A mythical age
Before the Great War (the First World War), Germany, which had established itself as a State, spread itself towards the East in order to annex to its State the Polish city Poznan, renaming it Posen.
Even though the annexation was committed forcefully, we have to admit that the administration and management of that Germany could not, even slightly, be compared to the State that it will become later: the Nazi Germany, which is too little to define brutal.
That administration, the Kaiser one, was more civilized. Every citizen had the right to live their own life as they wished.
There were taught two different languages: the Polish one and the German one, of course, as it was the occupying State.
There were both a German and a Polish delegation at the Town Hall. The Polish delegation had also weight on the public and the administration decisions. This age was called Belle Époque. Everything gave hope for a nice world, where science and different technological developments let imagine and dream in a wonderful and extremely stimulating future.
World War I had not broken off yet, therefore the human kind had not yet had felt horror at the atrocities that were about to explode.
A materialistic age
Such was the age of the Belle Époque: parties (feasts), songs, Operetta, Gran Operà; the end of the colonization of that part of the world considered uncivilized; the great expectations offered by technology, which led to think that everything could be dominated; music at its highest peak. In this scenario, people had nothing to do but enjoy themselves (obviously, we are talking about the highest class, the rest of the population was not taken into consideration). Life truly seemed to be able to flow in this constant magical atmosphere …
Nevertheless, the current mentality of that age was founded on great presumption and superficiality. It was believed that God did not exist, since man – with the countless inventions that characterized that period – could very well live without Him, or so they thought.
There was more: they tried to give an explanation to everything that was considered a mystery and to everything supernatural. An explanation was given, an objective and scientific explanation , or at least an attempt was made: the triumph of reason over everything, even God. According to such mentality, man would evolve into something greater.
Probably that was the reason why Darwin’s theory found such fertile ground in this social context, until it became a scientific dogma. This happened because the mentality of the age wanted and asked for such a theory. If it hadn’t been Darwin, someone else would have proposed it, thus bringing confusion over the vacant, incomplete, contradictory and presumptuous human knowledge, namely, a valueless culture.
Just think that Mendel’s theory, officially recognized as right, states that when a couple procreates, each of the members passes to the would-be child 50% of their chromosomes, but only those which they themselves had received from their parents, not the ones acquired through experience. Now, if we consider that fish have never had chromosomes of humans, elephants, giraffes, donkeys, hens, turkeys and so on, it is quite difficult to imagine how from a couple of fish could spring all the fauna as we know it, with its variety of species, from flies to elephants and then, even man … After this little deviation from the subject of our story, which intended only to illustrate the predominant mentality at the time and offer a general view of the social contest in which our story takes place, here is the occurrence, which is indeed a peculiar one. After all, our characters were not wicked and did not intend to do any harm; they only wished to enact the famous law discovered by Darwin, namely the survival of the fittest to the detriment of the weakest, and nothing more.
A happy company
Precisely in that age (The Belle Époque) and in that city (Poznan, when it was under the German Kaiser’s administration), there was a happy company of young people; some of them were Polish, some others Italian-Polish and others then, completely Italian.
The two Italians of the company, Marco and Gianni, worked as Carabinieri at the Italian Embassy in Germany; an Italian-Polish girl, Chiara, was Gianni’s girlfriend and the Polish were a couple, husband and wife, his name was Taddeus and hers Lolusch. Since these young people got on well together, they usually spent their free time gathering at meeting points, cafés and restaurants, or by the banks of the Warta, a river which crosses the city of Posen (today’s Poznan), to bathe when the weather was good.
This river, though, was very dangerous and not little is the number of people who drowned in there, because of big whirlpools and insidious streams formed beneath the surface. One of the two Carabinieri, Gianni, the one whose girlfriend was the Italian-Polish girl called Chiara, many times had saved the lives of those who were not able to swim. Who is about to drown, shaken by terror, acts in a totally irrational way, even against their own interest and can become a danger to their saviour. In fact, in the very moment the saviour approaches them, the one in danger clutches to him, risking the drowning of both. Gianni’s saving technique, thus, in order to avoid this problem, was a bit gross but absolutely efficient. As soon as the one in danger was in his whereabouts, firstly Gianni would hit him on the head as to make him faint and, later , he would calmly carry him on his back and take him to the shore.
Taddeus, the Polish husband, differently from the two Italians, wasn’t at all a good swimmer. He could barely manage it, venturing only where his feet could touch the ground.; when he wanted to venture further, he would rely on one of the two Carabinieri, both very good swimmers, and then he would immediately come back to the shore. The company, who very well knew his particularly proud, touchy and a little presumptuous character, were very careful not to provoke him, not to mock him for his way of swimming, as they well knew that he would have suffered very much. After all, everyone’s got their own character.
These five people, then, two couples and a single guy, were always together to the point that (we’re humans, after all) between the single Carabiniere and the Polish woman Lolusch something began to happen. When they went dancing, they would often dance together, when they were by the river Warta Marco, the single Carabiniere and a very good swimmer, would teach Lolusch how to swim, he would hold her by the waist and by the legs (after all, if he had to teach her how to swim…), and so, as they say, one thing leads to another. Taddeus, the Polish husband, was so naïve that did not notice anything, or maybe noticed but didn’t know how to react … or maybe not? Wasn’t he maybe one of those people who cannot conceive evil? Who knows … he watched with the others by the shore.
And so it happened that the two lovers (because soon that’s what they became) came up with an almost simultaneous thought. The idea was that if Taddeus, the Polish husband, drowned in the River Warta (it was likely, the river was very dangerous and he wasn’t able to swim), they would have cried a lot because they were sincerely fond of him. On the contrary, there would have been the advantage and the possibility to get together openly, meet whenever they wanted to, well … it was true that they would have lost a friend, but they would have gained a lot in other respects; it would have been a very big advantage indeed. Anyway, sooner or later it could have happened since the river was so dangerous, people often drowned in it, they were used to go there and he wasn’t at all a good swimmer, even if he was too proud to admit it (in fact, he would never admit it).
Such is the probability law. When there are too many elements converging on the same point, like the ones mentioned above, sooner or later something is likely to happen; namely, the drowning of that person. That’s it, Marco and Lolusch were precisely waiting for that … Time went by and they realized that if the drowning really happened, it would have been totally unnatural, as to say, intentional and not casual like they wished. When certain events take their course spontaneously, everything goes well (so to speak), but when the likelihood of certain developments becomes clear, and then they don’t happen, when you instead were expecting them to happen, it is not the same thing, apart from the violated conscience, also things don’t go as you expected them to.
The most noticeable feature of the Polish man Taddeus, husband of the Polish woman Lolusch, was its being predictable as well as extremely proud; indeed, he was predictable exactly because he was proud. His wife, who knew him well, also knew how to handle him, and she made him do what she wanted even if he didn’t want to; it was enough for her to tell him, with an authoritarian tone, not to do a certain thing, that he would immediately do that same thing, just to show that he was not henpecked. If then his wife wanted him to do something in a nicer and more direct way, she would handle him with good manners, become kinder and persuasive and, thus, he would please her. One way or another, anyway, it was always he who did what she wanted. For the woman, after all, this was all that mattered.
It should be said that women possess a more evident pragmatic spirit than a romantic one, even if, from a superficial judgment, it may seem the opposite; the so-called “femininity” these women have, which makes men crazy (above all the most unwary ones), for them it is no more than a good, a means they can employ to reach their goals. As said before, the little party was always on the banks of River Warta to bathe, relax and hope for a miracle that never came true until the two lovers said to each other (without the others knowing, of course): since the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad should go to the mountain, as to say that luck can be pushed a little bit, thought the Polish lover, thinking we won’t do anything bad, on the contrary, I will speak only for the good, I know my husband. You, of course, will have to satisfy public opinion, there are a lot of people watching from the banks, hence you will have to approach him and attempt to save him; at least, this is what people from the banks will have to see, or believe to see.
From words to action
As soon as there is the occasion to go for a new and beautiful outing by the riverside, in conjunction with everybody’s free time, the party, as usual, sit on the banks of the river with all the other people who wanted to enjoy the sunny day. As arranged, Marco, the Carabinieri Chief, dives into the river and flatters himself for his good swims. Sometimes he comes back to the bank exalting the beautiful refreshing water. His wife Lolusch, disloyal (and candidate for murder), addresses his husband, saying: “Taddeus, what a pity you’re not a good swimmer like the Italian Carabiniere Marco, otherwise you could as well enjoy these pleasant moments. But my dear, I beg you, do it for me, please don’t go in the water and above all, don’t go where he goes; you know you can’t swim as well as Marco so, unfortunately, you’ll have to make do with dipping your feet in water, which anyway is better than nothing.”
This was too much for the man. It seemed strange to him that his wife, who until that moment had never pointed out his swimming inability before, should all of a sudden tell him, in front of all that people, that he was virtually unable to swim. Nevertheless, he completely fell in his wife’s trap. He couldn’t manage to remain still and accept the humiliation (and humiliation it was only because he wouldn’t accept his limits). Thus, he stood up from the bank and declared: “Look, I can swim perfectly too and I certainly don’t want to be outdone by Marco”.
After saying that, he jumped into the water reaching, as one can expect, the point where his friend was, the most dangerous point, where there were whirls and some insidious currents. Predictably, at a certain point from the banks someone shouted: “Help, help, I’m drowning … someone please help me!” While the disloyal wife was observing the scene, the lover and good swimmer, as planned, approaches the unfortunate in order to simulate the rescue and thus satisfy the expectation of the people waiting by the riverside, since they know very well his abilities in this sense. The other Carabiniere, in fact, had no idea what was going on and that day had decided not to swim but instead to lie down sunbathing with his girlfriend. He didn’t worry at all, because he knew that the Polish man was being rescued by his friend; thus, he observed the scene on the bank.
The simulated rescue operation took place in all its dramatic stages; from the banks, people watch, worried, the whole scene. The Carabiniere Marco approaches the unfortunate with rapid strokes, with the sole aim of simulating the rescue. As soon as he gets closer, people from the banks see a great splash of water and a gesticulating of arms, to the point that everything seems to become rather confused. However, it could be noticed that something was wrong. Mrs Lolusch watched concerned from the banks, hoping that in the end everything would go well … At a certain point, the Carabiniere Gianni, out of prevention, decides to dive into the river with other good fellow swimmers to attempt to give Marco a hand. A group takes to the banks one of the swimmers who was coughing desperately and the other one takes to the banks the already lifeless body of the other swimmer.
Mrs Lolusch, who was watching the scene from the banks, focuses in order to act his part well. She had to be very convincing, or else everything would be useless. When the right moment came, she ran, screaming, towards the group which was carrying the lifeless body of the swimmer. She said: “ Taddeus, Taddeus, why didn’t you listen to me and why did you want to do what you couldn’t? Why? How can I live without you? Why didn’t you follow my advice, my love?” While she was screaming in such a way, she was running towards the little group of people who were carrying the lifeless body of the swimmer.”Taddeus, Tad…” words faded in her mouth and then she fainted. It wasn’t Taddeus but Marco.
While simulating the rescue, Marco had come too close to Taddeus, who was terrified and completely out of his mind. Taddeus had clutched to Marco with the so called force of desperation, thus making the saving impossible, even if he had wanted to. Taddeus, in fact, was saved by the other swimmers. The Polish woman was convinced that her lover Marco, a skilled diver, would have never found himself in such a critical situation, to the point of losing his life. And then, in the end, as they say, the best laid schemes of mice and men ...
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