Контент 16+ Suddenly Brest did not seem like such a placid, pleasant haven for departing pilgrims. Nearing sundown, we drove aimlessly, having no idea what to do next, or where to go. The Russian Embassy? Belarus Embassy? Polish Embassy? At this point, we couldn’t even remember where our hotel was. We asked people along the street for directions, but frankly, they all acted as if they were little more than refugees themselves. Cass and Poppy were calm, but Liuba and I were almost frothing at the mouth.
In retrospect, it doesn’t seem like that much of a disaster. Not like if your house burns down or one of your children dies. But for us, the stress at that time was unbearable, and we just hadn’t had time to digest the full extent of the problem and explore viable solutions. Liuba needed a rest and I needed a brainful of beer. But all we could do was drive.
This went on fruitlessly for what seemed ages, and there was no help. Then, I said (for the 100th time), “Let’s try this way. Turn left.” Along the street, I spotted a ruddy looking guy, probably in his early or mid-thirties, Slavic features and clean, casual clothes, loading something into the trunk of his car. I don’t know why, but something inside me spoke up and said, “I think this is the guy who could help us.”
And, sure enough, he could. And did. His name was Sergei and he spent a lot of time on the phone. I had the feeling that he was very well-connected in Brest and maybe not with all the most law-abiding of citizens. But he was immediately friendly in a sincere sort of way and put us at our ease. He spoke no English, but as he and Liuba conversed and I chimed in with the odd bit of Russian, I soon realized that Sergei was a man who could make anything happen, at least in Brest.
It also turned out that the Polish Embassy was just up the street. So he walked there with Liuba, showing her the way, while I ambled up and down with Poppy and Cass. Upon their return, Sergei told us to follow him back to the hotel where we had stayed. He also promised to come the next morning and take Liuba to the Embassy. As for my soon-to-be problem with my about-to-expire Belarus transit visa, Sergei just laughed and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.” So we got in our car and followed him straight back to the hotel, where we registered. The staff told me to go to the police about the visa issue, but for some reason I trusted Sergei.
What was great about Sergei, apart from the fact that he, as an absolute stranger, was so helpful, was that for him it seemed no extra effort or inconvenience at all. Clearly, he was a busy, ‘happening’ kind of guy, but with us it seemed he had all the time in the world. The next morning he (and his dog) came for Liuba as promised, and, sure enough, there was no trouble for me at the border. Only an 8 euro fine and a long wait while they did the infernal paperwork (there turned out to be a mountain of it.).
Before I leave Sergei and continue with the story, let me state the following. Although my own life has been blessed and ultimately has produced many favorable outcomes, I find, to my regret and even chagrin, that I have become in many ways almost hatefully cynical. I was once the supreme idealist. Why this harsh bitterness, I wonder? Why, after having finally put together the life I always wanted, do I find that, rather than feeling relief and gratitude, I am beset with a raging impatience and steely intolerance? They say, you know, that most attitudes and views about life are really inwardly directed and that those people we foist our fury on are merely outward projections of the things we despise most about ourselves. Could this be me?
Or could it be that, as I grow older, I understand that youth and the things of youth are indeed for others now, that what I once rightfully claimed as my own birthright must now be relinquished, and I just can’t do it gracefully? And so I pretend to reject a world that in the most natural ways imaginable (and therefore the most tragically intolerable) is methodically rejecting me?
If so, it becomes a convenient tool to scream at the rottenness of the world, and what is most insidious is this: in many ways I am right. Real experience has shattered almost every illusion about perfect societies, perfect love, perfect justice. The world is cruel and history is a chronicle of blood. But being ‘right’ about some of these things does not negate the real truth that love opens its lovely spring windows every day and everywhere, that every generation has a right to be faithful to its faith, and that only a curmudgeonly fool would curse it away. Sometimes, alas, I am nothing but a loudmouthed fool.
Every Sergei who comes along gives the lie to all cynicism and reinforces the truth of human goodness and kindness. And maybe to a larger extent it reinforces — or should do — the rekindled fire of faith. The belief that everywhere along the road of life there are people who gaze from the bonfires of their hearts into the trembling eyes of the lost, and say, “Come with me. I will show you the way.”
This man in Brest did as much for my wife, dogs, and me. Whoever you were, thanks, man.
Soon we were in Poland. Because one guy took the time to say come with me and I will show you the way.
===Eric Richard Leroy===