Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Calgary, Alberta
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A dear friend passed away in the Haitian earthquake. I reproduce an article he wrote for a Canadian Polish / Jewish journal. Wilczek was a Catholic, but was all about dialogue and understanding between peoples and nations.
I hear his voice in this writing and it is a comfort to me.
Magic moments from the journal of the Canadian consul in Bratislava.
by Guillaume Siemienski
From the Web editor
The author, whom our Foundation members know as Wilczek Siemienski , is at present First Secretary and Consul at the Canadian Consulate in Bratislavia. He is a member of our Foundation and sent me this text for publication on our Web site
There she was, sitting in our reception area, all alone, all distraught and close to tears. Yet another Canadian... lost in space... turned back from the Czech border for lack of the necessary visa! She was on her way to Prague with friends and suddenly without any forewarning was stopped and told that she had no entry into the Czech Republic. So, unexpectedly and with a minimum of personal effects she found herself in Bratislava. It was the same old story... she had no idea that a visa was good for only one entry and had unwittingly used it up. Now she couldn't go back. What could she do? Could the Canadian authorities not secure passage for her to Prague? She was, after all, a Canadian citizen and expected that we could make things right for her. Annie was a wonderful kind of Canadian citizen, a Sephardic Moroccan francophone immigrant, married to a Pole and living in Toronto. A perfect illustration of the new Canada! Globalisation at its best! But of course this was of no consolation to her. This was Friday afternoon, all her things were in a friend's apartment in Prague and she was due to fly back to Toronto from Prague on Sunday morning!
Dealing with our stranded Canadians often requires both a great deal of psychological dexterity and even more creativity. First, one has to make them understand that Canadian representatives abroad do not have a magic wand, which can solve any and every problem. Then there is the important job of calming them down and trying to help them contemplate their predicament with a measure of objectivity and detachment. So you're stranded... yes ...well, for a while anyway... but you are healthy aren't you? So you have a credit card? Great! We know some inexpensive hotels... Yes, now you must go to the Czech embassy as quickly as possible and apply for your visa... but remember we are powerless and it can take up to five days... Yes of course we will call the Czech embassy and intervene on your behalf... Yes of course we will try to explain your predicament to them... who knows maybe it will only take three days...
So after having soothed and admonished Annie; after having sat her down and served her a cup of coffee; after having tried to convince her to take advantage of her unexpected stay in this wonderful town and to go to the National Gallery, to the opera and to the symphony; after having begged and pleaded with the Czech embassy I left the office to go to a meeting. For some strange reason, which I can't really explain, on my way out, I stopped and looked her in the eyes and said "Remember! Nothing happens without a reason".
Two days had gone by when I unexpectedly met Annie on Hviezdoslav Square in front of our office building. She was a different person, smiling and totally content. I wondered what could have happened that had made such a difference...
After having left our office and having returned to her hotel Annie decided to heed my advice and went exploring. She visited the Jewish Museum and inadvertently connected with Bratislava's Jewish community. The sun was very low on the horizon when, unexpectedly, she was invited to celebrate the Sabbath with the Rabbi and his family. Then on the next day the Rabbi's wife took her to visit the mausoleum of Chatam Sofer, the greatest Jewish scholar and holy man of the nineteenth century who lived, worked and died in Bratislava. Pilgrims from all over the world come here to pray on his grave and Annie was so unexpectedly given the opportunity to do the same without having planned it. She was a very religious person and I could see that this incident had moved her deeply. What had started off as a very unpleasant predicament had turned into a deep spiritual experience. Annie was a happy person. She was planning to go to the opera and to the gallery and oh yes... the Czechs promised to deliver the visa within three days. Her flights were rebooked and everything fell back into place. She looked at me knowingly and said "You know Mr. Siemienski, nothing happens without a reason!", gave me a hug, wished me a warm "Shalom" and went off on her way. I stood there totally delighted and felt that I was now ready for Christmas.
Purveyor of Awesome since 1958.