Lwów Tales

Standing in the queue in the entrance hall of the Lwów central railways station, for a sleeping-car ticket back to Budapest. The sleeping-car tickets misery is one of the last bastions of socialist deficit economy in Lwów, otherwise flooded with Western wares. A return ticket can be purchased only there, but immediately after your arrival, because on the day of your travel there will be surely no more available. Next to me, in the domestic office they ask tickets for dreamlike destinations: Kherson, Simferopol, Odessa. I would willingly switch over for that queue. In the entrance hall a girl lets the change money fall out of her  hand, the hrivnyas roll far in a beautiful curve. From the entrance a burly Ukrainian man is coming straight toward the ticket office, with the same obstinacy with which Ukrainian men push over even women in the street if they do not get out of their way in time. The orbits of the hrivnya and of the man cross with each other. The man steps on the rolling hrivnya, reaches down for it, picks it up. Without looking around, he puts it in his pocket and continues his way to the ticket office with the same drive.

In the stop of bus number 31 a bony-faced country girl comes to me to get information on the marshrutka. “I don’t know, I’m not from here”, I say. “But from where?” “From Hungary.” “From Hungary??? Where is it?” “It borders with the Ukraine”, I say. “It is Poland which borders with the Ukraine”, she asserts firmly. “Warsaw. I have already been to Warsaw. Is Hungary in Warsaw?” “No”, I say. “It is another country, to the south”. “Do Poles live there, too?” “No, Hungarians”, I say. “Hungarians, Hungarians…” she tastes the new word with a laugh. “What kind of people come here, to us!”

Fest bar, on the way down from the apartment under the Lower Castle, where half of the guests of our journey to the klezmer festival will stay in this weekend. It is small, they tap only one kind of beer, it is full of young people every evening. On the wall, old photos and newspapers of Lwów. On the central place, above the entrance to the basement, in an oversized gilt frame, the edition of 18 June 1944 of the Lviv News, with the map of the Normandy invasion, already in progress since two weeks. Its editorial: “To join the ranks of the SS Division is in the interest of the whole Ukrainian people!”

3 comentarios:

Effe dijo...

The country girl dialogue is a masterpiece! And not so strange, all said and done, when you consider that Lwów, as you thaught us, is a multiple-place.

languagehat dijo...

The country girl dialogue blew my mind. Seriously, there are people in Ukraine who have never heard of Hungary? Now I have the perfect comeback for people who make fun of "ignorant Americans"!

Effe dijo...

I printed that dialogue for my pleasure.
It's the voice of a world I thought didn't exist anymore.