A Forgotten Anniversary: Or, a Story in the Cold War through the Nations' Eyes.
Somewhere near Sopron. 1967.
The morning was still young, if rather cloudy when a small house finally came into view. Thankfully, there were no patrols, guard dogs or searchlights anywhere in sight. In most other circumstances, Austria would have found the effort of getting out here, let alone slipping through the Iron Curtain unseen much more than a mere inconvenience. Still, he thought. This must be worth it. Today was, after all, the 8th of June. Has it been that long since the Ausgleich?
The day had been planned in advance for some time now, the Nation knew as he turned towards the cottage. But whether it was over radio, personal telephone lines or even handwritten notes, everything had to be done in utmost secrecy. Granted, it helped that his aide managed to keep the authorities in Wien off his schedule. Or that I've gotten them off my trail. He allowed himself a faint smirk, bemused by the fact that his issues with direction actually helped. Or perhaps they were paying more attention to that odd new record from the Beatles. England must have gotten peculiar for such music. Still, although tensions were no longer close to starting World War III, what he was doing and about to have were violations of not only his so-called neutrality but also the very nature of the Cold War itself. East vs. West. Capitalism vs Communism. Me against her
Taking a deep breath, the aristocrat walked up to and opened the front door. Calmly walking down the hallway, he couldn't help but notice just how much of the house was just as he, or rather they left it, right down to the simple yet elegant furniture. It was very tempting to think, apart from a battered-looking SOKOL radio and some odd tools on the table, just how much hadn't changed. Even though the world around it has. It almost seemed like a miracle that the small resthouse he and his former-wife shared had survived two Great Wars and those damnable Communists. All that was left now was to look for her.
But just as he was about to turn towards the rest of the cottage, there was an audible sound of a rifle being raised from right behind him. Even though the Nation had centuries of discipline and experience behind him, it still wasn't enough to keep back a startled gasp, which nearly caused his glasses to slip off. Only to hear a strangely familiar chuckle.
"Hold right there, "Herr Edelstein!" the figure barked in accented German, though her voice sounded as playful as it was intimidating even if somewhat coarse. "Don't think you can escape from this one! Now put your hands up where I can see them."
Austria's shock turned into a faint sigh of relief upon putting two and two together. "It appears you have caught me by surprise," he replied calmly in formal Hungarian. "Though what would happen if suppose I don't follow your orders?" He could hear her chuckle, which sounded tired yet still with a hint of song.
"Why simple, dear. First of all, you'd really have to shape up your skills a bit. I can't believe that you would slack off on something like this! But more importantly
" Her voice grew gentler as the sound of a gun dropping to the ground echoed. "For being here, there is a very special penalty just for you."
The Nation finally turned around to find a figure in a drab military uniform that did nothing to hide the traces of scars and bruises left over from her fight against Ivan. Nor did it hide the fact that her people were officially Communist. That she looked even thinner and wearier than before only served to make matters more uncomfortable. Despite all the diplomatic mending between their governments, the Iron Curtain with all the ideological meddling meant that it could all go to hell at a moment's notice. And if the aristocrat were honest, a part of him wanted to leave right there and then. Instead, he shook his head and smiled. You never cease to amaze me, my lady.
"I'm willing to pay for that, Meine Liebe." Roderich slowly moved forward only to be brought in to a soft kiss. After God knows how many times they had done this over the years, the woman's scent still seemed to feel fresh, even if only for a short while. As they parted he could see a gentle, familiar yet enigmatic glint in her green eyes, the flower in her hair reacting almost in unison. It was silly, they both knew. Officially, they had long since been divorced. And yet here they were, still feeling the same affections they had only a century ago.
After a few moments, Hungary broke the silent air between them, a gentle though bittersweet smile on her lips. "I've
missed this, Roderich. To think that we could pull this off
"I know," he whispered as he held her in his arms. "Alles Gute zum Hochzeitstag, Elizaveta."
Roderich spared no expense when it came to expressing himself through music. The piano before him seemed to come alive has he began playing entirely from memory. It wasn't so much one suite but a medley of pieces, shifting ever so subtly from Mozart to Beethoven, Chopin, Lizst and Brahms. Each part was as different as the long-dead composers who first made them. Yet they all managed to come together in a way that only centuries of practice could pull off. The melody was soothing to his ears. And glancing for a moment at the lady sitting beside him, so was it to her. Although something about her eyes seemed somewhat troubling for a moment before all his attention went to flourishing the final section, which was coincidentally a waltz they knew all too well.
"That was wonderful," Elizaveta sighed as the last notes continued to echo about the room. "It really has been a while since I've heard you play so spontaneously. Is it true by the way that you have a new music festival in Salzburg?"
"Ja, my dear," the Nation replied back, letting slip a soft smile. "It was Herr Karajan's idea to start off such a new Easter tradition. And frankly, it might be more to your liking than even my performance. Perhaps one day I could take you
" He suddenly stopped upon realizing what he had just said. Such things are no longer possible anymore. "Forgive me. I should have been more conscious of our present
The smile on Hungary's face vanished as she stood up, even though her voice remained gentle. "Don't worry yourself too much about it. I know how tempting it is to act as though there isn't a blasted stand-off going on out there. Then again, it's been hard getting any reliable news lately. Heh...I'm doubt even your so-called neutrality is any consolation in all this mess."
The bespectacled aristocrat shrugged as he stood up to meet her, his mind trying to think of something else to say. "I'm sure you must know the price paid for gaining peace. But I could only imagine what is really happening to you or your Warsaw Pact. And Prussia
I mean, East Germany. How has he been coping with this?"
I'm surprised you still give a damn about him. Not many even care to remember now." There was a spiteful if weary tinge in her voice right then. "His bosses got him under lock and key again. You've probably heard about those recent additions to the Berlin Wall by now. And to think that damn thing started out so small
" He could hear her cringe in frustration, yet something in it sounded more like despair. "They keep saying that this is merely the status quo until our so-called victory. That everything's just fine! But tell me: what's normal about having an Iron Curtain? Or having my people live with the Party's antics day in and day out?! It pains me
we all deserve better than this!"
Austria could only nod in agreement. She had every right to be upset over this whole situation. She, just like that pompous albino, may have been reduced to being little more than Ivan's puppet. Though then again, most Nations were either on America or Russia's beck and call these days in this blasted Cold War. And as much as his leaders would deny in public, he too was a toy in this game of world politics. None of us should even be in this situation at all. They were great powers less than a century ago, only to not just fall from glory but also be torn apart. Almost as though we were fated to be divided. But what could they do?
Finally, the Nation closed his eyes as he took Elizaveta's hands in his, which seemed colder and more calloused than before. Glancing outside, he noticed the sun beginning to set. "It's not like we could just break the Curtain right here and now, ja?"
"Roderich, te bolond," she smirked bitterly. "We both know our leaders would have us kill each other before they let us rebuild our Empire." The enigmatic glint in her eyes returned as he looked back. "Don't get me wrong. I'm still grateful for what you've done for my citizens. But just as much as I would like us to be together again
as a family
they remain first. And I'll do everything to make sure they see the day
"I understand." Carefully, he moved closer to the Magyar, lifting one of his hands to stroke her face. To his surprise, she didn't move away. "It will take time. Surely the Iron Curtain is not bound to last forever. But for the sake of our peoples, for us
we have to find a way through this. And perhaps one day, we may not have to pretend being separated."
For a moment, it looked like Hungary was about to say something, except the words never came out. "You always did have a way with words," she replied softly. "I'm sure we can think of something together. Just
promise me that you'll live up to your end, right?" She simply smiled, almost as she did during their wedding so long ago before holding him tight. This was after all, the same spirited lady he fell in love with despite all that transpired. Nation. Fighter. Friend. Wife. Lover.
Yet even as he took her in a deep, passionate kiss, with each lingering moment growing harder to pull away, Roderich knew at the back of his mind that their time together would not last for much longer. Sooner or later they would both have to part. Neither of them had any real idea when they could see each other next, whether it was a week or years from now. But no matter
At that small cottage, there were no minders, soldiers, ideologies or pestering superpowers in the way. The Cold War could burn out for all he cared. As long as we're together
"Boldog évfordulót, Szerelmem," she whispered wistfully as they finally parted. For a moment, it looks like there were faint tears in her eyes. "Indivisibiliter ac Inseparabiliter. Here's to another hundred years."
The smile he returned to her was soft. "As do I, Meine Liebe. As do I."