The Rabbit's Last Stop

Collectors, soldiers, poets and one rabbit...

Warsaw main station

feels

like

Russian castle

still

tall windows

let in little light

grey walls

covered

in ornamental tiles


I bumped

into an old Englishman

as we enter

together

the castle gate

looming above us

like a triumphal arch


What is he doing here,

in the capital city

of post communist Poland?

I wonder

travelling myself

all the way here

from Australia

it takes more

than a day

to reach Moscow

so plenty time

to find out.


The compartment

is warm and cosy

enough

the wheels click and clack

the calming sound

of coffee cups

clinking

on the table

make you feel sleepy


The old Englishman

smiles politely

as he stretches his long legs

on the seat

opposite mine

and without any delay

he is telling me why

he is travelling

on the same train as I

I guess

because we are

the only two foreigners

around.


"I am going to pick up

a bicycle,"

he whispers to me

excitedly.

He just pulls my leg

or he is crazy

I think to myself,

alarmingly.


"It was manufactured in 1902,

it was premier model

of its era,

dubbed the Rabbit

because of its swiftness

and high

wide handlebars."

He continues

ignoring

my suspicious eyes.


I nod and think,

I am not interested

so I change the subject,

"Warsaw used to be

a part of Russian empire.

Tsar Nicholas I

built the first train line here

to the border of Austria and Hungary."


"All of the bicycles from that era,"

He chips in,

"were manufactured exactly there

in Dalmatia,

at the request of Franz Ferdinand,

Austro-Hungarian emperor

and avid cyclist."


"So that is the Rabbit

you are going to find in Moscow?

I ask and he smiles:

"It was a gift from an emperor

to a prefect judge in Belgrade

and stolen from him very same night."


While we waited

for our train

to be adjusted

to a wider gauge

on the Russian side

he told me a story

of the unlucky 1902 model

that belonged to the emperor once.


A German immigrant

lost it in a card game

and later that night drowned.

The new owner was a mail carrier

who died in his mistress's bed

the next spring

with a bag of mail

resting at their feet.


The bicycle was left unclaimed

in front of the woman's cottage

then the First World War erupted

and her house was set ablaze.


Long after the war

the bicycle was dug out

by a group of Gypsy children

who took it back to their father,

a tinker.


He fixed the old bicycle,

but before his children

could learn to ride it,

the Second World War erupted

and the entire family

was taken away by German soldiers

who confiscated the bicycle

and presented it to the children

of a well-connected family in Budapest.


All children of this family also drowned

in the Danube few weeks later

when a retreating German army

shot holes in the family's pontoon

to slow down the approaching British.


Afterwards the distraught parents

offered the bicycle to the Russians

who victoriously invaded their city.


"So this is where the Rabbit

is now, yes?"

I look at the Englishman

lost in his thought.

"All one sees

in Russia

is forest

and endless sky

clearings

uncultivated fields

cloaked

in winter

with snow

not a settlement

in sight,

or a soul."

He sighs suddenly.


The coffee cups

have been replaced

by the glasses of hot tea.

One Russian babushka

enters our compartment

with an young grand daughter

disabled at the first sight.

Her arms and legs shake

uncontrollably

and she tries to say something

we can not understand.


Babushka tells us in Russian:

"Slushaj, slushaj,"

and we listen,

finally I can catch the girl's words:

"Spasiba, ljublju teba."

The Englishman asks me,

what she said?"


"Thank you, I love you,"

I translate.

He shakes his head

and babushka explains,

my grand daughter

has some neurotic disease

no one can explain,

her parents are dead,

so we travel from family to family

to give us some food

and roof over our head,

I want her to remember these words

when she stays alone in this world

when I am gone.


Soon the train whistles

entering Moscow,

the Englishman pats the girl on the head

and shakes the babushka's hand

while turning to me,

"I guess I come to the right place

to find the unlucky rabbit from 1902."


And before I can say a word,

he is gone.










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Comments 4 comments

Jodah profile image

Jodah 10 months ago from Queensland Australia

Oh how I love this combination of story/poem/history lesson and social/political commentary. Beata I was captivated by every word of this train journey. I loive it that railway lines are referred to as threads. I worked in the railways for 17 years and adore train travel. Thank you for sharing this amazing hub. I also did not know there was a city/town called Archangel. I wrote a hub called "Lulu and the Archangel" :) Love the beautiful pics too. Sharing.


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 10 months ago from Western Australia Author

Thank you Jodah, still trying to upload the images the internet is so slow I hope I will get there eventually smile:) Yes, Archangel is on top of Russia where Finland and Noway borders are:) It is city in the delta of the Northern Divina River through which the first European traders entered 'Muscovy' and to which British ships delivered food to Russian starving people on the WW2. It is 17th century merchant Russian city:)


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 10 months ago from New Delhi, India

What a wonderful story expressed beautifully in this poem! Your display of pictures syncs so well along with your expression of words.

Thoroughly enjoyable--Thanks !


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 10 months ago from Western Australia Author

Thank you my fellow hubber:) Thank you so much:)...happy it was useful in some little way in your world...B

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