
Evening was drawing in as he hit left into Railway Square and Broadway, both quite free from traffic: a few cars and the odd double-decker bus coming from the suburbs or going to Circular Quay. He pulled up on the left, in George Street, near the gardens of Saint Andrew’s, and hid there in his car. Night was coming on quickly.
Beyond the cathedral there was a crowd of people that he watched for a while. He wondered if there was a special performance going on somewhere in the Town Hall, nearby, for he remembered that a Swedish friend of his, Stig, who lived with his wife in Dover Heights, a posh district by coast, had told him that he had seen Malgorata years ago, when she was a girl prodigy, performing with the Cincinnati Orchestra in the Sydney Town Hall. This made him think of his now gone beloved, and in a moment he was crying his eyes out.
On his seat, he took his glasses out from his glasses-case and a clean yellow cloth in his other hand. The people at the Town Hall began to disappear; and when Luis started polishing the lenses he had forgotten about the cloth and did it with his white handkerchief, now wet with his tears.
He had been in the main thoroughfare of the City many times at night, but never on a Sunday. The contrast with his Madrid was tremendous, and the fact that he was so nervous and depressed affected him a lot, banging one knee against the other. Swiftly switching on the engine, he again found himself driving through Sydney centre. Like a fantastic empire of accumulated wealth and artificial light all around him, as he proceeded in his Holden further into George Street, not a visible soul now in sight. Stopping in front of THE ELECTRICITY BOARD, a whole block in a grand display of light. Capitalism, a world of commodities without humanity. A human race without reason, only instinct, and thousands of things to choose among … cookers, refrigerators, showers, radios, televisons, and washing-machines… AWAY WITH COPPER-BOILERS, EASY CREDIT, YOUR OWN BANK, and TRADE-IN FOR A MAN OF PROPERTY.
Two hours have passed. A few stragglers are still seen under the overhangs full of light absolutely white. And overheard perennial advertising very free and very famous, red, blue and green and other unnatural hues all shrouded by the murky brown of the ininite starry sky.
He parks the car at the Quay by the mysterious concrete columns, beyond which the ferries are berthed.
A big man with unsteady step comes jerking along as if to talk to Luis, who remains seated in the Holden, and he crosses instead to the other side of the plaza. A solitary woman approaching him brings to Luis Galvao the image of a joyless encounter.
Once more Luis becomes very nervous. He knows he shall never forget his girl, his dear wife. Oh Solitude! The great Horror that is his Life! It was by now very cold, but he was drenched in sweat. He drives again, this time up the same George Street, looking at the overhangs right and left. STERN’S DISPOSAL STORES, WOOLWORTHS…
Suddenly he hears the sound of a siren and sees a Black Maria coming swiftly from the Railway Square. Frightened by the noise and by the police he pulls in, jumps out of the car and hides in a telephone booth. The Black Maria arrives and stops in front of the ‘Marble Bar’. Two policemen come out and grab two drunkards lying on the floor under the overhang, and hurl them into the van like two rag-dolls. A moment later the Black Maria disappears in the distance.
Luis Galvao goes back to his seat in the car, he now hates the idea of being caught under the last remaining spots of light, for the lights (though not all) have been disappearing one by one. He is in a cold sweat, and the wretched man wants to hide: he thinks to himself that he must be looking like a real tramp, delinquent or no-gooder. And he has nowhere to go, even though his wallet is full of pound notes..
Confusion or low spirits, or pure hypocondria made him feel out of sorts. Hell! he had to find a hotel at once. As often happened with him, he panicked and could not calm down, when of a sudden he saw the reflection on the sky of a more than murky heaven. It was like a divination: of a light green light spelling the words WENTWORTH HOTEL, four or five hundred feet up the hill, and he remembered having read somewere that Lord Wentworth was one of the English capitalists first to come to Terra Australis with the British invading army.
He only had to drive a few more yards upwards and into a lovely little park, full of trees, and a magnificent hotel, the first ever built in the whole continent.
… an enterprising man, that English Lord; built a hotel and who knows how much more; a conqueror, made many millions, was honoured by the Crown, the House of Lords, and all the world of the elegant and of the powerful.
… going back to the States for good, his now good friend and senior lawyer had said, “and now, Luis, I have noticed you worry too much about things and happenings that should not concern you at all, my dear boy, listen to me.”
… the world is involved in a terrible war which we have chosen to call “cold”. A struggle to the finish, either communism or capitalism. You will have to choose. In the meantime, remember, your duty is only to show loyalty… well you know.
After booking a room, on second thoughts, for a fortnight, he went up the marble staircase and entered his room with two suitcases he brought from the car.
‘You’ll have to pull yourself together,’ he thought.
He went into the bathroom. When he came out, he proceeded somewhat refreshed (for he had brought up some drinks) to the window. Holding on to one of the curtains, he lifted his eyes to the house on the opposite side of the little square. It, too, was an old building, no doubt from the time when they were building the Garrrison, with a slate roof and a little tower with a clock. On its right, where the square opened to a small hilly street called Grosvenor, in the black distance, the silhouette of Caltex House, on top.
And he now recalls that, before he lost his adored angel, his boss had invited him to join the partners in a meeting to be held this Monday with five Japanese executives of a most modern Nippon corporation, which Mr. Kim Hudgkinson had succeeded in making clients of the firm on Patents, Industrial Models, Trademarks and Transfer of Technology.
He lies of top of his bed, without undressing, his fingers intertwined under his head. Despite the fact he has drawn the curtains on the two chosed windows, a certain soft green illumination invades the room, specially the ceiling.
Although he feels exhausted, he takes a long time to fall asleep. He is thinking that, if he really wanted, he could become a first rate international lawyer in his specialisation. His work has been lately much appreciated. He would have to remember the words of his friend and boss Sheldon Pariente who as a Newyorker knew.
What was to be done? At any rate, if one wants to succeed, a big big success, one does have to have two loves in his life. His profession! his present solitude shows where he’s been wrong all along. Always, all the time useless thought, useless endeavours, false plans and false ideas. Twenty-eight, and what? He has studied, worked, travelled, seen, analysed and all to no purpose, no result so far, no great awards in the real world of business, banking, or art. No tangible result!
A free man indeed. And where was that freedom! He must never again make the wrong choice. Studies, politics, women and what not. All his fault! One thinks one choses freely. Ha! Ha! Never mind. A solemn lie. Life is a tremendous piece of nonsense. Oh gosh! the uselessness of all effort.
He again thought of the managing partner’s successful journeys to Tokyo and other Japanese cities; remembered that the Japanese were coming to Australia for a week. It was in the morning that they would be in Sydney, Caltex House, Seventh Floor. The culmination of great expectations for the Australian set, opening a branch ‘Hutchkinson and Whyte’ in Perth. He had at long last gained the battle of the moment: somehow he sensed he was falling asleep… good god…
… yet he was seeing himself dressed like a tramp, all dirty and covered with sweat… how could he ever appear before the senior partner and the other members of the firm? For an interview with all those powerful Japanese Industrialists? … not even when he was a simple labourer was he so badly dressed and in such a horrible state of health and manner.
Before he falls asleep he takes a decision. As soon as he wakes up, he will run down Grosvenor Street and into George Street. He will make sure he reaches the DAVID JONES store before opening time, nine o’clock exactly to be inside. Third floor, men’s apparel, where he will buy himself an entire suit of clothes.