We checked in with a receptionist standing behind a circular counter. Natural sunlight poured in through skylights under the arched dome giving the granite floors and hallways below the feel of a large solarium. Small potted birch trees and fern plants were placed around the spacious ivory and gold pillared foyer. We took the elevator to the second floor and walked down the hallway to room 210. A secretary showed us into an adjoining office.
“Ms. Mengelder, good morning, I’m Vasily Kuznetsov. It is a pleasure to meet you, at last.”
“Please, both of you have a seat. Irina, it is good to see you, again.”
“Thank you, Vasily.”
His eyes were the color of chocolate, his hair, a golden hue of Russian Amber, one lock appearing to fall stubbornly over his forehead and skin tone like bronze as if baked in the sun at a Black Sea resort.
“Ms. Mengelder, I am the liaison in charge of the Consulate of Foreign Affairs Committee. All of your business concerning appointments and itinerary in Ukraine will be approved and granted through our office. May I see your referral and identification papers, please?”
“Of course. I think you will find everything there. As you can see I also have current press credentials.”
“Yes, thank you.” He thumbed through the papers, and then handed all to his secretary standing nearby.
“She will just scan your credentials and visa for our files, and then return them. Now, we have been advised by your agency to afford you all the necessary requirements and courtesy. Of course, we want to be of service to you any way we can. I understand you have visited some places on your itinerary already?”
“Yes. I’m sorry for not making it yesterday, as scheduled. The added delay I know caused you and Irina inconvenience, and I apologize for that. Thank you for arranging another appointment with me.”
“No problem. We are grateful to have the help in updating our records here. They are a mess. Due to the classified status of our archives during the Soviet regime they were never clearly categorized or processed electronically. It is a privilege to work with the U.S. in reorganizing our system. We’ve come a long ways since the old days of record keeping. The new micro digitized technology has now afforded even this once backward country to communicate and transfer information in a way we never imagined.” His smile was engaging, captivating, revealing perfectly straight, white teeth.
“Yes. We have.” The irony in his statement and what I now carried around in secret made more acute the shame and embarrassment I felt, realizing that I would have to find a way to return the journal to where I found it. Once I have the information I need from it.
“Well, how can we help you here? What will you need?” he asked.
“Well, I have surname lists of those immigrating from Russia and the former Soviet Union during the 1800 s to the 2000 year period entering the U.S. I would like to verify, copy and collect the data in your archives if I may so they can be synced, updated, and made accessible to our researchers, and to yours as well.”
“Yes, I’m sure that can be arranged, as long as you are able to locate them in our mismanaged archives.” he said, with a slight laugh. “Irina will help you in organizing them?” He looked over at Irina, smiling as if seeking her approval.
Irina nodded. “Of course.”
“OK. Thank you. Then in addition, I would like included the records of baptisms, and conversions of ethnic groups from the countries of East Europe, their settlement areas, towns and villages in the ‘Pale of Settlement.’ Here is a list of the founding German colonies I would like data and census records on. And if you have available lists of victims or families of those from your labor prison camps, and the names and victims of those who were re-located to concentration camps and ghettos I would be grateful for those as well. I requested this information earlier, but there was no follow-up. I would like to interview some, if still living, and get their stories on record for our history and research department. We have the names of family members seeking information on missing relatives and family never found or heard from during or after the Holocaust.”
“I understand. Well, there are some people we will need to confer with regarding these requests, but I will do my best to comply. As you know many or most of those surviving the Holocaust are now deceased themselves or quite elderly unless they were children at the time of liberation. Where is it that you are staying at the present time?”
“At Olga’s Inn in Grigoriopol.”
“Oh, yes. Olga. She is a gracious host. Is she making your stay comfortable then?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“Good. Then, we will be in contact with you on your requests and I will see that the archives and records division has the research permits ready for you by tomorrow. Here is the contact name and number you will need to set up a schedule of sorts for records retrieval. If there are those requested they cannot locate, they would put a ‘watch’ on them. They will have a name and picture I.D. card ready for you when you come in. Just let them know I sent you. It will all be arranged. It has been a real pleasure meeting you Ms. Mengelder. We will be in touch.”
His secretary walked back in with my papers and handed them back.
Vasily stood, shook my hand and walked us to the door.
Irina and I headed for the elevator.
“He is something to look at, I have to admit, but certainly gets right down to business. Does he socialize much?” I asked Irina, as we walked back down the hallway towards the elevators.”
“Socialize? You have no idea! He is not only eligible, but one of the most wanted or desirable bachelors in Odessa.”
“Oh? How interesting.”
Irina punched the ‘Down’ button at the elevator. “But, you are right about his business practices, too. He Is also all business. I think the meeting went well and feel hopeful that he… What’s the matter? What are you staring at?”
“Those men standing there at the end of the corridor. That guy with the blond hair, with the other men. Do you know him?”
“Oh, him? That is Ivan Antonescu.”
“And the others?” I asked.
“The one beside him is Victor, his brother who owns and runs the huge conglomerate of businesses and companies in Moldova. He is the financial backer of Igor Grigoraui, the candidate running for reelection of Moldova’s parliament. The other man is Vladimir Krupin, Grigoraui’s campaign manager. Why do you ask?”
“That blond guy, with the scar is the man I told you about, the one that has been showing up everywhere I go.”
“Monica, really. I doubt that it was Ivan whom you think followed you. I don’t think he would have any reason to be stalking a genealogist.” she said, with a snicker.
“Oh? A genealogist isn’t important enough to draw your spooks out of retirement, then?”
“I only meant there could hardly be any need for a genealogist to be watched, or followed, if escorted around by an appointed guide.”
“Because whatever there is to know about them worth learning the ‘guide’ will inform on them?”
“No! Stop with the accusations, Monica. But, I will tell you this much. Whatever an official here finds sensitive enough to report can be easily detected with computer and cell phone surveillance. Then, I think that person will have reason to worry about being watched.”
“OK. I’m sorry. That wasn’t fair.”
Just how secure my e-mails and files were that I sent to Jeremy I did not know. It made me think it was time to switch to my ‘alias’ back up account and password, and hope it was not too late.
To be continued…
Joyce E. Johnson (2013)