Last night as we were walking home from the theatre, we stopped by an old lady who appeared to be struggling to walk.
“Do you think we should help her?” said C. We looked back at the woman, who was leaning against the wall, her handbag and a bag of apples in one hand.
We did what any normal people walking home from the theatre would do – we offered her our arms and carried her up the street.
It became increasingly clear, as she asked us for the third time where we were from, that she was not suffering from dementia (although, she may have been), but was pretty well sozzled. “My daughter,” she said again and again. “Knows five languages. I know none!” She said this in a mixture of English and German.
“Sounds like you know 3 languages,” I quipped in Croatian.
“You speak Croatian?” She came to a stop and leaned against the wall of an apartment block. She looked at us with incredulity blazing from her eyes. “Why do you know Croatian? Where are you from?”
We again repeated that we were from Australia, “iz Sydneya” and that we we studying Croatian at the university.
She went on at length about the beauty and great distance of Australia and then, as we watched, helpless, she slid slowly down the wall and collapsed on the ground.
“So much better than here,” she said, as we hoisted her to her unsteady feet again. “Our economy. The communists. Russia! Ruuuusssssiiiiijjjjjaaaa!!!!!”
She clutched our hands and looked at us with wild eyes, eyes which had been carefully made up that morning and which still blazed with youthful fire. “The Communists. Russia!” she said again, grabbing our hands tightly. “Blood! Blood! You must learn!”
We walked her to her front door, said goodbye and went home to wash our hands and have a beer.
Thank the gods that’ll never be us…