another episode

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Scott smiled broadly as he watched his friend Barnabas coming toward him. He gripped his friend’s hand and they embraced. Barnabas took off his coat and hung it up and took out an envelope and laid it on the table. The train jerked slightly as it began to pull away. As they both sat down and Scott broke the silence in a subdued tone of voice.
“It is so good to see you, why have you come down here? When did you arrive? Why didn’t I see you in Szeged?”
“Well, my old friend, let me just tell you the story. I received your email the day you left. I had been home in Kiev. By the way, I saw Roman and he said to tell you hello the next time I saw you.” Scott smiled to think of his Ukrainian friend who ran a ministry that helped the homeless and runaway children. “So I called Marton” Barnabas continued “and told him what to do. I was not coming back to Szeged until this morning and there was so little to do and I thought he would be able to take care of things. I told him about filling your phone with money and the instructions for getting you down here. I asked him to figure out a way to get you here other than by train. Our contacts here are not what they used to be. Almost all of our Hungarian friends have gone into Croatia, Romania or are in Hungary. We only have contact with a priest in the camp. His name is Balint Szoke, did you meet him?”
“He is new to us and we don’t know him very well.”
“He didn’t have much to say…”Scott then related the conversation he had with the priest. Outside he had noticed the snow was piling up. He thought first about the street-kids and then about the refugee camp, wondering how this bad weather would affect them and their care. The countryside was very hilly until they got to Novi Sad and crossed the Danube then the path flattened out. They ordered dinner, it was slow in coming but that gave them time to talk about Scott’s experiences over the last few days. He learned that the woman he had been in contact with was Marton’s sister and that they had family in the camp. Things were coming together for him. Dinner finally arrived and the two friends enjoyed their food while Barnabas brought Scott up to date on recent events in Kyiv.
The work among the street kids continued and the economy continued to be bad for the common folk which was hampering development while at the same time allowing the dollars Scott raised for them to go farther. After dinner, they were interrupted by the conductor and soon after that the train arrived at Novi Sad.
The two friends walked to Scott’s compartment and continued to talk until after Subotica. At the border, the train slowed and stopped.
The Serbian border guards had boarded the train at Subotica and made their way through the train car by car. There were three guards, one took the passport and looked the passenger over carefully comparing him to the photograph in the passport. He would then look through the pages to find the visa and then scrutinize it. If everything was in order he would take a stamp from a holster on his belt and stamp the passport and move on to the next passenger. The second guard carried a small leather book that was a reference guide. Scott watched these men do their work; the third person checked had some problems. The second guard went to work with the problem passenger, a well dressed girl in her twenties. He spoke with her first in Serbian and then in halting English, the girl’s English was no better. She tried another language but to no avail. He said something to the third guard who until now had quietly stood over the process with an automatic weapon ready, he turned and left the car in a hurry. The girl looked frightened. The first guard said something to her and pointed to a back on the overhead rack. He took it down, opened it and began to look through it. She watched. The second guard was talking on his cell phone when the third guard returned with a female guard; she and the girl talked for a moment. The girl stood, the third guard took the bag and walked out of the car, the girl followed and the woman followed her. There was obviously a problem with her papers or visa. That was not a smart thing to do in these countries. But it struck Scott odd that she got in and was having trouble getting out. When he mentioned this to Barnabas, the later replied that she could be a Serbian citizen trying to sneak out, this caused Scott to wonder it she were ethnic Hungarian.
The other two guards continued to work their way through the car. When they got to Barnabas they saw his European Union passport, made a quick glance to verify his face and stamped the passport. The first guard took Scott’s passport, looked at him carefully and all through the passport, said something to his partner that neither Scott nor Barnabas could understand and made a phone call. Scott looked at Barnabas in surprise. His friend shrugged, Scott looked at the guard and asked, “Is there a problem?”
“Maybe.” The guard said simply. He handed the passport and the phone to the second guard and went on to the next passenger. The second guard said “ok” into the mobile and left, passport in hand.” Scott looked at Barnabas, and then stood to follow the guard, the first guard, seeing this shouted, “SIT DOWN!” Startled, Scott stopped and looked at the guard.


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2 responses to “another episode

  1. Laci and Keri Németh

    very good. Specially the whole border scene is very realistic… unfortunatelly there was a season when it trully happened like this…
    Were you then in Serbia? or just visionaire?

  2. revtom

    I’m merging experiences over the years on trains to Slovakia, Poland, Ukriane, and yes, Serbia… I was in and out of Serbia several times from 2002-3 i think… The most notable was a girl from S. Africa who was thrown off a train on the way into Slovakia in the middle of the night. And my own experience watching my passport go into a building in Serbia while we sat on the train and waited for the banker to come an receive the fee for the visa… fun times

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