Flight from Poland
None were as surprised as Sarah-Jane, Andreea and I when Björn arrived at the Engström home in Stan's black Mercedes jammed full of his personal items. Andreea had been keeping watch from the kitchen which afforded a good view of the driveway, as we had all been doing in turns for thirteen long and anxious days. Though we had resolved not to worry about the mysterious circumstances that had led everyone but Stan to be absent from Raj at the same time, or even Björn's sudden departure to Poland for that matter, by the tenth day our resolve was beginning to weaken. What if this dragged on for weeks or even months? The sight of our car had at first confused Andreea who though it was just a local visitor until she saw the distinctly black Polish numberplates and made the connection.
"It's Stan!" she had suddenly cried as she saw the dark figure of a solitary driver, and then checked herself.
We all came rushing into the kitchen. By the time the car had drawn up close we could all see that it was Björn and not Stan. Three Królewiec hearts sank as the two Engström women picked up courage and made a beeline for the front door.
"Björn!" yelled Sonja as she rushed out the door not even thinking to put any shoes on and threw herself on her husband, to be quickly followed by Misha who did not want wet socks and took the trouble to put some boots on. They almost dragged him into the house, ripped his coat off, and led him into the living room where he collapsed into his favourite armchair. He looked shattered. Sonja and Misha knelt on either side of him waiting with baited breath for the story we had awaited for so long. He looked up at me and the others, and gave us a reasurring smile.
"Don't worry, girls, Stan will be here in a couple of days."
We all breathed a huge sigh of relief and embraced one another. The strain had obviously been greater for Sarah-Jane than we had imagined for she broke down crying, with relief more than anything else.
"Do you mind if I go and freshen up before I tell you everything?" asked Björn who really did look a wreck. Everyone nodded as he disappeared to shower and change his clothes. For ten minutes we just sat or stood without saying a word - we had exhausted all of our own conversation, and now we wanted only to hear Björn's tale.
Björn returned, sat with his two wives on either side of him, asked how they were doing, and then looked towards the rest of us. He sat silently for a minute, seemingly not knowing where to begin.
"In a few days your whole family will be moving to Sweden...," he began but was interupted by Sarah-Jane giving a sudden cry of joy.
"Right on! Right on! I had a feeling something like that was going to happen!" she cried.
Andreea agreed: "I've not know Stan as long as you two but it seems to me that when he starts toying around with ideas and sounding us out for our opinions, it usually means he is at an advanced stage of planning already and is just waiting for the rest of us to catch up."
"Exactly," Sarah-Jane continued. "The moment he started talking about moving to Germany and out of Poland I was sure something would happen soon..."
Yes, the pieces had now begun to fall neatly together, but not all of them.
"But why all the secrecy, Björn? Why not just move us? And where in Sweden are we going??" I now wanted a hundred questions answering.
Björn looked at me sympathetically. "You know, Stan has a lot of enemies..."
We knew. There must have been thousands of Catholics and occultists in Poland who would have given anything to silence him.
"He has known for a long time that you would all have to move from Poland because it wouldn't be safe any more. Most of you assumed that there would be no danger until the beginning of the Tribulation. You probably thought you would all then pack your bags and head for Kadesh-Ephraim in Norway. But he knew that the danger would come much sooner than that. In fact, he was surprised when the Lord told him to start getting the ball rolling..."
"How long ago?" Sarah-Jane enquired.
"Two years ago," answered Björn. "Stan started getting the most terrible dreams of his family being murdered in Raj. They lasted for many nights until he begged the Lord to tell him what he was to do. He didn't want to move from Raj, any more than you did. But he knew time was short and to move such a large family safely and with the minimum loss of worldly goods, that he would have to work quickly and secretly. Nobody could know what was going on."
"What's happened to Raj?" Andreea was worried.
"Sold," Björn assured us, "and all your personal effects are at this moment in a storehouse in Germany."
I just smiled and smiled until I couldn't stop laughing. Andreea and Sarah-Jane were perplexed.
"Why are you laughing?" asked a bemused Misha.
I just shook my head in disbelief, still laughing: "Stan had us all fooled. But better than that, he fooled the devil. I've never met anyone like him. He's always one step ahead of the enemy."
But we didn't, of course, know at that time that at that very moment he had been arrested. I wouldn't have been laughing if the horrible truth had been known.
Björn picked up the story: "I helped Stan pack Raj up. Everything is gone now and the new owners should have moved in today. Stan had one suitcase and the Fiat. He should be on his way here right now and if he set off this morning he should be somewhere mid way between Lublin and Szczecin."
Björn saw from the look in our faces that we wanted to know more about the immediate future.
"You're wondering where you're going from here, aren't you?"
We nodded vigorously, our eyes almost popping out of our heads.
"In about a week's time you are to take possession of a very large farm, or what we call a herrgård, a kind of Swedish baronial house, in Kopparbergs län in central Sweden. It overlooks Siljan Lake. And we're moving in with you."
Sonja and Misha glanced at one another excitedly.
"Not only that, but two other Swedish families are joining us too. There are three properties, in addition to the herrgård which we're moving into. It's got everything we need for a community. You're going to love it."
I began to think of the Swedish winter and shivvered.
Björn laughed: "Don't worry, Hélène, Swedes build strong, sturdy and very warm houses! We lead the world in insulation and environmental management. We're going to produce our own electricity as well thanks to a fast flowing river that runs through the property."
It all seemed too good to be true. "But how are we ever going to be able to afford it?? We'll never be able to buy it!" I said in disbelief.
He laughed again. "We've already bought it!"
"What with?" snorted Sonja. "We're penniless!"
Björn was really enjoying the advantage he had over us all.
"We got a bridging loan from the bank and put up our three houses as colateral..."
"Three houses?" mused Misha.
"Yes, that's right, dear. Our house, the Nilssons' and the Åkerstedts'. With the money obtained from Raj we shall actually repay the bridging loan. The new owner is going to turn it into a hôtel and conference centre thanks to all the apartments in it. "
The penny seemed to drop for Misha and Sonja but we didn't know these names at all. Then I started having apprehensions about sharing communal life with families we'd never ever met, before rebuking myself for being so selfish - here Stan had laboured to save our lives and all our belongings and here was I complaining about conditions before even meeting the people concerned. I was momentarily disgusted with myself - why are we humans always so negative and mistrustful, and especially of those we have every reason to trust? My thoughts went back to Stan.
"When will we know that Stan is safe?"
"Of course, I forgot, excuse me. He will telephone us when he gets on board the ferry and outside of Polish territorial waters. He promised me he would do that.
"Oh, the poor others," worried Andreea, "they must be having a terrible time all by themselves. I hope Anna will be OK."
We all worried about Anna who was spiritually the least mature of Stan's brides. We weren't sure how she'd hold up in a tight spot.
"Stan has given all your sister-wives precise instructions on what to do and where to go. They were all sent packages with money, tickets, and travel documents," continued Björn. "He's been working on this for months. I'm afraid this house is going to be bursting at the seams in a couple of days..."
All three of us beamed at the thought of being reunited with the rest of the family.
"How are you going to ferry us all around?" I asked glibly. "There are quite a few of us."
Björn grinned. "Anna and Stan are arriving at Ystad from Swinemünde. They should be meeting in Szczecin. Then they'll drive up here in the Fiat. Kasia and Alexei are flying to Stockholm from Kaliningrad. Kryztina and her kids are meeting up with Isabel and Stanislaw, Jr. in Bratislava and will then fly to Stockholm. Suszana will fly from Copenhagen to Stockholm with her four. Anna and Kryztina are close to the border. Kryztina and Isabel should be safe by now. The weak links in the chain are Stan, Anna and possibly Kasia."
It looked a complicated operation but I couldn't imagine how the girls would be in any sort of danger so long as they had left Lublin in time. I pictured in my mind some assassin coming to Raj to put a bullet in us or something. I was more concerned about them getting lost in Sweden.
"They all have detailed itineries and know what to do. Once they're in Sweden they can call us here if there are any problems."
I was relieved to hear that.
"Once everybody's gathered here, I'm hiring a bus to take us all up north to our new home."
"Has it got a name?" asked Sarah-Jane.
"Yes, it's called Kadesh-Naphtali - the Holy City of Naphtali," replied Björn.
It all sounded very grand.
"Can you drive a bus?" wondered Sonja. "I thought your licence only allowed you to drive light vehicles?"
Björn grinned. "Haven't you forgotten that I used to drive heavy lorries in the military, Sonja?"
She had, as had Misha. The military had done him a service after all.
"But don't worry, I'm not driving it up alone. The Åkerstedt's eldest son is coming up with us and will drive it back after we've been deposited. Don't forget we'll have three cars as well."
Misha and Sonja were understandably worried about Björn's health. After a lightening trip to Stockholm to collect us, then a trip to Poland almost without a rest, a strenuous ten or so days packing up Raj, a long car journey to Jönköping, including dodging the Mafia in Polish Pomerania, and now he would have to collect our vast brood from various locations and then ferry the lot of us up to Kopparberg. And then we would need to settle in before the harsh Swedish winter set in. This was surely one of the physically most demanding times of his life, together with the anxiety of having two pregnant wives. But Björn was committed, and that is what attracted Stan so much to him - and ultimately to us too.
Kryztina, Suszana, Isabel, Kasia and the kids all arived safely in Stockholm, though Kasia had been delayed in Kaliningrad because of a holdup in the issue of a visa for Sweden. Nothing eventful had happened in their journeys though they had naturally been anxious not knowing what had happened to everyone else, and especially Stan. Björn had to ferry them from Jönköping station in four car loads. Our reunion was joyful indeed as we shared with our sister-wives what had happened. The only two missing now were Anna and Stan who were expected the next day.
The Engström home literally bulged with people strewn over the floor, sofas and beds. Poor Sonja and Misha had never cooked for so many visitors before. It was Tuesday, Stan and Anna would be there on Wednesday, and the bus would arrive the same day. We would leave for Kopparberg early on the Thursday morning and hope to arrive the same evening or the following day. We wished to be reasonably settled in time for the Sabbath.
Wednesday came but no telephone call from Stan - we stayed up late waiting to hear his voice on the telephone on the ferry. If only he had bought a mobile 'phone. He was always saying he would but didn't think we could afford it, and especially not after an influx into the family of three more souls. By the time Wednesday afternoon arrived we were really worried.
"Supposing Stan and Anna don't arrive today. What happens to our plans to relocate to Kopparberg?" I asked, concerned.
Björn was silent for a while. "We must relocate to Kopparberg no matter what. We have no choice. We are due to take possession tomorrow evening and all your family possessions are due to arrive from Sassnitz on Sunday, so we have to be there. The money from the sale of Raj is due to be automatically transferred to Borlänge tomorrow and we are expected to pay for the herrgård on the Friday. Whatever happens, we can't let this fall through. You can't all stay here. No, we have to follow the schedule. If Stan and Anna are delayed, then I am sure they will drive straight up to Kopparberg. And Stan has my mobile number so as long as he can reach a 'phone we'll be able to stay in contact."
Sarah-Jane wasn't sure but after a brief discussion we agreed that we should move. Misha suggested that she waited for Stan and Anna at Jönköping but we could see no point in that.
"What about all your things? Have you sold your home yet?" asked Andreea.
Björn grinned again. "I'm coming back to pack up next week. Some friends of ours are taking over the house..."
"Who??" asked Sonja, curious.
"Carin and Bertil Högström from Ulricehamn," answered Björn. pleased at how he had organised everything so well. "You know, the Seventh Day Adventist couple."
"Oh, yes," and Sonja nodded.
"What about the price?" Misha butted in, always worried about the family purse.
"Don'y worry, honey, we aren't selling it, only renting it to them."
Misha was surprised: "But will there be enough for the Kopparberg estate?"
Björn showed signs of irritation. "It's all taken care of. We can go through the finances later when we've moved. It's all worked out. Just trust me. Stan is the owner and we shall be renting our new home from the rent we get here."
I was relieved. Stan and Anna were on my mind now and not the finances of the Engström house.
The afternoon wore on and evening came. Only the hustle and bustle of a crammed household containing nine adults and nine children stopped us from brooding too much. With still no word after supper, real concern began to mount.
"Something's wrong," Sarah-Jane said. "I just know it."
"Maybe Stan and Anne will just turn up later this evening - you know how melodramatic he likes to be," Andreea suggested.
Yes, that was true. I remember when he had turned up at Warsaw Airport to bring me to Raj when I was expecting to take the train. Stan was certainly capable of such but not, surely, when we were so anxious - and he surely knew we would be. He was not, above all else, cruel. No, I could not believe Stan was playing a cat-and-mouse game with us. Something was wrong.
"I know," broke in Sarah-Jane, "let's call Anna's home in Szczecin....Stan was supposed to meet her there, wasn't he, Björn?"
Björn frowned. "They were supposed to rendez-vous at the central bus station in Szczecin. Stan never went into Anna's home because of her parents. Then they were due to drive to Swinemünde along the E14 viâ Goleniów and Kamin. So all we could establish by ringing her home would be that Anna just left."
"That's better than nothing," said Kryztina. "Couldn't we then ring the Swinemünde ferry service too and find out if they were on the boat? Does anyone have Anna's parents' 'phone number?"
Isabel did. Björn gave the go-ahead to 'phone. She dialled and waited a few minutes. No answer. After a quarter of an hour she tried again. Still no answer. We started getting apprehensive.
"Maybe she's gone out?" suggested Suszana. "We could call back in an hour or so."
"But we don't have time," said Sarah-Jane, who was always the easiest to get flustered. "Couldn't we call the ferry service, Björn?"
"Give me the number and I'll ring," said Kasia hurriedly.
We were all getting jittery. Björn went in search of his ferry ticket and returned a minute later.
"Here - at the bottom," he said.
Kasia called. She started talking in Polish so Sarah-Jane, the Engströms, and I were out of it. After some excited chatter Kasia's countenance dropped as though she had been carrying a lead weight.
"What's happened? What's happened?" Sarah-Jane butted in.
"Shhh!" snapped Kasia, putting her hand over the mouthpiece, and carried on talking for a short while. She put the receiver down. The look on her face told us everything.
"Stan and Anna never got on the ferry," she said. The room fell silent.
"What do we do now?" I began to feel like Sarah-Jane all of a sudden.
"Pray, of course," came in the confident voice of Andreea. "What else can we do?"
We all knelt on the living room floor in a circle, joined hands, and Andreea led in prayer. We somehow always deferred to her for we all accepted that she was the family's prayer warrior. Misha and Sonja joined us while Björn went to help Maria and Władisław take care of the smaller children who were running wild on the upper floor. Andreea's prayer was short and simple - a plea for guidance and a request for protection for Stan and Anna. Afterwwards she spoke.
"I think you should try ringing Anna's home again, Isabel," she said.
Isabel picked up the receiver. In seconds she was speaking to someone at the other end and our hearts began to race - hope returned. Isabel was excited and was brief.
"Her father drove her to the bus station at the prearranged time but Stan never turned up. They waited two hours and then her father gave up. He went back there three hours later and she was still there but by then the ferry had gone so Anna went home with him."
She paused to catch her breath.
"Then a friend came and picked her up about three hours ago and they drove off."
"Where?... WHO?" Sarah-Jane was a bundle of nerves.
"Her father didn't know. But she took her bag with her so she has left. He doesn't know where she's gone. And he didn't seem that interested. You know he's an alcoholic..."
We knew. We had got nowhere. Stan hadn't turned up and Anna had driven off with someone we didn't know to some unknown destination. Though it was no real consolation, we at least knew that Stan and Anna were not on their way.
"What do we do?" cried Kasia, whose turn it was to lose her cool.
Björn reappeared in the room. "We carry on praying and we leave as planned tomorrow morning. There's nothing more you ladies can do. Get an early night and I will try and get in contact with some people I know in Poland. The moment I have any leads I'll wake you up and tell you. But we've got a long journey tomorrow."
He spoke seriously and with an authority that assured us that we were in safe hands. We all agreed. But getting off to sleep was not easy with so many other anxious souls all cramped together. Perhaps in Kadesh-Naphtali we might have a clearer atmosphere in which to think. But on the other hand we would be farther away from civilization and the convenience of an airport or a railway station. But we had two cars and shortly the other two families would arrive. They say there's security in numbers. And was I glad to have the Engströms with us for moral and practical support. Events had bound us even more tightly together and soon we would be sharing community life. This small comfort lifted the dark cloud that had come over us. Had Stan been injured? What if he had been killed? The inevitable but unanswerable questions rolled by. In the end weariness claimed me and I drifted off to sleep.
This page was first created in 2002
Last updated on 5 March 2009
No part of this work may be reproduced or stored on any
medium without the express permission of the publisher.
Violators of this copyright will be prosecuted
Copyright © 1987-2009 Chavurat Bekorot
All Rights Reserved | Alle Recht vorbehalten