In the Lion's Den
Stan had found himself sandwiched between two officers in the back of the police car as he was whisked away into the night.
"What's this all about?" he asked the officer to his right. "What's the charge?"
The burly mustached policeman remained silent
"I have a constitutional right to know where I am being taken and for what reason," he insisted.
The officer to his right glared at him. "Just shut up and no harm will come to you," he snapped.
Stan's worst nightmares were suddenly being realised but in his heart he was thankful that his family were - or should by that time be - safe out of the country. Stan looked keenly at the man who had spoken to him and understood that he would get nowhere by arguing, and that physical resistance was not only futile but might be just the pretext they were looking for to shoot him for "attempted escape." Although a decade had passed since Poland had been liberated from communist rule, he knew that the same cliques still ruled, and especially in the rural areas. Memories of murdered Polish priests and other dissidents were still fresh in his mind.
It soon became clear that he was not being taken to Lublin. They were headed east down the E18 towards the Ukrainian border. At least this was an open motorway - he feared dark country roads most of all for this is where enemies of the state had been dispatched before. 'Krasnystaw' flashed by on the road sign, there were bright lights again, and then the motorway again.
"Why east?" he thought to himself. "There's nothing east of Lublin - they're all small towns." It didn't look good at all. His one wish was to go west, to be nearer his family, and instead he was disappearing into the depths of Galicia.
The officers had shown him no warrants and for the first time he began to wonder if these mightn't be police officers at all. Satanists and right-wing Catholics alike were after his blood and it occurred to him that his enemies might be posing at police officers. There was no radio intercom, no walkie-talkies. Indeed, he wasn't even handcuffed. None of the three men said a word.
But how was he to make a break for it? He was sandwiched between two strong men and he himself was not the muscular type. If they were Satanist or Catholic assassins he would have to play along with them and not give them any cause for suspicion that he might have rumbled them.
Zamosc. What if this was the last big town before they turned off to wherever they were planning to take him? He would have to make his escape soon. If these men weren't bona fide police then his best bet, were he to escape, would be to get across the Ukrainian border. He had friends there, but it would be a long walk to L'viv. Or he could try and make it across Poland. They hadn't rifled his pockets yet and he had money sewed up in his coat pocket. But his passport was in Szczecin! If he tried to make it into the Ukraine, he would need his passport! His suitcase he could abandon - all he needed was his coat and his right shoe. But how would he get to Szczecin from the Ukraine? His enemies would surely be lying in wait for him, though would they know where he would try to escape to? If the police were involved - and they might be - crooked coppers were not unknown in Poland - he would be a fugitive from the entire national police force. If only he had brought his passport with him!
He began to pray for his deliverance: "Lord, save Your servant from the hands of wicked men. Show me a way out."
They were now in Zamosc and had come to traffic lights. The car stopped. How could he get out? What if this was the last stop? Suddenly, half-a-dozen motorcycles drew up alongside the police car.
"Hell's angels, out here??" he thought to himself. They were drunk and in a rowdy mood. One of them began taunting the driver, laughing at the clapped out Soviet-era car they were using which were notoriously useless in chasing criminals who used the latest Western vehicles that could outpace anything the police force could put onto the road. They began to jeer and thump the car - these people had no love for the law. The officer on my right began to shout at them and violently gesticulated at them to move off or they would be arrested. The big burley boys in their leather jackets just laughed the more. They were in provocative mood and knew their motorbikes could outpace the police Muscovitch. They were too drunk to care in any case.
Two of them began rocking the car, yelling and swearing at the 'policemen'. The one on his right rolled down his window and drew his revolver:
"If you f****s don't p***** off I'll blow your brains out," he spluttered angrily.
The leader feigned shock, knowing full well that a police officer wouldn't shoot him point-blank. The moustached one told his accomplice to calm down and that he shouldn't make any trouble:
"Be quiet - we don't want to draw attention to ourselves. The lights will soon be green" and ordered him to wind the window down."
Now Stan was certain these weren't policemen but he was in no position to do anything with a revolver drawn. One of the yobs started taunting the man with the revolver again, sure that a policeman wouldn't fire on him but baffled as to why no attempt had been made to arrest him. He started gesticulating obscenities again. The lights changed to amber but one of the bikes was directly in front of the car. The driver hooted but the yob just grinned.
"DRIVE!" yelled the moustached man, as the car suddenly revved up and sent the motorcyclist sprawling on the road as the car leaped past the traffic light with screeching tyres and lurched down the main street.
"Turn right!" yelled the moustached man, "head for Szczebrzeszyn!"
Within a few minutes they were in the countryside and off the main road, which was what Stan had feared the most, yet this deviation did not seem to have been a part of the plan. There were now witnesses to them but perhaps the fake cops would figure that since the gang was drunk that they wouldn't be credible in a court. It had been late at night and there had been no predestrians about - maybe they would chance it and try and kill him.
But Stan's guardian angels were working full time. From out of the dark six bright headlights came racing towards the Muskovitch - the Hell's Angels were out for revenge against the hated cops. The chase was on. The car raced at full speed through the village of Zawada, tyres screeching as it swerved around sharp corners. The bikes had caught up and were playing a cat and mouse game.
"Hit the brakes when one gets close enough," growled the thug on Stan's right.
But the bikers were wise to them - three shot ahead and disappeared into the night.
"What are they up to?" yelled the moustached man, but the driver was too focused on his driving to answer.
Suddenly there was a crash as a heavy object flew through the front windscreen. The driver swerved but stayed on the road. There were now four lights behind - obviously one of the bikers had raced ahead, dismounted, and thrown a heavy object through the car.
"What are those f******s going to do next?" growled the man on Stan's right. "Let's finish the job here and now!" as he menacingly pointed the revolver in Stan's direction.
In a flash there was a terrible crashing sound as the car hit something on the road and went spinning out of control, landing upside down in a ditch. Stan found himself on the floor between the font and back seats badly bruised with a few minor cuts but no serious injuries. Lights shone into the car which was surrounded by the bikers. The driver was out cold, his head gashed and bleeding. The two thugs in the back were dazed and cut up. The leader ordered them dragged out. Three of the bikers set on them and brutally kicked them until they were senseless.
"What do we do with the bozo on the floor?" said one of them pointing to Stan.
A debate ensued. Stan collected his wits and realised that he had to convince them that he was on their side or a similar fate might await him. What would they do to the three unconscious cops? If they killed them, then Stan was certain to have the same fate.
"Hey, thanks you guys, you've saved my skin!" he said with a big grin on his face. "We'd better get the heck out of here before people get here from the town - they're bound to have heard the crash."
The lights of Szczebrzeszyn were visible from the crash site. Though still highly inebriated the leader of the group was in sufficient possession of his senses to realise that they would have to get a move on before witnesses turned up on the scene.
"What about these three?" growled the leader, "they've seen everything!"
"Forget them," shouted Stan, "they're not from these parts." He remembered that they were in Mafia country - the Mafia were always in the border regions involved in smuggling. Stan got an idea: "My boys will take care of them - they'll never dare show up here again."
"You know Tomaszewski?" queried the leader, looking astonished at Stan.
"Sure," said Stan bluffing, "I'm one of his boys."
The leader looked alarmed.
"It's OK," reassured Stan, "you guys saved my neck. I'll put in a good word for you if you'll just get me out of here before more cops arrive. I'll get the boys on these three bozos and finish them off. You've done your share."
The burly leader was anxious to save his neck and not have three homicides on his head, and also wanted to be on good terms with Tomaszewski, whom Stan assumed was the local Mafia boss."
"Just say the place, man! Hop on!"
"Get me to Rzeszów and we'll call it quits," yelled Stan as he leaped on the leader's bike and clung on for dear life. Motorcycles were not to his liking one bit but they were his guardian angels that night. They drove Stan cross-country half the night. By the time the first dawn had come they had reached Przeworsk on the E22 motorway. The bikes pulled up just outside town.
"Hey, man, we don't want to be seen out here - too open, and we're almost out of gas."
Stan knew that he would be pressing his luck if he insisted on them taking him further.
"No big deal, guys, I'll take it from here," and dismounted.
"You remember to say nice things about us to Tomszewski, OK?" said the leader.
"No problem. Consider it done," said Stan forcing a grimace.
"Just tell him the Zamosc boys did him a favour!" he yelled as he revved up his bike again.
"Will do," shouted Stan as as they pulled away, and waved at them as the bikes headed northwards again and into the countryside again. Within a minute they were gone.
Stan was freezing after the long journey through the night in the open air at breakneck speed, and was still suffering from the aftermath of shock. He needed above everything else to get some rest. Prezworsk was only a mile away. He wanted to find a hôtel and just collapse on a bed but he knew the countryside outside Zamosc would be crawling with police who would be making enquiries in villages who would have heard noisy motorcycles passing through. That would lead them inevitably to Prezworsk. So long as he could get well clear of Prezworsk he would be OK because the police would soon learn that the bikers had headed back along the direction they had come, or along some other route to Zamosc.
He tidied himself up as best he could. His cuts had stopped bleeding thanks to the cold air and he looked in reasonable shape. Struggling into town and to the railway station, he boarded a train to Kraków and fell asleep in a first class compartment where he hoped to have a little more privacy. He praised the Lord for his deliverance and for the money in the lining of his coat. Now he needed to get to Szczecin and recover his passport in order to get out of the country.
He awoke as the train rumbled into Kraków. He knew the city well and felt safer already. But still he did not know who his kidnappers were. They certainly weren't police - they must have been Satanists or some extreme Catholic group. Then he remembered his suitcase in the police car- that would eventually lead the real police to him and create a whole load of problems. They would find that Raj had been sold, that his family had all moved, and were nowhere to be found. He did not know that Anna was still in the country hiding out in Szczecin. But he had coverted his tracks well. All his wives were out of the country and there would be no trace of any of them for some considerable time. He had taken the precaution of leaving a forwarding address with the new owners of Raj, a postbox number in Białystok registered to a dummy address in Hajnówka in order to slow up any police search and throw them of the scent. He figured that any Satanists or militant Catholics would be on his trail too and it was as well to have them chasing all over the place as well. He had deliberately told acquaintances in Lublin that he was moving north, and dropped hints about Białystok, so any search for him would focus in that area. Meanwhile he was in the south and heading west - away, he hoped, from any trouble.
He booked a ticket to Szczecin in Kraków, reserving a sleeper to himself, and picked up a new set of clothing and a suitcase in a market and changed into it in a public toilet, bought some food, and boarded the train heading northwest.
Stan remained in the sleeper for most of journey so as not to be seen by anyone, disposing of his old clothes in Katowice where the train stopped for ten minutes. At Wrocław he bought a razor and shaved for the first time in 24 hours and tried to trim his hair as short as possible.
The journey to Szczecin was uneventful and he managed to catch up on much needed sleep, but he was still weak and trembly after his ordeal. In another station toilet he ripped open the heel of his right shoe and recovered the locker key - No.347 - changed into a new pair of shoes purchased in the market in Kraków, disposed of the old ones and went in search of the locker.
Björn had done his job well. There were his passport and other effects. He breathed a huge sigh of relief. He could now escape from Poland! Within the hour he had boarded a bus and was across the German border heading for Stralsund. At Pasewalk he dashed into a telephone booth in the Stutchmann's Hôtel and tried to ring up Björn's home in Jönköping but there had been no answer. He did the same at Anklam but with no success. He had to somehow tell his family that he was alright.
By the time he got to Greifswald he remembered the date and that they must already have left for Kopparberg and kicked himself for being so forgetful. He raced into the Deutsches Haus, dived into a telephone booth, and tried Björn's mobile 'phone but it was turned off. He was recharging it! He only just caught the bus again as it started pulling out of the town.
He checked into the Hôtel König von Preussen in Stralsund upon arrival and tried again.
"Björn Engström," came the familiar voice and Stan's face lit up.
"Björn, it's Stan..."
"STAN!!" yelled the voice of Björn, and the excited sounds of his wives in the background made his heart melt. "WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN??? What's happened? Everyone's been so worried!"
"I know, I know, it's a long story. Just tell me this: did everyone make it to you OK?"
"Isn't Anna with you?" asked Björn with a worried sound in his voice.
Stan's heart sank: "I never made it to the rendez-vous in Szczecin and we never met. I assumed she would go on without me."
Björn explained how Anna had panicked and gone off with some friend and that they hadn't heard from her since.
"She must still be in Szczecin," he thought out aloud, "and is hiding out somewhere. She wouldn't go back to Raj and Szczecin was the only other place she felt safe..." Stan's voice trailed off.
There was a clamouring at the Swedish end of the telephone and Kryztina was soon talking.
"Stan, Stan, darling, are you alright? What happened to you?"
"I'm fine, I'm fine, it's a long story. I'm safe in Germany and making my way to the ferry at Sassnitz. Where are you?"
"We're in Kadesh-Naphtali, and it's just wonderful - it's a dream! How long before you get here?" Kryztina wanted him back with the family as soon as possible.
"As soon as I have found Anna. I can't come without her..."
There was excited chatter on the other end of the 'phone.
"Hi, Stan, this is Isabel...."
"Wonderful to hear you again, I do miss you..." said Stan.
"Listen carefully. I've spoken with Anna's parents," said Isabel, "and left a message with them to say that she should ring us on Björn's mobile. Give me your number in Stralsund so that we can keep in touch. We're praying that Anna will get in touch with home again, but you know what a panicker she is..."
"I know," answered Stan, and gave Isabel the hôtel number. "I'll wait here until I hear word. It's too risky for me to go back into Poland. Anna has a Swedish visa but needs a German one. I daren't risk her taking the Swinemünde ferry. Tell her to get a day visa to Germany from the consulate in Szczecin. I'll be waiting here."
"OK," replied Isabel, "I'd better get on to that straight away. Know that this is the only 'phone here at the moment - the 'phones here haven't been connected up yet so we may go off line to charge the battery up every now and then."
Though we all wanted to speak to Stan we knew that other things had to be done first. We went into prayer for Anna, so that she would go to her parents' home. She never did.
Anna had taken refuge with an old friend and stayed in his flat near St.James' Church not too far from the River Oder. But she had felt uneasy there, and moved out after only one day and sought out another old friend by the prompting of the Spirit. But she had felt uneasy there as well and was preparing to move out only after six hours when she suddenly felt the urge to pray. As she knelt on the floor of her girlfriend's apartment to pray what she should do the word "STRALSUND" kept coming into her mind again and again. Not knowing what this meant, she asked for an understanding, and then remembered that Stan had once visited a place in Germany by that name when he was looking for a replacement home for Raj. She had been dead opposed to moving to Germany at the time when Stan had announced he had found a place on the island of Rügen. She went in search of an atlas and found one amongst her friend's meagre collection of books.
"Stralsund, there it is!" she had exclaimed. "Does the Lord want me to go there? Could Stan be there? Maybe he couldn't come to Szczecin and had to go to Germany." But Anna was afraid. She was not the adventurous type and not one to act on an impulse. "Perhaps it was my imagination," she thought to herself, "and maybe it wasn't". Anna had never had many of what she would call "spiritual" experiences and regretted that she had not devoted as much time to prayer before as Stan and the others had encouraged her to do, for she might then have had a better discernment of the Spirit.
"What do I do? What do I do?" she said in desperation to herself. "Oh, can't someone help me??"
She put the atlas back on the shelf and collapsed on the sofa. "Lord, can't you give me anything more definite? she mumbled, and sank into a depression. She switched on the TV and looked at some dreary commercials and was about to switch the set off in dispondency when a German Travel Agency's ad appeared offering trips to beach resorts in Rügen. A picture of a German castle flashed onto the screen:
"Visit a piece of old Scandinavia in Germany. The fortified island of Dänholm with its lofty gabled houses, towers, and Gothic Churches make STRALSUND an ideal place for a romantic holiday..."
Anna's eyes nearly popped out of her head - not only was Stralsund there on the screen but also mention of Scandinavia - surely this couldn't be a coincidence? Her mind was in a whirl and though the triple witness of the Spirit would have been enough to have got the rest of us moving, Anna still hesitated.
"Where would I go there?" she thought to herself. "What would I do?" She grabbed her Bible, desperate for something more, and it opened up at John 16:7 - "It is necessary for you that I go away". Her mind was even more in a whirl - go away? Leave Szczecin? Go to Stralsund??
Why it is we always turn to Bible verse flipping when we're in a panic? I did it myself sometimes. Stan had warned us against it as it was a form of divination.
Anna began to pace the room in agony of mind.
"Oh Stan, I wish you were here! You'd know what to do!" she said out aloud.
It was 3 p.m. and her friend arrived home from work.
"Hi, Anna," she called out. "Take a look at this," as she thrust an advertisement which she had just collected from her mailbox in the lobby. "This looks a good deal - look how cheap it is!"
Anna couldn't believe her eyes. It was a cheap weekend bus trip for two to the island of RÜGEN in Germany. It was enough to convince her.
"Do you need a visa to visit Germany?"
Her friend Irena looked puzzled. "You thinking of going, then? Hey, let's go together! That'd be great!"
"Do you mind if I 'phone the company up?" she asked, almost desperate now.
"How do I get a visa to Rügen?" she blabbered, almost tripping up over her own words.
"You get it at the border crossing," came the reply from the travel agent.
"Is it that simple???" cried Anna, and put down the receiver without even thinking to say goodbye or thank-you. Her friend was thoroughly confused.
"Irena, I have to go. Can't explain. Can you come with me down to the bus station?" and before Irena could answer she had rushed for her bag.
It was Friday afternoon and the bus was due to leave for Stralsund for a week-end trip within the hour. Panting for breath Anna, rushed into the ticket office, flung a wad of złoty notes on the counter, seized the ticket from the stunned ticket clerk, and shot out towards the bus. Gasping for air she then flung herself onto the first step of the bus, promptly getting jammed in the door to the astonishment of bus driver, passengers and customers in the ticket office who were peering out of the office window at the astonishing sight. Irena was the most shocked of all as she watched her friend wave goodbye in a disheveled condition to her from the bus.
As she sat back in the bus amidst the drone of gossipping passengers she suddenly realised that she had behaved in a way that was completely uncharacteristic of her. The timid, shy unsure Anna had, in a few brief moments, been transformed into a ball of determination and energy, and had surprised herself. She saw, in a brief moment, of what she was capable of when aroused to passionate belief. It may have taken several witnesses to animate her but once convinced she was unstoppable.
And it was that same spirit which had brought her to Christianity and subsequently to polygamy. She had, at first, been completely indifferent to the principle when she first heard about it through Isabel, though not in an entirely honest way.
She had been working as a letter-sorter at the main post office in Szczecin where, sad to say, the opening and pilfering of unregistered mail was not uncommon. Indeed, it was an epidemic throughout the whole of Easteren Europe in the post-communist countries. It was so well organised that mail suspected of containing money or valuables was routinely scanned in the security x-ray machine which was, of course, operated by less than honest staff too. Though Anna was not involved in that racket she had on two or three occasions succumbed to the temptation to open mail, especially that coming from Western Europe and North America which were usually rich pickings.
One day a package had arrived in the post office from Texas and she had simply been overwhelmed by temptation and slipped it into her bag. Having previously only opened two letters that had not contained anything important, this was a major step into crime and one for which she still felt deep pangs of guilt. She had been disappointed upon slitting open the package at home to find it contained no more than Christian literature which was bound for an evangelical Church in Poznan. She had been about to trash the lot when a pamphlet entitled, "How to Get Right with God", caught her eye. She had reached for it out of curiosity and had started reading it, thinking to herself that she might as well get some benefit out of her ill-gotten gain. The simple Gospel message had melted her heart and convicted her of her sin. The impact had been devastating, the message coming only minutes after she had committed the first real criminal offence in her life. That evening she repented of her sins, received Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour, and wrote a letter to the pastor of the Church at Poznan telling him what she had done and how Christ had found her. She had put the stolen pamphlets in an envellope and had posted the whole on to its rightful owners together with the letter.
Within the week she had received a letter back thanking her for her honesty and offering free forgiveness for her theft. The pastor had invited her down for a weekend and she had accepted. In that space of time she was taught the basic Gospel message and began a life of discipleship. Upon returning to Szczecin she joined a small house fellowship which diligently nurchured her in the faith and her Christian life began for earnest. It was there she had met Irena and the two had become firm friends.
Her association with Isabel came through the Królewiec family's mail order firm from which she had ordered some products for the Christmas season. She had been curious to find a Christian tract in the bundle of commercial literature, something the Królewiecs had done from time to time if they felt inspired to do so. The subject matter of the tract had puzzled her because of its unusualness. Its author was Norwegian and had the title, "Do you Celebrate Christmas for Yourself or for Me?" Turning the page, she read: "If You Celebrate Christmas for Me, Why Don't You Obey My Commandments?" The second title had shocked her, but more so as the article went on to expound the Ten Commandments. She saw that there was something wrong in her group's teaching especially in regard to the Sabbath so she had written back and asked for more information.
Isabel had responded and started a correspondence with her, sharing with her the Messianic Israelite message. Isabel had then been invited up to Szczecin to speak to the house fellowship. Three had responded, Irena amongst them, including one of the young men but he had lost interest after a while. Irena and Anna were eventually excluded from the House Church as heretics and had continued alone. They subsequently heard the message of Christian polygamy and whilst both women had accepted the principle, only Anna had shown any interest in actually living it. Her first visit to Raj had been enough to convince her that this was what she had wanted and so she had joined the family and married Stan.
The bus reached the German border within half and hour and the visa problem was arranged by the tour company. The bus sped along the route that Stan had been on the day before. She was tense with excitement, not knowing what to expect, but being completely convinced in her heart that Christ wanted her in Stralsund for some reason.
This page was first created in 2002
Last updated on 5 March 2009
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