yet I was disappointed when I encountered, initially, a cold
welcome as we were ushered into the Deputy Mayor’s office.
Our treatment was that of insignificance as we were
introduced to Ms. Gena Grigovna.
I silently cursed the bureaucratic murmurings of all
government officials – they are cut from the same cloth in
both the East and West.
Yesterday, we had encountered the same attitude at the
state archive office in Vinnitsa and the official state office
at Bagrinovtsy. I had to dramatize our situation once again.
I used my experience as a newspaper reporter 40 years
needed to bluff a bit to create an easier environment for an
told Vlad in English leave everything up to me and just
translate whatever I needed to say.
said: We came from California on a civic mission.
Litin, this city of yours marked indeed on the map,
however, no further information about this town is available at
any state offices whatsoever - practically none.
My wife is a descendent of the residents who once lived
in this town. She
was raised hearing of so many historical significances
contributed by this city. There
are so many cities in the US and Western Europe which are
celebrating the independence of the Republic of Ukraine and now
they are hoping for friendly commercial trade with every town
via commerce offices. Unfortunately, we have encountered only
difficulty in our dialogue for the civic communications across
the globe because of the bottleneck caused by this bureaucracy.
We do not represent any government.
Nevertheless, our aims are to create a bridge between our
cities. You must realize the fact that all the descendents in
the US, Canada and Israel are now looking forward to know about
your city perhaps even more enthusiastically than people who
lived in your Republic.
It worked! Deputy Mayor Grigovna’s
face brightened and she even expressed her agreement by nodding
deeply with my words “bottleneck” and
“the bureaucracy the Republic caused.”
rest of the conversation went very easily.
We just watched as the Deputy Mayor opened her safe next
her desk and took out publications and photographs of the
official events including the city profiles and history and
handed them to us. Further more, she picked up her telephone and
announced her directors of Archives and Library, respectively,
and announced our arrival and ordered them to cooperate to meet
our needs. The voice of the queen had spoken!
We became suddenly VIPs and were escorted from one office
were escorted out of the building into the backyard of the
building. The State library stood immediately behind the Deputy
Mayor’s office. It was dark outside despite it being only a
few minutes past noon. The rain cloud covered the sky and
appeared to be reminding us of late afternoon.
Any moment it would start to rain; I felt extremely
insecure. The low
fever I was suffering would not appreciate the wetting of my
body by the rain.
was a crew of six women at the library – they ranged in
age from mid-twenties to late-forties.
They were sincere and helpful. We spent more than two
hours selecting the old newspaper or magazine clippings and
bulletins and copying the article of particular interest to our
research. This was particularly difficult as the articles,
naturally, were in Cyrillic and we had to guess as to which
articles would be most helpful – with a bit of help from
Vlad, who was helping to sort the pertinent pieces of
information by reading them quickly.
I felt exhausted and was
becoming very weak. I
could hardly concentrate. I was listening to Vlad as he
translated the title of articles piece by piece, handing to
Heidi what I thought to be important and she passed them onto
the crew of five to copy the materials. We were a systematic
team! And yet, I
started getting confused as to which piles were the useful
articles and which was the ‘discard’ pile. At one point, I
was do overwhelmed and felt that nothing was useful and placed a
chronological chart of old Litin into the ‘discard’ box
without even study the chart.
Heidi scorned me then.
finally arrive in this town after three long years of
preparation and thousands of miles, Norimi” said she.
“You would helplessly regret it you gave up at this
acknowledged what Heidi meant.
We continued our work for another hour.
was then when I noticed Heidi becoming extremely nervous.
I looked at Heidi who was staring at my face intensively
and asked if I would escort her to use the facilities.
was our mistake to trust the state accommodation just because it
was an official building. We had assumed the facilities would be
more tolerable than a public toilet.
of the women took us to the backyard, where stood an outhouse of
unknown age. I saw a shadow of insecurity on Heidi’s cheek. We
both knew it was too late to return, therefore, I let Heidi go
into the shack while she made an intense smile on her face.
I had expected her to immediately exit the shack, I stood there
while more time passed than it should have.
I almost knocked at the door of shack when she finally
came through the door with a natural looking smile.
was very relieved. Our
escort raised an umbrella for it had started to shower and
ushered Heidi back to the library. Since I needed to use the
facility as well, and having seen Heidi’s safe return, I was
relieved from my cautious mind and went ahead also into the
Well, I must explain my
physical capabilities in terms of my sense of smell at this
time. I had lost my sense of smell completely while I was in
China during my childhood. I experienced extraordinary
circumstances where I witnessed pilings filled with rotten human
corpses in the streets of the town.
For the duration of a few months, I panhandled by selling
fake cigarettes to Russian soldiers walking back and forth along
those streets. Since that time, I lost my ability to smell.
I remember the smell of food and yet cannot smell food in
however, earned an additional sense to substitute the smell
– sensing smell through the mouth. When I eat food, I
learn to taste its smell therefore I can prevent eating
something spoiled with the first bite in my mouth.
So, back to the inside
of the shack - I
could not sense any odor, and yet, I felt immediately that I
should not stay there due to its incredibly hostile environment.
I looked down and saw a dark square hole of a bottomless well.
A pair of 2x4 planks of wood created a bridge on the top
of the hole. I assumed one had to step on the planks to do his
business. My pair of eyes recognized a sea of green sludge lying
at the bottom of well. I
trembled. Fortunately all I had to do was to unzip the front of
my pants, I closed my eyes and let nature call and quickly got
out of the shed. The same woman was waiting for me and raised
her umbrella for me.
had been many years since I spent such a long time doing
research at a library. I realized my backpack was completely
filled with copies of articles.
There was no more space.
It was time to conclude the day’s work.
Paying for the copies, I tipped some bills to those who
assisted us. I also offered a monetary donation to the director
for the library. I
realized we might have done something unusual for the library;
as we left the entire crew came to the outside steps of the
library to bid us goodbye.
was one other reason why I had to discontinue our work.
I simply worried for my dear Heidi. To get back to our
hotel in Vinnitsa, it would take at least a couple of hours.
I, therefore, knew I had to find an open area for Heidi
where she could hide and finish her unfinished business. I told
Vlad to drive us to the outskirts of town.
knew the expression of “running into bush” yet had no
experience doing it. We
learned in Kiev that an open area of a building was cleaner than
any indoor facility. She knew what I knew and where we were
hesitated and yet she had no choice but to give in to mother
nature. We crossed the state highway, walked to a shaded spot
near an abandoned old building.
She used all the possible obstacles like tall weeds and
buildings walls to hide herself. My assumption was right - she
just pretended to use the library facilities.
had to ask her about that incident as to why she stayed in the
shed so long.
didn’t you come out immediately?”
“Because I didn’t
want to offend the woman attendant.”
agreed with her. I
would have done the same. Normally,
I would not tell this type of story, but I needed to share it to
plant a seed about the notion of the three “S”s, to be
explained later; a civilization’s need for Safety, Security
was one more state office introduced to us by the Deputy Mayor,
the state museum. It might have been too late to visit the
office, however, we decided to visit and greet the director
considering she might have been expecting us. It was some ten
minutes past after 4 O’clock.
The museum was located
at the eastern entrance of the city.
We previously missed visiting the museum during opening
hours last Saturday. Although
it was still some time before closing, that is, 5 O’clock, the
museum was still closed. That fact confused us a little, but we
were ready to go back to our hotel for a good bath.
Seated back in the car, we returned to Vinnitsa filled
with stories of the day.