Chapter XIX (19)
Starting from the beginning I told her only what I felt she had a right to know, not where, or from whom I had learned what I knew. My primary intent was to protect Jacob, respect his privacy, and all other sources and contacts I had while here. Information about the journal, its contents, how and where I’d found it I kept from her, also. My own research files I decided would have to be sufficient proof, pulling out my typed up reports and handing them to her. They contained documented names, cross referenced with the original names, dates and details of atrocities committed against the Jews during the years of 1941-1944 in the ghettos of Transnistria and Ukraine by the Romanians and their Iron Guard in charge of carrying out the massacres.
Irina lifted her eyes from the reports and set them on me with an expression like I had just puked in her coffee, a look of disgust or unbelief; I couldn’t discern which.
“You can’t be serious. Do you realize who you are dealing with in these accusations? Do you know just how serious this is if this is true? I know these men are ruthless in business, and even though there are old rumors to this effect these men protect themselves and come back with what you Americans call a ‘spin’ on things. They have tight control on everything here.”
“Naturally. Considering the kind of people they are one would not expect them to be anything else but. I told you I have trustworthy sources who have helped in this search and can attest to its credibility, but I will not give you their names or contact information. I also have an obligation to report my findings to my own agency in Washington and to those in Israel seeking information on Holocaust collaborators and killers still living.”
When my cell phone rang I looked at the caller’s name, then excused myself and walked into the bathroom.
“Ms. Mengelder? This is Olga. I received your check-out notice from the desk clerk, but I have something of yours that was found on the floor under the bedside table.”
“What is that, Olga?”
“It is a flash drive I believe. When the maid vacuumed the rugs she found it. Perhaps it fell off the table or bed as you packed. Would you like for me to mail it to you?”
Stunned speechless I did not reply at first trying to think how it could have been ‘found’ on the floor when I knew I had searched everywhere for it before I left.
“Thank you, Olga. I guess I must have missed it when I packed, or it ‘fell’ onto the floor as you suggested. I looked for it, but couldn’t find it. Thank you for calling me to let me know. Yes, I would appreciate it if you could send it to me, but my address and location is only temporary right now. Could you send it to the consulate’s office in Odessa instead, in care of Vasily Kuznetsov? He will see that it is returned to me. Just give me a minute and I will look up the address.”
“Oh, that won’t be necessary Ms. Mengelder. I have it, and will mail it out.”
“Thank you, Olga. Goodbye.” It would be difficult to determine if the files and data on it were hacked or compromised, and learn who, or why someone was playing a game of ‘lost and found’ with me, but felt certain someone had taken it, and now decided to ‘return’ it.
Irina was too busy touching keys on her iPad to notice the interrupted call from Olga when I walked back into the bedroom.
“I’m taking notes for later. I want to do a search on some things for myself,” she said without looking up. “I have my own sources. Who have you told about these files?”
“Those files? No one. But, I have my own sources of information. You and your people were unwilling to provide me with real interviews so I sought out some on my own time. But, since you are the representative assigned to me, and know the ins and outs of your government policies I am letting you see the official reports I have already filed and sent to my own department agency back home. Like I said, I think the information should be sent to authorities not under Grigoroui’s thumb, so they can decide what to do with it.”
“And do you really think they will believe what a genealogist has found in some old records? They’ll think the documents are forged. They will demand to know who your sources are. The names here are people who could be in their eighties or nineties by now, if still living. Just because they have the same surnames as Grigoroui and Antonescu does not mean they are related to them.”
“I realize that, but look at all the similarities in their background family history. I read that Grigoroui’s opponent wants records opened and investigated. So, I’m betting they would just love to have all this poop scoop on Grigoroui and the Antonescu brothers. Do you know what this information would do when hitting the media? Front page articles under bold headlines, television news channels demanding interviews, CNN’s ‘breaking news’ coverage, internet and wire services: all about Grigoroui’s and the Antonescu brothers’ long kept family secrets. Look, Irina, I am not out to win yours or anyone else’s trust or approval here. I went after the truth. That’s all. But, my hope is that it will enlarge the scope of investigation here for the killers responsible in the massacres of the thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. Time is running out for finding those old ones to bring them to justice and trial for their war crimes. Israel and the US are still looking for those not yet found.”
“Be careful, Monica. You’re an American archivist, genealogist, free-lance reporter. They’ll call it a ‘conspiracy’ to ruin Grigoroui’s chance for re-election and will have you thrown out of this country on your… butt, if of course you are that lucky to get thrown out and not killed first, or at least arrested for slandering a president in office. Have you considered you might lose your own job and credibility? Do not underestimate them. Those men are the new ‘Iron Guard’ of the old Russia. Have you told Vasily about this?”
“No. I see him tomorrow. He doesn’t know I’ve moved out of Olga’s and relocated here. I haven’t told him about being followed either. But, now that I have a picture of the one who followed me in Moldova, maybe Vasily can help.”
“You have a picture?” she asked incredulously.
“Yes. One I took at the Chisinau International Airport just to see if I was being watched. But, it worked.” I smiled.
“Let me see it.”
“Here,” I said, pulling it up on my phone. “But, it is not real focused. I was standing way back in the terminal under a departure screen when I took it.”
“What is he doing there holding up some kind of large folder by a locker?”
“Looking for what he thought I was hiding. I rented it, then stashed some brochures and a newspaper in it.” That was all I was willing to say, and hoped it was enough to satisfy her.
“Don’t assume anything, Monica.”
“I don’t. As a researcher there is one thing I have learned above all: Truth is always supported by facts.”
“What I am saying is if this unravels, and all of it’s true, be careful what you do.”
And the one thing Jeremy told me.”Trust no one but yourself.”
My cell phone rang again. “Hello? Hi, Vasily. Yes, fine, thank you. And you? Good. Well, yes, I’m done with archiving and photocopying in Moldova, I think. But, I still have some things to do in Ukraine. Olga’s? No, I checked out and relocated to the Ayvazovsky Hotel in Odessa. It’s closer and a little more convenient for the remainder of my time here. Yes. In the hotel lobby? That would be great. Thanks. I look forward to it. Tomorrow then. Goodbye.”
“He wants to show me some things before going to lunch. He is going to take me to a “zemlyanka,” or dugout used by the Jewish partisans during the war. I have heard about them but didn’t know if they still existed, or where they were located.”
“There were some located in both Ukraine and Moldova.”
“Vasily said to wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes.”
“Well, I don’t think he would consider taking someone through those if there were still any issues with flooding or asphyxiation. The largest one runs under the streets of Odessa. There has since been some work done on it to reinforce the walls and seal up the weakened pipeline that ruptured. Some advocates and historians want it saved and preserved as a memorial site.”
“Sounds more like boots and a gas mask is needed. Doesn’t sound like a place to advertise, or promote on a scenic brochure. But, they sound fascinating. Can’t wait to see it.”
“Yes, I think it would be something you might enjoy poking your nose into.”
To be continued…
Joyce E. Johnson (2014)