English Edition, Part five
It was one Friday and Rose’s day of duty. She liked her job with the Blue Nurses, looking after a group of people living in the part of the city where she also dwelled. It was seven years since she had started the home nursing work and her run was from Hamilton to Merewhether and from Stockton to Bar Beach on alternating days. With these people in her care it was for Rose much more than a duty, a bond that normally finished in a friendship.
She always had a smile for them and took to them things they loved to have, their favourite magazine or a few cakes to enjoy with their tea. Parts of her duties was to help them to have their showers and change into clean clothes, check their blood pressure and ensured they were taking their medications regularly.
Some of this old people lived alone and she organized for them other services, like meal-on-wheels or transportations for excursions to parks, shopping centres or respite care.
On that particular Friday Rose had a new patient on her list. She noticed he lived in the Newcastle Hill area, near Bar Beach.
“He is not far from where I’m living. I’ll make him last on my way home.” She thought.
It was mid-afternoon by the time she arrived at his house in Lemnons Parade. The door was ajar and when she knocked a voice from inside said, ‘Come in please, I’m waiting for you.’
An old man was sitting on a chair and listening to Beethoven’s music. The shutters on the windows were closed creating a pleasant cool and relaxing place.
“I’m Ludovic Spillberg, thank you for coming.”
“I’m Rose from the Blue Nurses. How are you Ludovic?”
Rose smiled reassuringly back. But this smile hid her inner agitation seeing again this man. Was he a ghost of the past? Ludovic had suddenly wakened in her memories that she though forgotten. How long she saw him last? He had resurrected to give her more grieves. Apparently his memory hasn’t been buried for ever. His ghost tried to re-enter into her life and felt a chill that descended deeper into her soul. But she was brave and tried her best to hide the loath she felt for him.
‘Could that be possible?’ She thought ‘Could really be him resurrecting after fifty years? Or am I wrong? What I’ll do if he also has recognized me. I have to gain his confidence. I need time to find what’s hiding behind his past and why he’s here. If he is who I think, I’ll make him pay for those crimes he committed in the past. The blood of innocents is still fresh on his hands. Mother was one of those women, lined up in front of the firing squad under his command.
‘Mother has brought him back and asks for revenge. I must vindicate her, and the other women. Time for justice has come!’
Rose’s mind was in turmoil, but she controlled herself bravely, without giving away her real indemnity. Her voice was calm and she spoke to him with the usual gentleness.
She asked him, “Which part of Germany are you from Ludovic? How long since you live in Australia? Do you have any close relatives that can take care for you?”
“No, I’m a Swiss from Zurich. I came to Australia in the fifties at the time the hydro-electric scheme started the Snowy River Project. I was an expert in explosives in a similar job in my country and they put me in charge to set the charges and detonating them in the perforation of the tunnels. That had been my job for several years.
“But you, Rose? You haven’t told me yet from which part of Italy you come from.”
“My parents were Italians. They had a cane farm in Proserpine and that’s where I was born. I learned my Italian from them at home. I used to speak in this language with them, but I used to speak English with my late Italian husband.”
“Sure Rose. But I have the impression that you are too Italian for someone who has born here.”
“Well yes, in many ways you are right. I kept alive my parent traditions and I still use their old lifestyle, and don’t forget my husband was an Italian, so I kept on the family tradition particularly on what regards food. I love the Italian way of cooking. But that’s where my Italian connections finish. But do you know that I equally know how to cook some German delicacies? But that doesn’t make me a German, does it? One day I’ll make some strudel especially for you, Ludovic. Or better, I’ll cook krauts with pork sausage, as Germans do. That to prove how good a cook I am, but that wouldn’t necessarily prove I come from there. Have I tempted you with my culinary capacities? ”
“I’m not surprise about your cooking talents, Rose. But you haven’t told me yet from which province in Italy you are from and your real name.”
“My name is Rose Pirona and I told you that I was born in Queensland. You have to accept it in the same way I accept that you are Ludovic Spillberg from Zurich.
“But then is nothing that really I need to proof. I am here only as your nurse and your friend. Isn’t any need to know from where we come from or what is in our past lives. I believe everyone is entitled to have their own.”
“Sure, you’re right there. ‘As today, yesterday is already part of the past, either as a bad nightmare or a good dream. Tomorrow is only a mirage, a vision into the future and in our today we are the creators of it. We mould it in the way we like. Today is always the most important day in our lives, and it gives us, if well spent, the magnitude and the reason to live. When it is lived well it returns the joy of good memories for the morrows, and today will bridge our lives into the future in a vision of hope.”
“Yes Rose, I accept what you say, the past is relative and not living any longer, let us live for today, and let us start it with the beginning of our friendship. Let today be the creator of a better future. In my past I have only a few good memories which I treasure. They are the times of youth and love. Most of the other memories are episodes that I’d prefer to forget, erase once and for ever from my mind.
Rose left late that afternoon. They had a long conversation with a cup of tea, but she tried not to talk of the time gone by. She only hoped he had forgotten those days when their lives crossed each other.
Why my past that I tried to hide for so long is resurfacing again? Why have I had to meet again Ludovic? He is the German Commandant responsible for those crimes committed in my home town, but sweetly he tries to convince me of the contrary, but he can’t convince me. He can deny but I gained some proofs of his indemnity. He laid to me. How can he explain the burned legs or the scar running down the back of his neck? While I bath him, I recognized those indelible marks, the same I saw in the past. I wish to know how he would explain them when the time comes I ask him. But has he recognized me? Why was he so persistent asking where I come from? Why fate sent him back to me?”
That evening, at home, Rose was under an enormous mental stress.
It was difficult to clearly place the events in the right place and come to a conclusion.
Hot flushes rose followed by chilled shivers over her body. It was exhausting trying to find a proper solution to such huge dilemma.
“I want him to pay for his crimes.” A voice urgently cried in her.
“Yes, I want him death, he has a debt with the society. But why destiny chose me? Why Mother and those other women are asking me for their revenge? And how possibly can I do it? I want him to pay his wrongdoings but how can I take justice in my hands and kill him? I haven’t sufficient proof to accuse him of these war crimes. I know, in front of the local law it’s only my word. Who else in this country will stand by my side to support such claims?
“Sure I can report him to the authorities, but it will take years to get to the core of the matter. They will have to investigate oversea, where the execution took place, and again, how many in those Alpine villages will stand as witnesses against him? It will take years to make the machine of justice move against him. There is not enough time left in him. He is too old and will die of natural death in his own bed well before he could be deported to Italy.
“Finally what will happen to me if I accuse him publicly? Doing so I will expose my past life, and what a different me they will come to know! It is the secret of my life that I have tried to keep since I settle in this country. What they will say knowing who really was I?
“I have hidden that secret even from my own daughter. What will she think of me?
“If I decide to do it I have only one way to make justice. I have to be the executrix of his death sentence. I have to do it coolly in a way that it looks like a natural cause. But on that day and at that moment he must know why I’ll take his life in my hands and why I’m doing it. He must come to know that justice has always a special day of paying off.
He must know that those women are crying revenge inside me and one of those is my mother. I’ll tell him that they have begged me, asking to vindicate them. I’ll let him know that they have brought him back to me because it was written in the book of fate. Because that is God’s will and He has chosen me to restore justice.”
By this time Rose was feverish. She argued within herself telling that those thoughts were wrong. Killing, doesn’t matter how pure the reason is, it’s always a crime and therefore would make her a criminal. She will sit on the same pedestal as the Commandant at the time he ordered his troops to shoot those women. No one in this world has any right to kill someone even if the pretence of justice is used as an excuse. Her common sense told her that.
She had to ask God. She had to find from him what she could do to stop those anxieties in her. She had to be able to calm the ghosts of the past till a solution is found.
“It’s better I do some penance and pray to God. He will indicate to me a way to satisfy my urge of justice. Yes, that exactly what I’ll do. I‘ll rise at dawn, I’ll pray the rosary and then I’ll go to the first Mass in the Catholic chapel behind the city mall. I’ll pray again and take Communion and then I’ll wait. God in His great omnipotent wisdom would let me know His wish.’