Once upon a time in my Grandfather's village

The inspiration one does always find in history and art and love

The time stopped here

The few houses next to

an ancient limestone quarry

the cobblestones

and market square

with folk craft stores

and fresh fruit and vegetables

all produced by few families

on the top of the hill

their majestic catholic church

its wooden floors

certified with age


The Turks attacked

but people remembered them

as they burnt their previous village

they left back in Croatia

so they welcomed them this time

and the domes were erected

on their beloved church

they would do anything

just to survive


The Austrian kings

didn't bother them

their quarry was useful

to built the Hapsburg palace

and they let them be

taxes free


The Germans passed through

at times of the big wars

and the village welcomed them

as the foreign lodgers

who soon move on

They killed few men

and took their women

it was the price to pay

to keep the village safe


The Russian came after

and never really left

They killed more men

and took more women

leaving behind unwanted offsprings

and many haunted memories

Then peace came

but was it really peace?


My grandfather was a train master

seeing all the horrors of the war

passing through his train station

soldiers, jews and prisoners

thirsty and starved and bayonetted to death

and he could do nothing

but stood there

whistle and wave them off

something that haunted him

to the end of his days.


The last train came in the 1968

with some party officials

all the way from Moscow

to make him their representative

he stopped his clock then

and waited when his communist superiors

had forgotten them again

the village was too tired and old

for propaganda

and people lived their lives

like before


Nothing changed

in the village again

except one angry

Gypsy woman

climbed ut the belfry

of their beloved church

and set fire

to the ropes that held

the bells in place,

you may ask why?


Her name was Valeria

most of her family

imprisoned and died in camp

long time back

her husband and his brothers

still roamed the country side

with their fiddle and their cymbal

playing on every wedding

or the funeral

but one day she left them go

and stayed behind

settling in next to the quarry

in the abandoned cottage

keeping to herself

out of the village folk ways

and their suspicious

unwelcoming eyes.


My grandfather used to take

long walks troubled by war memories

and his wife long sickness

that took over her body

and mind

it was all those soldiers raping her

he thought and she knew

but nothing was said

sometimes he painted little watercolours

of nearby woods


Valeria spotted him there once

and dropped her basket full of berries

examining every inch of him

his white moustache

and his satchel with the strap

crossing his chest

where he kept his brushes and his paints

he looked up

and his eyes caught hers

she felt her face flush

they both had been

in their late fifties

back then.


He must have recognised her

she thought

but she never seen him before

Valeria held her breath

when she approached

attracted by the vivid colours

on his easel,

" I can mix the colours for you

out of this," she pointed at berries

just like gypsies do.


"Thank you, dearie.

You are a vision come true.

I've never seen a lovelier woman."

He nodded his head

and smiled wildly.


Valeria stood still for a moment

and suddenly she was gone

He picked up her basket

and decided to follow her

but when he approached her cottage

Valeria had stung him with chestnuts

and curses so he left

leaving the berries and the painting

on her doorstep.


"Valeria was a beautiful girl,

when gypsies stopped by

for the first time."

The old men

remarked

with a wink

when he mentioned

his encounter

the next day

in the village pub.


Most of the young men

didn't believe it

having never seen her young.

Over the years

everyone was accustomed

to seeing her grimace,

her sneer

and hearing her curse

before being pelted with rocks.

And the villagers payed her back

with the same hand,

she had made herself

an easy target of contempt

by being so contemptible.


For years they exchanged love letters

leaving them in the hollow of a tree

on the clearing they first met.

She kept mixing up colours of him

and he supplied her with the small gifts

of his watercolours.

Once they met secretly

under the ancient church

on the moonless night

and he took her to his train station

she found it dull and grey

so he painted the inside of it

in the bright colour

and hanged the portrait of Valeria there

in dismay of everyone.


Valeria heard about it

and came unnoticed

mingling about the gossiping

unimpressed villagers

she had seen her beloved painter

now the important trainmaster

issuing the ticket

for the mayor's wife

clasping her hands

in his,

ever the flirt

oblivious to the effect

he was having on her

he seen her blush

if only for a moment,

in her mind wondering

what those big hands

of his

can do.

Valeria heard him

collecting the coins

with his regular:

"Thank you, dearie.

You are a vision come true.

I've never seen

a lovelier woman

than you."


It was that night

she climbed up

the church tower

the villagers could never

forgive her

for cutting down

their beloved church bell

in a rage

she left the village

and her little cottage

straight after that

never to be seen again.


She never heard

what the train master

said to his wife that night.


"Maybe I was selfish,"

he tried to explain,

"There is a special connection

I have found

late in life

in that free spirited gypsy,

somehow she made me understood

my mere playing with paints

could become more,

my new focus in life

being able to create

and make something

beautiful

at will."


His sad sick wife sighed,

as he kissed her hand

as in forgiveness,

"You are my wife

I always take care of

with my every breath.

She was a woman

who challenged me

with her every breath

and changed me forever

in the process."


She never heard what he said

to the village folks

the next morning when they came

to tear the painting down

from the train station wall.

"I didn't want to offend any of you,

neither Valeria or my wife,

this painting I needed to make

of Valeria

for her,

for you,

and for my wife too

it belongs to all of you

if you destroy it

I leave this village too..."


"Why her?

Why did you waste

your talent

your time

on her?"

People shouted at

"Aren't there

more respectable

more important

ladies in town?"

The Mayor's wife asked.


"I have to,"

My grandfather said,

"I am inspired by her.

I love her."


And there it was.

As easy as that.

My grandfather felt

a load lifted from him

the moment

he uttered the words,

that instant

he could breathe again.

Life was easy after all,

or was it?


What is the fact

the painting of Valeria

remained

at the train station wall

even the angriest of them all

could not argue

with the power of love.









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Comments 16 comments

Jodah profile image

Jodah 7 months ago from Queensland Australia

An amazing story Beata. Thank you for sharing. The photos were also stunning.


DDE profile image

DDE 7 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Wow! Incredible! I like the photos and great expression here. Thank you.


Sulabha profile image

Sulabha 7 months ago from Indore, India

Very, very touching. Keep it up.


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 7 months ago from Western Australia Author

Thank you my fellow hubbers thank you from the bottom of my heart:)


grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 6 months ago from Philippines

I love the fact that you wrote history in prose. It was so easy to visualize what you wrote line for line, and to feel sad at the points where you intended such emotion to be evoked. I love the piece so much, I had forgotten to look at the pictures.


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 6 months ago from Western Australia Author

Thank you grand old lady that I am sure is very grand but not old at all not in her heart:)...B


junko profile image

junko 6 months ago

That was so interesting. I Felt pain and sorry in the beginning and the power of love with all of it's imperfections in the end. Well done .


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 6 months ago from Western Australia Author

Thank you Junko, I guess that is real life:)


junko profile image

junko 6 months ago

It's a good thing that trouble don't last always .


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 6 months ago from Western Australia Author

Nothing is perfect and nothing lasts forever maybe change is our salvation and of course love:)


Jodah profile image

Jodah 6 months ago from Queensland Australia

Beata, please check out this forum, and let me know if you are interested.

http://hubpages.com/literature/forum/135479/call-t...


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 6 months ago from Western Australia Author

Thank you Jodah I will:)...B


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 6 months ago from Central Florida

Beata, you tell such beautiful stories with your poetry. This one is laced with history, love, intrigue, contempt, wonder, forgiveness, and acceptance. Not many poets can bring all those emotions to light in one piece.

Absolutely beautiful!


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 6 months ago from Western Australia Author

Thank you bravewarior, you are very kind, this is the only way I can write I guess:) Some people like it others not, even hubpages sometimes have problem with my poetry because you can not fit it in any box:) But that is who I am, I do not fit in any box, I am just me, take it or leave it, I guess:)


JoyLevine profile image

JoyLevine 5 months ago

Such beautiful pictures! Lovely and written so well.


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 5 months ago from Western Australia Author

thank you Joy, very kind of you:)

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