Zdenko Frankenberger Daneš.
Several among you expressed interest in our escape, arrival to America, as well as in other adventures that we – whether intentionally or out of necessity – have lived through. So I decided to write down the principal events.
If you ever read it, you will be disappointed. Compared with heroes from novels and movies, even compared with some refugees whose documents I later processed, I was a boring person, my adventures were lemonade and my heroism minimal or embarrassing. Perhaps the only excuse for writing them down is the fact that they are "first-hand", not invented, lived through by myself. I record them as they are in my memory. Perhaps some things were different from what I remember. If you sometime hear that my memories contradict reality, please, forgive my error.
When and how did it all start? At what instant did I become and adventurer? – I don't know. Probably there were several beginnings and the matter grew. Certainly, at the beginning, it looked as if I were heading toward a desperately idyllic, boring, uneventful life.
I was born toward the end of summer 1920. Both my parents were physicians. My mother specialized in dermatology and at the time of my birth was an intern at the Dermatology Department of the University Hospital in Prague. My father was not interested in practical medicine and performed it only when he had to: during WWI on the Italian battlefield, during WWII at the Blood Bank of the Vinohrady Hospital and during the Prague Revolution at the Prague Radio until the instant when the building was destroyed by a German bomb. Then he and his First Aid Station moved across the street to another building. Otherwise, he was a researcher in biology, zoology, embryology. In several disciplines, his reputation was world -wide.
Our family was neither rich nor poor. Emphasis was on health, healthy food and healthy way of life in general. In second place was dress. And when there was left-over money, there came "luxuries:" a trip to the Adriatic Sea, four trips to the Tatra Mountains.
When I was two years old, my father was offered professorship at the University in Ljubljana, so we moved there. But conditions were not what my parents expected, so we returned to Prague. Shortly thereafter, my father received another offer, this time from the newly established Comenius University in Bratislava. He accepted and in November of 1923, we moved there. There I grew up. There my brother and my sister were born. There I got my primary and secondary education. And there I would have married and stayed there, but for the political unrest of the late 1930's.
In 1938 the tension has reached the point where a war seemed inevitable. I wanted to enlist, but was turned down with an assurance: "We will call you."
They never did. Czechoslovakia capitulated under the pressure of her "allies." It was a heavy moral blow: we felt betrayed. However, Slovak separatists, manipulated by Hitler's agents, celebrated. Czechs were forced to leave Slovakia and their property was confiscated. Our father was expelled from the University and his effigy was burned under our windows. It looked as if the mob were to get hold of us. I was eighteen, so I felt the need to fight. Our father was a hunter, so there were firearms galore. But I preferred boiling water with which I wanted to scald the intruders. For me, it was my first time that matters looked serious.
I do not know why the mob did not come. Instead, they let us more or less quietly leave for Prague.
There were countless thousands of expatriated Czechs in Prague and, naturally, they held together. Thus about half a dozen of us, former Bratislavians, were sitting in the "Sausage" (elongated room) of an old Prague brewery right at the time when a gang of some twenty Nazi provocateurs tried to start trouble, in order to give Hitler an excuse to invade the already paralyzed country. They succeeded. Although I was the one to start the fight, it was immediately taken over by professionals, so I just watched and learned how to smash a Nazi skull with the leg of a table and how to cool German imperialism with half a beer mug.
The gang got a terrible beating, while on our side, there was only one wounded warrior: a chip of glass landed at the top of his bald head. We pulled it out, wiped about three drops of blood with a paper napkin and celebrated victory.
Our victory did not last long: that evening Radio Leipzig informed the world that Czech hoodlums have attacked German guests in an old Prague restaurant and it was the duty of their compatriots to come to the rescue of threatened Germans. Next morning, columns of the Wehrmacht were already rolling into Czech cities.
It took eleven years before I learned that for this fight, I was later to "vanish" near Berlin, and only thanks to a personal intervention of a German inspector, who barely knew me, I am still alive. – By the way: in 1945, I was making preparations to do that inspector in; but, at the end, I helped him escape and save most of his belongings.
War broke out in September 1939 and we expected that the Allies would smash Hitler's Germany with their first blow. We were wrong. Poland fell. It was a shock, but we still underestimated German power and brutality. October 28, 1939, was the twenty first anniversary of the creation of the Czechoslovak Republic, a modern democratic state, and we celebrated with great optimism. The celebration soon turned into an anti-German demonstration and German Police got busy. Jan Opletal, a University student, was wounded in a skirmish. He fought for life, but two weeks later, he died. Jan Opletal became a national martyr and his funeral turned into a mass demonstration. I will never forget German reaction. We lived in the building of the Embryology Institute headed by our father and we knew that the employees had a cache of arms and munitions ready "for the day..."
Early morning on the 17th of November, 1939, Waffen SS invaded the University, woke us up, chased everybody present in the building down to the ground floor and pointed a machine gun at us. Men were pale like the plastered walls, women and children were crying from fear and I was as afraid as they were. My chin was shaking. I looked around and noticed our mother. She stood there, holding my ten years old brother and nine years old sister by hand and explaining to them in the same voice as if she were pointing to monkeys in a zoo:
"You see? That is a soldier and that thing there is a machine gun. The shells are in the belt, and as the soldier shoots, the shells move into the gun, and the empty ones are discarded on the other side. The belt is later again filled with new shells..."
And so on. In the meantime, the SS were executing, without trial, the entire Student Government, as well as anybody suspected of organizing the demonstration. The shots were heard all the way to where we stood, but neither my brother, nor my sister had any idea that the machine gun was there for them and us.
My mother's behavior gave me strength. I realized that several of our ancestors on her side were professional military men and that her coat of arms may have been given to the family in memory of one of them who, in the sixteenth century, was killed in a battle while saving the life of his king. So I wanted to give myself more courage by singing some patriotic hymns that we had learned in school. But I could not remember a single one! All that came to mind was a vulgar song:
"Joe, Joe, how is Kathy? She is at home scratching her behind," and "Dog is jumping, dog is jumping, he has hairy legs, and between them, he has a hole." Those songs were not good for the occasion, so I tried to whistle, but could not.
A messenger came to the gunner, so we expected that he will start firing into us. He did not. He packed his machine gun and sent us home, for the time being.
The evening news informed us that all Czech centers of higher learning were closed for three years. (Later they were abolished.) Our father was shattered. Our University, his University which was just getting ready to celebrate its 600th anniversary, our national pride, the school that gave the world men like John Huss, was abolished by a deranged German corporal!
Shortly thereafter, we started playing revolutionaries. Former Czechoslovakian army officers created an underground resistance organization and I got on its fringes through a distant relative of ours. I got the idea that we should have some secret connection with a similar organization in Slovakia, so I illegally crossed the border in the Javorníky Mountains, and after some adventures came to the city of Žilina, where lived a former friend of mine. We agreed on a code and I took off. On my way back, I was less cautious: the road in the valley seemed to be abandoned, nobody was in sight, so instead of crawling through the woods, I walked on the road, until, all of a sudden, I had a strange feeling of danger, so I jumped into a deep ravine overgrown with bushes. I did not crawl through that ravine more than five yards when I noticed a guard who would have caught me if I had continued on that road just another ten seconds. I continued crawling through that ravine for about half a mile, until I could get out of there in a deep forest; and since that time, I do not ridicule stories about "premonition," "guardian angels," "telepathy" etc. I do not have a proof that they do not exist. Indeed, I have had several experiences that are difficult to explain as plain coincidences.
Completely exhausted, deep at night, I finally crossed the mountain range and the border and collapsed on a pile of rocks, too weak to roll over to soft grass. Then early morning, I started descending into the valley and toward the nearest railroad station, but a German border guard was already waiting for me and charged me with an illegal crossing. (How he knew, I am not sure: have I been betrayed by people whom I met in Slovakia? Have I been seen by border guards on watch towers, who then, by telephone, alerted those in the valley that such-and-such a man is coming?) I denied having been across the border, but all was in vain. The guard searched my pack and pulled out my notebook where I had the key to the code. I realized that matters were serious, so I put all my chances on a single card and told him: "Now, wait a minute! I did cross the border!" And I complained to him that the border was incorrectly marked and talked to him as if it had been due to his, personal, negligence. That guy has probably never been talked to in this manner, was not "programmed" for it and instead of arresting me, started apologizing. I took advantage of his confusion, grabbed my pack, told the guy: "And if a Slovak border guard shoots me there, what will you do for me?" And walked away from him. Of course, I was fully aware that he will soon recover his senses, so my only desire was to rid myself of that notebook. But just when I expected to hear his "Halt!," I saw white light all around me and I heard a deafening "explosion." I do not know where the lightning struck, but my guess is that it used the bayonet of the guard's rifle as a substitute for a lightning rod. In a second, it started raining so hard that the road turned into a river. (Indeed, I had to wait eleven years for a tornado in Michigan before seeing such a rain.) I started running toward the first house, turned right, then left, then right, ankle deep in torrential water. Then, all of a sudden, I was at the railroad station and the train was just taking off. With the last dose of adrenalin, I caught up with the last van, grabbed the railing and jumped on the last step. And even before I got into the wagon, already I heard the thundering voice of the conductor, giving me a holy hell for jumping on a moving train. I blamed it on the storm, but he was merciless and wanted to see my ticket. Of course, I did not have any. Then the conductor became really belligerent and threatened me with a fine. I asked how much. "Five crowns!" was the verdict, which he announced with a pathos reminiscent of Robespierre sending Louis XVI to the guillotine. It was an equivalent of a piece of wurst with a glass of beer. I asked him for some mercy, while, for myself, I was telling the engineer and his stoker and everybody else up to the Minister of Transportation: "For Christ's sake, keep moving, faster, faster, so they don't catch me!" The conductor won, I paid the fine, then I went to the toilet and tore up the code to bits smaller that my finger nail and flushed them in the toilet.
My exploit did not bring the desired fruit. Upon my return to Prague, I learned that my contact to the underground organization had been arrested and, shortly thereafter, was executed. One week later, my father's brother met the same death. We never found out what was his "guilt." His family never obtained even his ashes. Only my aunt, my uncle's widow, was later visited by a German officer. He handed her the bill for her husband's execution. That bill had all the accuracy of a German document:
So much for the preparation of the place of execution...................
So much for the shell.......................................................................
So much for firing the shot..............................................................
So much for removing the corpse....................................................
So much for wiping off the blood....................................................
So much for incineration of the body..............................................
My uncle's death broke my spirit. I felt that I was next, I was afraid, I was ashamed of being afraid, but I also knew that my fear is stronger than my will, my pride, my faith, my conscience, my love, - in short, I was not up to the time. I put buttons into my shoes and walked on them all day long, so that I would become used to pain and wouldn't betray anything and anybody during the anticipated torture. But it did not help. Death was in the air. The Germans were arresting entire families of innocent people, gunned them down and announced in the morning paper that "The following were executed with their entire families for approving the assassination of the Reichsprotector..."
I tried to imagine the way of thinking of the soldier who takes aim at a newborn baby, then pulls the trigger, and feels the satisfaction of having performed an act of patriotism. But I could not. I just felt contempt, disdain, revulsion and scorn toward a nation that could establish and tolerate that kind of government. Was it the nation of Goethe, Gauss, Beethoven and Kant? Could other nations sink that low, too? Could mankind? Is civilization no more that the epidermis of a blood thirsty, sadistic, brute beast?
Other than that, there was the fear. Day in, day out. Another list of some hundred names of new executions in the morning paper. So we would go through the list looking for relatives, friends, prominent personalities, then babies, old women, old men, then the rest.
Finally – and it happened only once in my life – I woke up and decided that I would act like a man, a hero. I would go to the police and "confess" that I was the one who killed the hated protector. I hoped that my death would end the senseless, endless extermination of my people.
Before I got to the police station, the assassins were discovered and in a long and costly battle, they perished.
Shortly thereafter, I started working in the city of Heřmanův Městec for a company making electrical measuring instruments. Frankly, it amounted to cooperating with the enemy: our principal customer was the German Army! Of course, at the same time, a Czech innkeeper was feeding German guests, Czech barber was shaving their whiskers, Czech conductor punched their train tickets. Czech printer published Hitler's speeches. Czech whore sold herself to a German soldier. Where is the line between making a living and a treason?
From an old friend, I heard that there was some underground group that had contact with the West. How that contact was established, through which channels messages worked their way in and out of the territory occupied by German forces, I never found out: in situations like that, you don't ask any questions. I wanted to send some information to the Allies, but I did not have anything worth reporting! (Much later, I realized that I could have reported how many trains loaded with military equipment passed west, and how many passed east!) So we just made "Little Churchills" and passed them out to the public. Those were high frequency coils that enabled people to listen to the British Broadcasting Company. There was death penalty both on listening and on making the coils, and several churchill-makers ended up in the torture chambers of "The Little Castle of Pardubice." But production and listening continued and the faith in liberation lived in Czech public.
The situation changed abruptly, when a Jewish youngster came to my home one evening. (His father had been arrested by the Special Forces, sent to a concentration camp and killed, so the kid was hiding, I don't know where. You don't ask questions like that!) Somehow, he knew that I had some access to the underground, so he told me that a local Russian electrical engineer and physicist, refugee from the Russian revolution, was working on a new type of explosive that should be thousand times as powerful as TNT; that the invention was camouflaged as an automatic weaving loom; that there were cables going in and out in all directions; that he would be happy to offer his invention to the Western Powers, (USA and Great Britain). But not to the Soviets! He would sooner give it to the Germans than to the Bolsheviks.
To me, at that time, it did not make sense: the Soviets and the West were allies. The Germans, Italians and Japs were the enemy.
Anyway: the story was wild. But if there was any substance to it, then the matter was serious and must not be underestimated. That explosive could not be a chemical. There just is not that much energy in the electronic "shells" of the atom. The explosive had to make use of a nuclear reaction. So I passed the news to the "channels."
For weeks nothing happened and I forgot about that episode.
Then, again at night, another member of the underground came to me with orders: "Get hold of that Russian, alive or dead. Preferentially alive."
Damn it! So I will jump on that guy and hold him: then what? Even if he did not protest, what shall I do with him? – Only one thing was clear: the Allies want to make sure that the invention does not fall into the hands of the Germans. I have to kill that Russian! Who is he? What does he look like? Which pub does he frequent? Is there a convenient place where I could ambush him and escape? Guns are noisy: cross-bow and poisoned dart are silent. And the cross-bow and remaining darts may be burned to ashes and nobody will find any evidence. So I started exploring.
What I learned was unpleasant. The man was an experienced fighter. Physically very strong. He survived the Bolshevik torture chamber and escaped from their prison. And here was I, a terrorist greenhorn.
Before I got far with my plans, things took care of themselves. One night, German police arrived at his home. A few shots were fired. Then came the ambulance. German police sealed his home and I thought that the Germans have done the dirty job for me.
But, later, German defenses collapsed, Germany capitulated and World War II in Europe came to its end. Soviet troops occupied the town. And within an hour, that Russian engineer, elegantly dressed, came to town God knows from where. He went straight to his home, tore off the seal, went in and closed the door. He did not stay there two hours and a jeep with several men in Russian uniforms stopped in front of the house. The men went in, took the Russian to the jeep and drove away. I thought that he and his invention did not escape the Soviets after all!
But the story does not end here. A couple of months later, that man was in West Germany.
What really happened, I can only speculate: my message probably reached its destination and worked its way to the Security Forces of the Manhattan Project. There it may have caused panic: Will the Krauts get the atom bomb before we do? Let us get hold of that Russian, just as we got hold of Niels Bohr! And if we cannot get hold of him, then let the Czechs do him in! – Of course, messages were never written down. They went from one person to another by word of mouth, received and transmitted by people who had no idea what they were conveying. And thus it probably came to pass that the original orders were to help that Russian escape and join the Manhattan Project, and only should it fail, then to kill him.
And the men in the jeep probably were not Russian police, but members of American Intelligence Service dressed in Russian uniforms.
The question remains: did that Russian have a device capable of detonation? – Today, I doubt it. It is unlikely that he would have had access to any radioactive substances, so he probably tried to compress hydrogen plasma in a magnetic field and convert hydrogen to helium. Stars do it by means of gravity; he may have tried to do it by means of a magnetic pulse. It looks fine on paper and the Americans at Oak Ridge and Livermore have worked on such devices for decades, wasted billions of dollars and failed. The interface between the plasma and the magnetic field is unstable and instead of getting compressed the plasma squirts out. Of course, nobody knew it in the 1940's.
So why do I talk about it? It took forty years; then, an important and influential Communist uttered a word that was to be kept secret. And from that word, I finally understood why I, an ordinary person of no consequence, had received so much attention of the Communist intelligence: I cooperated with their enemy who would have offered his weapon to the Nazis, before he would let it fall in their hands!
Only from that perspective things make sense.
Back to the events:
Early in 1945 I married the sister of my friend through whom I established the contact with the underground. Her name was Marie, but in our family she went by the name of Hanka. She was talented for languages and wrote good lyrical poetry. She had a solid knowledge of French and German, which she taught at public schools. I tried to help her learn Latin and English. - And she was brave. She came along when I went to destroy telephone wires and derail trains. On one such mission, she was to come with my escape bike when I had "something to do" on the railroad. But the night was pitch dark and the patrols were silent, so I heard their steps when they were no more than ten yards from me. I had just enough time to slip off the tracks and lie motionless on the ground, while the sentry past within six feet of my head. I waited about five minutes, then jumped up, finished my "job", ran to the spot where Marie waited with the bikes and we vanished in the night.
The war continued, but it was clear that its end is near and that Germany will be defeated. We were waiting for the first opportunity to cut the throats of all Germans. Among them was that curious man who went under the name of Fritz Sheel. He was something like a "political inspector" at my place of work. For us, he was an enigma. He must have enjoyed the confidence of the Nazi system as well as of the Gestapo, Secret Police, whose quarters he frequently visited. On the other hand, he was the one who informed our "underground" who were the local traitors and informers working for the Gestapo! (There were two of them. They died shortly thereafter.) And, one evening, "Uncle Fritz" came to my home, sat down and started something like this: "Look: we all know that the war is coming to its end and Germany will be loser." (Of course, my darling: the sooner, the better!) "I do not want to be here when it happens." (No wonder!) "Germany has inflicted harm on the Czech nation and the Czechs will take their revenge on us." (Of course; what else is new?) "You know that I haven't done any harm here. As a matter of fact, I helped many of your people and you are one of them." (That is true, but I have a fine saber that will split that bald head of yours in two fine halves.) "I want to get home to Hamburg and save my life and my belongings. I have paid fair prices for everything I bought here and I have documents to show you. And I want you to help me. We would load my belongings in the company truck and drive to Hamburg. Joe, the company driver, will do most of the diving. You will drive, if necessary. On our way back, we buy insulating material at a place south of the city. We then keep going all the way to the Czech border. There we part company. I take a train back to Hamburg and you keep going home."
That took my breath. We swore a merciless revenge and here I am to help this guy escape! Am I a traitor of our cause? Then I remembered his help when the Labor Placement Office wanted to send me to Berlin; and the names of the informers; and I said: "OK, let's go."
The trip north was slow. Due to lack of gasoline, the truck was powered by wood gas and could barely crawl up the hills of Saxony. Roads were full of people escaping from the advancing Soviet army. Whenever we slowed down, uninvited passengers jumped on and off the overloaded truck. Cities were turned into piles of rubble, some still burning, some lifeless. Elsewhere, people were digging through the ruins, probably trying to recover their goodies, or, perhaps, just to find pieces of wood to warm up themselves. Perhaps looking for scraps of food.
After two days of driving, we reached out destination, unloaded, took a short nap and headed for that factory that made synthetic gasoline for the German military. I noticed that the entire plant had been built inside a sand dune overgrown with pine trees. We reached the place shortly before noon and immediately loaded the insulation material. It was a byproduct of synthesizing gasoline from coal. Then we went to the office to pay for the load. Out of curiosity, I asked the clerk whether the American air raids bother them.
"Oh, the Yanks don't know that we exist. Everything is underground and all they see is a wooded hill!" was his good humored reply.
And just as we were ready to sign the papers, local bells announced lunch break. The clerk invited us to eat lunch in their cafeteria. We would finish the paper work after lunch. But I did not like the idea. So I argued that we had a long way to go, driving was slow, driving after dark treacherous because of bomb damaged roads. My opinion won, we finished the paper work in about three minutes and were on our way. We have not gone a mile when the sirens informed us that an air raid was approaching. Then the radio warned us that "heavy squadrons of enemy bombers are approaching over Schleswig – Holstein." Few minutes later, we saw the approaching planes. We pulled off the road into the woods and started on our lunches when the first bombs fell. We were at a safe distance, so we did not pay much attention. But the second wave was louder that the first one, so the bombs probably fell closer to our hiding place. The next wave was louder yet and with each consecutive wave, I grew more nervous. Then came the seventh wave. The explosion that followed created a shock wave that tried to squeeze my liver through my nostrils. Obviously, the bombs hit the underground plant that we just left and the tanks of synthetic gasoline exploded. Fritz and our driver fell to the ground and I started calculating: consecutive waves come in about three minute intervals; in three minutes, I could run a kilometer; running away from an airplane sounds foolish, but a kilometer may easily make the difference between surviving and not surviving! So I took off and ran away from the plant, till I fell breathless to the ground. I heard the following wave, then one more, then the raid was over.
My return to the truck was endless. Too bad that nobody had measured my speed. I must have broken all records. Fortunately, neither our truck, nor my colleagues suffered any harm, so we started on our trip home. But we did not get far. The truck was made during the war. Materials were inferior and our differential gave up ghost. We left it in that town, parted company with Fritz and took the first train heading toward Czech lands. The train was crowded to bursting point, rails were often damaged by bombs, stations were in ruins, but we were moving, and that was all we cared about. The driver and myself talked Czech, and a young woman joined us. She told us that she was in Germany with her husband on forced labor; that they were caught in an air raid; her husband was killed; she only recovered a sleeve from his coat; so she escaped from the camp and was on her way home. I asked her how she would get through the border checkpoint without permission. She told me that she wanted to hide in a corner of the compartment! I explained to her that everybody had to get out, go through the building where his papers would be checked, and in the meantime, the train would be searched. If she were caught without proper papers, she would at best be imprisoned, but probably shot on the spot. She turned pale and asked what to do. I told her that the next stop is already at the border crossing! So I offered to step out with her and pretend that this was our destination; we would avoid passing through the check point; we would go to town, wait for the night, then crawl through the countryside, sneak across the border, walk to the nearest Czech town, board another train and continue. It was risky, but there was a chance to make it. Her way, there was none. She agreed to my plan and packed her meager belongings into a shopping bag, her only luggage. Then, suddenly, the train slowed down. Then it stopped perhaps half a mile short of the border point, I don't know why. Anyway, I told her to jump out. Getting through the crowd to the door was impossible, so I said Good bye to the driver, then the woman and myself jumped out through the window. Somebody on the train ordered us to stop and return, but we paid no attention and ran. After a few hundred yards, we reached the town and vanished among local people. My plan was to walk north, into Germany, for about a mile; then turn left into the fields and woods; walk parallel to the border for a couple miles; then turn left and head south, until we come to a town with Czech street signs. That way, we would be sure that we had made it across the border. But before I explained my plan to that woman, I noticed a military truck standing on the road. The driver was taking a nap. It occurred to me that the truck is probably on its way to Prague, and that the border patrol will let a military vehicle pass without checking. So I showed the driver my papers, offered him some cigarettes and some cookies, then asked him to take us to Prague. He wanted to make sure that we do not damage his cargo, but let us get under the tarp. Then he started the engine and we were on the way. In the last second, I noticed that a kid, member of the Hitler Jugend, had watched us. He then jumped on his bike and tried to catch up with the truck. The truck moved very, very slowly, so that the kid stayed about twenty meters behind us all the way to the border checkpoint.
The guards acted as I anticipated: when they saw a military truck, they opened the gate and let us pass without stopping us. But that kid reached the guard station just a few seconds later and started telling something to the guards, gesticulating and pointing at the truck. I am convinced that he was alerting the border police to the fact that a couple civilians were under the tarp. The kid watched while three border guards jumped on their bikes and took off after us. The truck was hopelessly slow and the guards were strong men, so they soon caught up with us. Two of them caught the tarp and started looking inside. I am almost sure that they saw us, but, fortunately for us, the road made a turn and the cops let us go. I think that they had to act on that kid's information, but as soon as they were out of his sight, they lost interest in the matter.
We got to Prague, went to the railroad station, shook hands and went our several ways: the woman west to Plzeň and I east to Heřmanův Městec. Has she made it home? Has she survived the war? Is she still alive?
Within weeks, the war was over. We returned to Prague and, after five years and six months, to the University. My wife studied languages and physical education, I returned to physics and mathematics. It was not easy to return to student life after a six-year gap, but we soon adapted to the old ways and tried to finish our studies in the shortest possible time. At first, it went OK, but the Communist takeover in February of 1948 was a blow. There were some similarities between the Nazis and the Communists, but there were profound differences, too. Both systems were ruthless, both were a travesty on justice. But what the Nazis tried to accomplish with "Paradeschritt," the Communists accomplished through infiltration. Germans played soldiers: Communists played chess. During the Nazi times, practically everybody who was speaking Czech could be trusted. Under the Communist system, every apartment building, every company, every club, every school had secret "party informers." Children were asked seemingly innocent questions pertaining to opinions, utterings and activities of their parents. Pretty soon, everybody had "somewhere" his/her file with an incredible amount of detailed information waiting to be used when necessary. Anybody could be arrested and confronted with his own detailed "confession:" on such-and –such a date, I did this-and-that; talked to so-and-so; said this-and-that;... Most victims were stunned by the precision of those charges, signed the admission of guilt and went to the uranium mines for five to ten years. If they pleaded innocence, they were "questioned," then sent to the uranium mines anyway. My cousin was among them. He died of leukemia.
Some people desperately tried to fight the system: they died a hero's death.
Others escaped to the West. My colleagues were among those.
Others forfeited their careers, education, activities and pay in order to retain their pride and clear conscience. My parents and siblings took that path.
The majority accepted the inevitable. They sacrificed their pride in order to advance, to give their children honest education, adequate medical help and a chance to live a semi-normal life. They may have even served as informers, vindicating themselves something like this: "Somebody will do it anyway. I will at least try to do as little harm as possible: others may be worse." - One of my relatives tried it. He got a terrible beating and many years at hard labor when his "trick" was discovered.
And, of course, there were the Communists. They fell into three distinct groups. There were the "leaders:" they knew that the system was evil, but they did not care. They would serve any kind of power, as long as they benefited. (Some of them benefited just for a short time: many of them were suddenly arrested and executed on trumped up charges). The second group were uneducated people, of mediocre IQ, who believed the propaganda of a promised socialist paradise. But there was the third, most dangerous group: educated people, mostly coming from the upper echelons of society, who had great expectations of themselves; often experts in a particular field; but disappointed by their own lack of achievements. Every one of them has a complex. Not one of them will admit it. Poets, artists, actors, literary critics, physicians, teachers, philosophers, psychologists; they were convinced of their own greatness; their families may have nurtured the fallacies of their greatness; but the greatness did not materialize.
Such people never grow out of puberty. They never develop adequate common sense. They are disappointed by themselves and bitter toward the world. They feel insecure in the free world, so they welcome a fuzzy picture of a bliss, notwithstanding all reality. Their one-sided education is often mistaken for wisdom, their fantasy for prophesy, their fanaticism for leadership.
Beware of them!
The Communist party consolidated power while I was to study mathematics and physics. Communist propaganda was full of words like democracy, freedom, justice. But Dr. Milada Horáková was sentenced to death on Stalin's orders. Will they hang her? Last week, my friends Sviták and Homolka were arrested on their way home from work. I should study Maxwell's equations and radiation from a dipole. And my wife should be at home by now. Where is she? Has she been arrested, too? Oh, yes, I should also study the Navier-Stokes equations! And energy transfer that follows from Maxwell's equations. How come she is so late? Christ, if they got her, I just load that gun that served me well in the revolution, and I start killing them bastards left and right till they kill me! Now the energy density in the electromagnetic field is – thank God: that is my wife coming home. I know the sound of her steps. But if it had been the sound of cops' boots, I would have opened fire. But it could have been the steps of my father, my brother, the mail man! Yes, Navier-Stokes equations have that non-linear term. Shall we ever find a way to solve them? After all, water flows: therefore a solution must exist. How come we cannot find it? And will they really hang Milada Horáková?
I realized that I could not live in that kind of frame of mind. There were only three ways to live:
1. To accept the situation at face value, forget pride, forget self-respect, pretend that I accept the Marx-Leninist nonsense as "scientific” truth, and hope that I am not on "the list.”
2. To be a man, get hold of half a dozen hand grenades left over from the last war, and go killing.
The first way was out of question. Even if I tried, I could not do it. Sure, society has some ills: but the "scientific Marx-Leninism” is an incorrect diagnosis, faulty prognosis and catastrophic therapy!
The second way would have done more harm to my family, my wife's family and to many innocent people than to the hated system.
All right, I will escape.
It is easy to say, but who has not tried, he does not know how it feels when you look at your parents, your siblings, your friends, your home, your books, your town, the china that you inherited from your great-grandmother, everything that you knew and loved. You will never see them again. There is no way back.
Moreover, there was my wife. True, we did not have children. And she had the same fears and problems as I had. She was brave, but sentimentally much more attached to her home than I was. Should I take her with me? What if we get caught? Do I have the right to jeopardize her life? Should I leave her here? Should I stay here because of her? Of what good will I be to her when they send me to the uranium mines? That university mechanic and that dumb chemist upstairs constantly spy on everything I do. Or do they? Is it just my imagination? Am I cracking up?
On the thirteenth of May, the situation took care of itself. My colleague ran out of cigarettes, so he went to borrow one from that dumb chemist. That man was not in his office, so my friend waited for him. And by accident, looked at his desk: there was an unfinished document with my name. He read the text, gave up on the cigarette, went to my office and warned me that that jack-ass was writing an accusation on me.
I came home. We ate lunch. And I suggested that we ride bikes to the castle of Přimda. My wife agreed to the bike ride, but instead of Přimda, suggested the resort of Mariánské Lázně. I did not argue the point: the first half of the trip was the same. And I hoped that my wife would not notice when, in the city of Stříbro, we turn left instead of right.
But she did notice. So I had to tell her the truth. I told her that I was not returning. It was up to her whether she would go with me or return home. I may make it, but I may get caught. Even if I do make it to Western Germany, I have no idea what is in stock for me there. Only five years ago, we were enemies. Do the Germans remember? Will they kill me? Will they return me to the Communists? Even if they do me no harm, will I starve there? Will I find any employment?
True, we promised to stay together till death parts us: but those promises were made under different conditions. If she does not want to escape with me, we shake hands, go our several ways and never feel any hardship for one another.
My wife took a deep breath, then said: "Let's go."
We stayed overnight in Přimda and on May 14th 1950, on King Charles IV's birthday, headed south. Near the town of Bezděkov, the road passed close to dense woods, so we turned into the forest and navigated by the compass. I managed to memorize the map before I left my office. In places, we could ride the bikes, elsewhere we had to push them, but all went well and we were making rapid progress. There was just one thing that bothered me: there was a group of soldiers close to the place where we left the road and continued through the woods: Have the soldiers noticed us? Will they report us to the border guards? (Later, I found out that they were a military support of those border guards !)
First trouble developed when we still were about two kilometers short of the border. According to the map that I had in my memory, the woods should have continued all the way to the border. But since the time that map had been published, a wide strip has been logged out and we now had to cross it. Will we be spotted? I searched the valley below with my field glasses and saw a border guard at a distance of a few hundred meters. He patrolled a road that we were to cross, but he walked away from our planned crossing. And within a minute, another guard rode a bicycle in the opposite direction! Good tidings! Now there will be all quiet for the next hour or two! We jumped on the bikes, crossed the clearing and rode down toward the brook and road that had to be crossed. We came to a place where the road crossed the brook, so I wanted to use the bridge and cross both at the same time. But my wife feared lest we be seen and wanted to ford the brook. And just about at the instant when we would have been on that bridge, I heard a car approaching from our left. I said: "Down!" and fell flat on my belly into a ditch. But my wife did not get the message and stood there like the Statue of Liberty. Fortunately, she was hidden by some dense bushes from the coming jeep full of border guards. With their field glasses, the men searched the hill from which we just descended. If one of them had turned his head, this story would have ended right there. (Forty years later, I visited the spot. The distance between the road and the ditch where I was hiding was exactly fifty four feet.)
As soon as that jeep vanished, we jumped up, crossed the brook, crossed the road, hid in the bushes and heard another border guard on a motorcycle moving in the opposite direction. I realized that there was alarm, and probably that alarm was ignited by those soldiers who witnessed our vanishing in the woods. But there was no time for speculation. We had to act. We climbed a steep slope toward the crest of those hills and toward the border, when we came to a trail. My wife noticed that there were telephone wires on the trees along that trail, so she suspected that it was a regular route of the sentries. And immediately, she heard barking dogs. We knew that it must be a border guard whose dog both sniffs the culprit, and pulls the cop. A pedestrian cannot outrun him. Fortunately, we were on bicycles! And there was a narrow path heading straight toward the border! And that path went a little down hill! It was a wild ride, but after less than half a mile, there was a bar across that trail and a border marker! We kissed, each picked a pebble as the last bit of our country, and kept riding into Germany! Soon, the road became hollow and the walls protected us both from the border guard's sight and bullets. (Fifty years later I returned to that place. I will never comprehend how could anybody ride a bicycle down that path. And fast? – Impossible.)
We rode about a kilometer when we came to a small settlement. I cannot describe our feelings. After those tense hours, we rode through the entire town and saw nobody, save for a bunch of children playing marbles.
Our narrow path changed into a regular road and I got a crazy idea: if nobody notices us, we may cross southern Germany and swim across the Rhine river into Switzerland. The Swiss will not turn us over to the Commies. They would grant us asylum. Swiss border cannot be much more than two hundred miles from here. We may be there day after tomorrow.
Before I mentioned it to my wife, I saw a German border guard. He was pushing his bike up the hill where we were coasting down. We could have passed him, but I did not want to start our lives in a new country by violating their laws. So I stopped, introduced us to him and told him that we had just escaped. I expected to be arrested. Instead, he gave us a broad smile and said: "Welcome to Germany!" And shook our hands.
He was a German in a uniform: five or six years earlier, I would have killed him without mercy or regret. Now, I was on the verge of crying.
He told us to go through the next town and stop at the last white house on the right side. It was their house and his wife would give us something to eat and drink. He would come there in about an hour.
The rest of that day is not interesting: we got eggs and bread, (I could not swallow anything after all that excitement, but my wife's appetite was good,) then the cop returned. Then followed hours of questioning and paper work, till my wife fell asleep. Finally, late at night, all three of us got on our bikes and rode to another town. My wife asked the cop where he will take us. "To jail." But it was a joke. He took us to a nice, clean "Gasthaus," wished us good night and good luck in the new phase of our lives and rode off.
Next morning, we received good breakfast. Then another police man took us to more questioning and more paper work, then an American intelligence officer took us to Weiden for more questioning and more paper work, this time in English, and with chocolate and an orange! (Unheard of in Communist Czechoslovakia!) Finally, he gave us train tickets and sent us to a refugee camp near Nuremberg.
That camp was the first shock we experienced. Dirty, unshaved refugees, dressed in rags, were killing time at the railroad station. Some were drinking beer left over by previous customers. Did they have lice? Would we catch lice from them?
Only later did we comprehend: Refugee camps were something like a still: for years, all sorts of people poured in; the capable ones were able to leave and start normal lives; but the unfortunate ones (sick, old, disabled, of unwanted profession or skill) remained.
Demoralization did not let them wait. First sign of "giveupitis" was laziness. Although the camp kitchen offered three meals a day, some people did not even get off their bed to get their morning coffee. Then, women started selling themselves to the occupation soldiers; but they were "second rate!" They had to compete with German women who had lost a million young men in the war, and who could offer to their customers more comfort in their homes: refugees operated in the camp!
Men usually started shoplifting, then breaking into tobacco stores. German police easily apprehended them and locked them up for a few days. But any police record reduced their chances for employment or immigration to zero. Thus the demoralization continued to grow, and by 1950 a large portion of the camp residents were trash.
There was another division among the refugees: those who came to Germany before November 1949, were given the DP (Displaced Person) status: if they were accepted by any country as immigrants, their trip was paid for by the United Nations. But those who came after that date, such as ourselves, were not entitled to any financial help. German administration offered us a roof over our heads, three meals a day, a cot, a blanket, a metal plate, a cup, knife, fork and spoon. When the weather turned cold, we were issued some coal. They even paid us an equivalent of about three US dollars a month as pocket money. Indeed, it was incomparably more and better than I anticipated: but the outlook into the future was bleak.
My wife started succumbing to despair: we shall spend the rest of our lives like these wretches who have been already living this way for five years! And there is no hope on the horizon!
Of course, not everybody despaired: there were people in all camps who were making money by espionage. They reported all new arrivals, friendships, activities, arguments, not just of prominent people, but of everybody. Did that information make its way to the files of police in Prague, Warsaw, Moscow, or Washington? – Probably to all of them.
One refugee carried across the border a large amount of money that was to be given to some relative. He made it across, but he somehow lost the satchel with the money. So he wanted to restitute the amount. One of the spies promised him an equivalent amount if he makes three clandestine trips to Czechoslovakia and back carrying some sensitive material. The fool made two trips and the spy got paid from the CIA. But on the third assignment, the spy sent him straight into the hands of the Communist secret police. This time, he got paid by the Soviets.
A sudden change took place when we heard that there was an agent of the Government of New Zealand: he was looking for specialists for some government projects. But it was very hard to make contact with him. He kept a low profile, lest everybody turn into a "specialist" and he would do nothing but chase the crowds away!
We felt that we had nothing to lose, so we contacted him. A few days later, we were told that we were accepted. We stayed awake all night, unable to fall asleep! – Then, in the morning, I said: "It is a fraud."
I do not know why I said it. We could not think of any reason why the man should fool us. We had nothing, knew nothing, were nothing.
We were to sail from Hamburg to Christ Church via Bombay. Everything was OK, only Indian transit visa were late, and the day of our departure was approaching!
Finally, it was too late to go to Hamburg by train. We will take a chartered bus and get the Indian visa in Hamburg.
A friend of ours had a map of Germany on his wall, so we went there to look at our path. The road passed less than five miles from the Soviet occupational zone, and we would travel there deep at night! Suddenly, we woke up: That guy wants to sell us to the Commies! We looked at one another and realized that we were strange "specialists:" a former army intelligence officer; several deserters from the border guards; military pilots; former employees of some offices about which they never uttered a word. And it dawned on us that Czechoslovak Secret Police might be more interested in us than any project of the Government of New Zealand.
We armed ourselves with daggers and clubs made of discarded cables; decided that we would eat nothing, drink nothing, smoke nothing that we have not brought with us; and decided that as soon as the bus makes the first strange detour, we kill both the driver and the agent. And we waited for the bus.
We waited in vain. No bus came. The agent probably had an informer within our group and that man let him know that we smelled the rat.
Of course, we had no proof. We had just our suspicions. Were they justified?
I had to know for sure, so I told my wife that I take my bike and ride to Frankfurt am Main, go to the New Zealand Consulate and find out what is the matter. My wife agreed, but said that she was going too. We folded our blankets in our packs. The camp kitchen gave us two slices of bread and a can of herring: not much for 120 miles to Frankfurt and another 120 miles back, but did we have a choice?
We were lucky: shortly after we left Nurnberg, a truck driver gave us a ride to Aalen: it was farther south than we would have preferred, but it brought us considerably closer to Frankfurt. We arrived at Aalen around midnight and wanted to take a little rest, but local police chased us out of town: they did not tolerate tramps. We rode about a mile past city limits, huddled ourselves in the camp blankets and tried to sleep. When it started to rain, my wife was on the verge of crying. Fortunately it stopped raining, and at daybreak, we were riding again. But my bike started showing signs of fatigue and consequences of the insane ride away from Czech border police: two spokes broke and the rear wheel wobbled.
By noon, we reached Karlsruhe. Five years earlier, shortly after the end of the war, I was sent with a unit of militia to western Bohemia "to fight German terrorists." There were no terrorists, but there were Russians stealing and raping left and right. At that time, I protected a local woman and her children. Her husband was a British POW. That woman, with her husband and children, now lived in Karlsruhe: would she help us?
The meeting was cordial. The family had lived through a lot of hardship, but survived and was now reasonably well established. They decided that my wife and both bicycles stay with them, while I hitchhike to Frankfurt and back.
The Consulate of New Zealand knew nothing about us, our immigration, about the "project," but expressed sincere interest in the person who impersonates their representative. Perhaps thanks to our trip, the man was eventually arrested by US occupational police and tried before an American court. I never heard about him again. But many years later, a man came to my office, introduced himself as a CIA detective and asked me about any minute detail of the whole affair. Was he a real CIA agent? Was he an NKVD agent with a fake CIA document? Was he both?
I will never find out. But I did not care. I had to get back to Karlsruhe, join my wife, somehow fix my bicycle and return to Nuremberg. Passenger cars were out of question: drivers would not give a ride to tramps. I had to depend on good will of truck drivers. And thus it came to pass that I rode on top of sand, vegetables and bricks to Heidelberg.
By that time, I was unshaven, had a bit of sunstroke, and was so dirty that even truck drivers would not take me. I then decided that I would wait for the sun to set, then start jogging to Karlsruhe - a distance of two marathons in tandem. Can I make it by daybreak?
I found a bit of shadow near a gas station, sat down and speculated how to convey the bad news to my wife. There was no "mild" way. And I was in Heidelberg! Yes, I remembered that my father had been at the Heidelberg University! He held it in high esteem! And several times, he expressed his desire that I should study here!
OK, daddy, now you have me in that wonderful Heidelberg! Bet you would be surprised by my condition?
A little Ford with a British license, a male driver and a female passenger stopped for gas. But instead of filling the tank, the attendant argued with the driver. The driver did not understand German, the attendant did not know English. So I started translating and interpreting. It turned out that the driver wanted to pay with money and the attendant wanted coupons.
"Where do we get the coupons?"
Mannheim was north of Heidelberg, I was heading south. But after they get the coupons, they would be heading south again, so I asked the driver whether they would give me a ride to Karlsruhe.
He did not like the idea, told me that the car was full of luggage, (it was), that they had to return to Mannheim, (they actually did not: if the attendant had known that those people were Americans, he would have gladly filled their gas tank. But he thought that they were British, so he wanted to be ornery.) I told him: "If you excuse me, sir, I noticed that you have difficulties communicating with the Germans: perhaps I may be of some help with my poor English."
He told me he would talk it over with his wife. (He told her: "Listen, honey, some strange character asks us to give him a ride." "Are you afraid of him?" she asked. Of course, being a man, he could not admit that he would be afraid of me! "Then let's take him," she said. But I heard about that conversation some two years later.)
The woman came to me, handed me a box with some food leftovers and asked me to toss it into the garbage can. Being hungry for three days and penniless, I was strongly tempted to stuff my pockets with those leftovers; but I was afraid that it may be noticed and would hurt my chances of getting a ride. I put the box into the garbage very carefully: if the car leaves before I return, so I will pull those delicacies out of the can!
The car waited, so I forgot the food and jumped in. I introduced myself. They were Lyle and Doris Slaybaugh.
"How come you still need gas coupons, five years after the end of the war?"
"I don't know, sir. I am not a German."
"Where are you from?"
"I am a refugee from Czechoslovakia."
The mood changed abruptly. Much later I got the explanation: at that time, USA supported reconstruction of devastated Germany, so Americans were welcome; at the same time, the British were still taking apart German plants and shipping machinery to England. So the British were hated; and that couple was driving a British car.
On the other hand, Czechoslovakia had the reputation of a democratic republic destroyed by both the Nazis and the Soviets.
The driver was well informed about political events in Europe, but he wanted to hear a first-hand story of what and how things happened, why and how we squandered the hard won freedom. I tried to answer, and when we came to Mannheim, we all forgot the name of the bank. Instead of Landeszentralbank we came to Landwirtschaftliche Bank. A good looking blond teller described the way to the proper place, then added: "But hurry up. It is five minutes to four, and they close at four o'clock."
Lyle charged toward the car, but I told the blond teller: "Madame, can you call there and tell them that we are a coming?" "Sure." "Can we depend on it?" "Yes."
The engine was running and Lyle was impatient. "Calm down, sir. I told that girl to call the other bank. They will wait for us."
I will never forget the Lyle's smile. It conveyed something like: "Are you that kind of a tramp?" or "Are you tramps really so smart?"
We came to the bank. Main gate was closed, but at the side entrance, there was the clerk. He took the money, gave us the coupons and we were on our way.
Since that instant, my benefactors were not interested in politics, Czechoslovakia or the Communists. They were interested in me. Who I was, why I was on the road near Heidelberg, etc. etc. I told them about the New Zealand fraud. They shook their heads and asked what we would do now. "Pick up my wife and return to the camp." He asked about immigration. I told him that we might be accepted by Canada, but we had no money for the transoceanic passage.
"How about USA?"
"Oh, USA, that is the dream land of every refugee! But you can't get there. You need a sponsor, a person who will vouch for you."
"Don't you have relatives in America? Or friends? They don't have to be related to you by blood."
"Sir, I do not have friend on the face of North American continent."
There was a long silence. Then Lyle said: "Yes, you do."
My first thought was: Oh, damn it! A Holy Roller! Now he will tell me that I have a Friend in Heaven. And I will have to thank him for encouraging me in my plight. But I am hungry. And thirsty. And my wife is in Karlsruhe. And my bike needs fixin'. And I don't have a penny to fix it. And there is about a hundred miles between Karlsruhe and our camp. And the camp is full of human trash. And it still is the best place for people like ourselves. And I should not complain because nobody invited me and nobody asked me to come to Germany. Oh, hell! And I can't even tell you what I am thinking, because you would not understand. So I will ask you:
"Me. Right here." And then he poured out one nonsense after another. That they were Americans, only on a temporal contract in England. That they had a farm, but were not farmers. They had the farm just for fun. And that we could take care of that farm. Did we know anything about farming? – Well, it did not matter. We could do it, anyway. And we would live in their home as family members. And, eventually, I could teach physics and my wife could teach German and French in local schools.
It all sounded unreal and reminded me of the promises of that New Zealand confidence man. So I told to myself: "I see, you are another of them! Now listen: I still have that knife that was to be used on unwanted Czech border guards, later on our New Zealander benefactor. I will take none of your food, none of your drink, and if you try any dirty trick on me, then have a quick prayer. My patience is at its end." However, I told him that much two years later, when we were sitting in the barn of his farm, drinking whisky and Coca Cola. This time, I told him:
"Well, sir, it sounds wonderful, but you will forgive me if I do not take your promises seriously. After all, you do not know who I am. You have not seen my papers. You do not know whether the things I told you were truth or lies. Half an hour ago, you hesitated to give me a ride and now you want to open your home to us as if we were your family."
"Well, yes, but you told me that your wife was waiting for you in Karlsruhe. May we talk to her?"
"Of course, you and she are free persons, you may do as you please."
"Good. We take you there and we ask her. If she tells us the same as you did, we will believe you."
The rest of our trip was uneventful. We came to our friends' home. I took a shower and shaved my whiskers while the rest of the crowd was talking. The Slaybaughs never questioned my wife. She told them about our border crossing and they told her why they were in England.
Finally, they had to leave in order to make it to Oberammergau to see the Passion Plays. Upon leaving, Doris gave my wife a beautiful dress that fit her as if it had been made for measure. And Lyle gave me some German money. At that time, it was a fortune: I could fix my bike, we could buy food on our way back to the camp, and there still would be enough left for some second hand clothing!
Perhaps my story should end here, because the time between our meeting and our arrival at the Slaybaughs' home and at their farm-for-fun was filled with looking for jobs, renting a room, searching second hand stores for clothing, shoes, kitchen utensils and books: not very interesting.
But I have to tell you about our benefactors.
Lyle was not much of a student, so he quit school when he was about fifteen and went to work for a contractor who installed generators into dams. Later, he married the contractor's daughter, a passionate gardener and seamstress. Looking for a better job, Lyle went to work for the Kellogg Cornflakes Company as an electrician. And, one day, while repairing a mill, Lyle fell in and the machine chewed off his leg.
That was the end of the trade, and, from Lyle's perspective, it also was the end of his achievements. But Doris, his wife, was an unusual person. She convinced Lyle that he was capable of acquiring higher education. Lyle gave it a try. Through a correspondence school, he studied engineering and, at the time we met, was the head of the Maintenance Department of the Kellogg.
But he also was a remarkable practical psychologist, capable to solve many problems between management and the trade unions. Kellogg at that time expanded production into England, but the English were not used to American standards of production. To find a solution, Kellogg sent Lyle to England to make things work. Lyle solved everything to universal satisfaction and, upon return, was made head of Kellogg's Research and Development Division. He was loved and respected by all, but sometimes, he came to me and complained: "Dendo, (it was his way to pronounce my first name), I feel like a confidence man. How can I, a high school dropout, supervise some fifty PhD's with degrees in medicine, engineering, food chemistry, nutrition, plus fields I don't even know exist?" Then, I had to fill his glass with Coca Cola, diluted with a squirt of scotch and tell him: "If you knew what they know, you would not need them. You would not have hired them and they would not have a job." That usually calmed him down.
One day, we were sitting in his shop. He was welding the model of another invention and I was holding the gimmick. When it was done, I told him:
"Look, Lyle: What you and Doris did for us, unknown people from an unknown land, cannot be described, cannot be evaluated. How shall we ever pay you back?"
Unfortunately, I do not remember his words exactly. He replied something like this:
"Oh, you will not! First, thank God, I do not need it repaid. Second, by the time you are able to pay me back, I may be long dead. And third, if you paid me back, it would be a closed circle and it would go nowhere.
Instead, you do for someone else what I have done for you. That way, it will go and grow."
I got up, shook his hand and told him:
"It's a deal, Lyle. I will be paying back my debt to the end of my days, may there be many."
And that is the end.