- Jun 27, 2006
Illuminated by moonlight, the nine riders moved quickly and intently up the snow covered hill. Upon reaching the hill’s crest, they briefly paused to look at the little conglomeration of lights called Högvålen, before once again riding with speed towards the town. The man at the lead, dressed in a large overcoat and ushanka, pointed to a stalwart cluster of pines about 300 meters from the small town. “We dismount there” he said, and the men all dismounted and tied their horses to the trees.
The leader once again pulled out a small map, glanced at it, glanced at the town, and then pointed towards a large, thatch roof building with smoke billowing out from several chimneys. The men entered the town, and with the exception of several horses, all near the building which was now identifiable as an inn, the streets were deserted.
The group then filed towards the door, and with his fingers, the leader counted to three. One man rammed into the door, knocking it down, as another fired several shots in. A man who had been sitting near the door holding a rifle slumped forward, bleeding out of his chest and stomach. The men ignored him, and poured into the room, where one man was cowering behind a bar, and another group of men sat stunned, seated around a table.
“Hands up!” shouted the leader in Swedish. Most of the men complied, while one, who had reached for a pistol, was quickly wounded in the hand. “Hands up,” he repeated, to which everyone, except the dyeing man, complied. “I am Investigator Nikolai Vladimirovich Dolgorukov of the Third Section of His Imperial Majesty’s Own Chancellery. You are all under arrest by imperial order for charges of conspiracy against the Czar and Empire of Russia. You are not to speak, and are to follow orders.” Nikolai then lit a pipe as another officer began to shackle the Swedes.
Nikolai looked around. An old Swedish flag hung from a wall, and the table was covered in papers. It seemed as if they were documents for some sort of plot to attack the Imperial Headquarters in Stockholm. “These Swedes all deserve death” he muttered to himself in Russian, looking through the papers and maps.
Nikolai then approached the Nationalists, now shackled and on the floor. “A cart is coming to take you away. Your trials will be tomorrow in Stockholm. I wish to know what exactly you planned to do.”
None of the prisoners spoke. “Your fates are sealed, and we will find out everything. Now what exactly did you wish to do!”
One of them burst out, “kill Russians! Kill many of you, …you, you Bastard!” Nikolai kicked the kneeling man in the face, “You will address me as sir! Now how exactly did you plan to do that?”
Another stated, “we were to conceal bombs.”
“How predictable. Do you really think you are the first to attempt to attack Russia by, ‘concealing bombs?’ I will tell you from experience, your nationalist attacks never work and never will work! Just like all the other races who have been absorbed by our superiority, yours shall fall into subservience. Although one day, if you Swedes should be loyal, you may even earn the right to be called Russian.”
Nikolai resumed his pacing, but the first Swede, still enraged, spat on him. The investigator slowly turned around, before pulling out his pistol, and shooting the man in the side. In Russian, he told his officers, “make sure none of them speak”, before pouring himself a glass of vodka and sitting down.
Antal Hegedus, on his usual route home from the steel mill, turned the corner onto Baiza Street, before quickly stopping. The street, home to the Russian Embassy to the Empire of Hungary, was filled with angry people. Further down the street, he could see a Russian flag on fire, and nearly everyone towards the center of the mass was yelling. Looking around, Antal asked, “What’s this all about?”
One man replied, “rumor has it that Russia is threatening war over something. Those bastards want to eat the whole world up.”
Sure enough, the crowd began to chant “we won’t bend!” and then various national slogans, many of which came from the war of independence of 1848. Antal stayed and watched for a while, but soon felt himself getting sucked into the mob, and knowing that he needed to return to his home soon, turned around and took an alternate route.
When he entered his small home near the river, his parents, grandfather, and younger sisters and brothers were all seated around the table waiting. “What’s kept you? I’m hungry,” his father inquired.
“Some demonstration at Baiza,” Antal said, sitting at the small wooden table. Their house was small and crowded, but always had a cozy aura. Both his father and he worked at the Steel Mill, although his father had a much earlier shift.
As Antal’s mother began to dish out the paprika spiced stew, his Grandfather, almost 80, asked, “what were they demonstrating about?”
“A man told me that they were angry about a Russia threat of war towards us.”
“Those Russians think they can boss around the whole damned continent,” Antal’s father responded.
“They will take the whole damned continent one day,” the old man, normally silent, responded. “That is, unless those French revolutionaries take it first.”
“Father, your wrong. The time of conquest like that is long over. This isn’t the Napoleonic era any more.”
“You son, you grew up in a time of unification and victory. That trend doesn’t last, never has and never will.” Then facing Antal, and Antal’s younger brothers, the old man said, “you. You are going to be living in a harsh world.”
As this sunk in, Antal asked, “so Grandpa. You think the French Revolution is going to succeed?”
“I’d say it already has. They just have to finish the job.”
Antal woke early the next morning, a Sunday, and after grabbing a piece of bread, decided to buy a Newspaper, seeing that he had several hours before mass. The morning was his favorite time of day, the city was always so quiet, and the rising sun cast orange light across the century old buildings. A small crowd was gathered around the Newspaper boy, who was yelling, “Russia Threatens War if Romanians Not Given Independence!”
Antal bought one, trying to make sense of the preposterous sounding title. After sitting on a curb and reading, he figured out that Russia was threatening war within a week if the “Orthodox Romanians living under Hungarian autocracy” were not given independence “from Hungarian Rule”. The same message had been sent to the Ottoman Empire, which controlled areas with Romanians as well. The Czar, Alexander II, was quoted from a speech as saying, “For far too long, our Orthodox brothers in Romania have been suppressed by Catholic and Muslim autocracy. Russia, feeling the religious duty of protector of the Orthodox Church, has called for the peaceful deliverance of Romanians from oppression. Should this call be ignored, Russia will be forced to declare war.”
“Deliverance from oppression”, Antal thought, most likely meant oppression by Russia. As he contemplated the matter, he realized that war was coming, and he then sprinted home.