The night has passed, and the next one, and the one after that… Then a whole year, a century… My whole life has vanished like a last drop of morning dew on a sage leaf in the garden of my grandmother. The passing of time was as inevitable as in cheap, silent, Hollywood films: fast, sad, and persistent.
From his very birth Mr Majevski behaved like an old-school gentleman. Good-natured, as every true Russian soul must be, his politeness was to the best Parisian etiquette, his education was to the precision of the finest Viennese waltzes. He was appropriately nurtured into believing that the only way to truly deserve the respect of others is to show a true respect back. His wealthy Russian family, who immediately after he was born moved to Belgrade, gave him everything, yet denied him one thing only – a right of choice. He was madly in love with a beautiful, but, alas, poor girl. The love of his life was Miss Olga Hofman, an old blacksmith’s daughter, who grew up in the heat of her father’s workshop, educated by the sound of his hammer and anvil. As much as she was not to be given to him, he was never allowed to have her either.
“I was in love blindly, persistently, eternally, like a white swan. My first love was my only love, and my last love. I had barely turned twenty-one when I decided to steal Olga and elope with her to the ends of the world. I was even ready, if the world turned out to be flat, to jump off the edge with her into a void of the universe. But, the war has brutally robbed me of my happiness. One day, a train took my little Jewish girl away. With a yellow star ribbon tied around her arm, she was lead to a sad, sudden, and cruel one way journey!”
Mr Majevski stopped being a gentleman and became a wolf! He became Mr Majkovic! Instead of Chopin’s gentle music, he was now listening to the fierce screaming of machine guns, and the ferocious drumming of bomb blasts. Fighting the people who stole from him the only reason of his existence, he was at the same time fighting his own self. Out of the war he emerged as captain, then became a major, and after a while, a colonel. He retired as a general! He remained in active military service for one reason, and one reason only – to be able to find his Olga!
“I have never abandoned the idea that she is still somewhere out there, waiting for me to rescue her. Not even when I was told that after she entered this German concentration camp, her trail has gone completely cold. Not even when I found out that surviving Hofmans have relocated to Israel, and that on any list of Hofmans there was no mention of any person by the name of Olga. Not even when I turned the world upside down, hunted high and low searching for her. Not even when I realised that my world doesn’t even exist anymore, not even when I still stubbornly refused to stop my stubborn quest for her.”
General Majkovic stopped being a general, because other people have decided so. The new government didn’t appreciate his devotion to his job, his diplomatic skills, his eighteen-hour-per-day self-imposed working shifts. They did not appreciate his tenacity to work “till death stops him”, as he used to say himself. He was retired by an army decree, and since he had no immediate family, no possessions, no property (all the money he had, he diligently spent travelling the world), and not even next of kin, he was put into an old people’s care home at the outskirts of Belgrade, in a suburb of Bezanijska Kosa.
“I have spent my days surrounded by people who in their lifetime either had everything or had lost everything. I had – nothing! Only my dream, and a simple determination to at least dream it until the end. But then, one morning, at the door of my room, hesitant to enter, an elderly lady appeared. Once fashionable now shabby hat she was wearing was concealing half of her face. The other half was decorated by a blonde tress that only my Olga had. A lock of her hair that always had a tendency to run towards me.”
Retiree Majkovic didn’t want to wake up any more. Not even when he was told that his dream is almost at an end, and that his strong wish to be reunited with his one and only was more powerful than the destiny itself. The same destiny that made his Olga, after being liberated from the camp by the Red Army, escape to Moscow, where she survived by working as a laundress and a seamstress. In Moscow, where she was everything except someone’s. In Moscow where under a false name she saved every hard earned penny to look for her beloved Majevski. She couldn’t have imagined that on the other side of the world he was waiting for her! Wishing to spend her last days in the town where she was born, determined, old, and tired Jewish lady decided to move into an old people’s care home at the outskirts of Belgrade, in a suburb of Bezanijska Kosa.
“Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I would be waiting for her my whole life. But, she was my whole life, my life sentence, my fate, my curse and damnation. I do not know whether those tears that never leave the depths of our eyes can be counted as cried. Only that last morning, the first and only morning with her I’ve realised that persistence is the only thing really worth in this life. In that split second, when I thought I had seen her at the threshold of my retirement home room, in this dream that continually fights to become reality.”
Reward for his persistence lasted a few seconds at most, yet during those last moments a gentleman, a warrior, a general, and a pensioner Majevski saw his whole life – he saw her! With a smile on his face, while his thin, white hair was gently being stroked by an aged hand of Olga Hofman, he finished his beautiful dream. His eyes remained forever closed. Persistent and happy!
Less than a week later, on the modest, white gravestone, next to his name, her name was carved in too…
(The story of “Mr. Majevski’s Dream” is just part of my new book … and the book is, like the rest part of my old life…)
* Special thanks to Srđan Perović for translation