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ARLY IN AUGUST 1968 A B.E.A. TRIDENT FROM LONDON ARRIVED AT PRAGUE, CAPITAL OF CZECHOSLOVAKIA, A COMMUNIST COUNTRY UNDERGOING SEISMIC CHANGE. WE’RE LANDING, UNCLE MAREK. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE COMING BACK HERE AFTER ALL THIS TIME?

LIKE A DREAM COME TRUE, ADAM, AND ALL THANKS TO THE PRAGUE SPRING.


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THE PRAGUE SPRING WAS THE NAME GIVEN TO A SERIES OF REFORMS THAT WERE ROLLING BACK THE IRON GRIP OF COMMUNISM AND MAKING IT POSSIBLE FOR CZECH EXILES SUCH AS MAREK KALVODA TO RETURN TO THEIR HOMELAND. AS A SUMMER HOLIDAY TREAT HE HAD BROUGHT ALONG HIS FOURTEEN-YEAR OLD BRITISH NEPHEW, ADAM JOHNSON. TWENTY YEARS SINCE I WAS FORCED TO FLEE WITH MY YOUNGER SISTER, YOUR MOTHER, FOLLOWING THE COMMUNIST TAKE-OVER. YES, IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME.

THE ONCE FORBIDDING IMMIGRATION PROCEDURES HAD BEEN SWEPT AWAY. WELCOME HOME, DOCTOR KALVODA. I HOPE YOU ENJOY YOUR STAY.

AND I HOPE TO ENJOY IT SO MUCH THAT I MIGHT MOVE BACK PERMANENTLY.


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WATCHING THEM LEAVE THE IMMIGRATION OFFICIAL’S SMILE FADED AWAY AS HE PICKED UP A PHONE. CAPTAIN STRASKY? A NAME ON YOUR RED LIST HAS JUST ENTERED THE COUNTRY, A DOCTOR MAREK KALVODA.

KALVODA, EH? HOW VERY INTERESTING!

CAPTAIN VACLAV STRASKY WAS AN OFFICER IN THE ONCE-DREADED SECRET POLICE, THE STATNI BEZPECNOST, OR S.T.B. IT TOO HAD HAD ITS WINGS CLIPPED, A FACT WHICH STRASKY FOUND INTOLERABLE.

BEFORE THESE BLASTED REFORMS I COULD HAVE ARRESTED KALDOVA THE MOMENT HE SET FOOT ON HOME SOIL. NOW HE’S OFFICIALLY FETED AS A RETURNING EXILE. I WONDER WHAT MY K.G.B. CONTACT WANTS ME TO DO ABOUT IT.

UNLIKE ITS LOCAL OFF-SHOOT, THE SOVIET SECRET POLICE, THE K.G.B., WAS STILL ALL-POWERFUL. ONE OF THE WIELDERS OF THAT POWER WAS MAJOR LEONID PETROFF, BASED AT THE SOVIET EMBASSY. LEARNING THAT MAREK KALDOVA WAS IN THE COUNTRY HE QUICKLY ARRANGED A DISCREET MEETING WITH STRASKY. KALDOVA’S A RENOWNED AVIONICS EXPERT WORKING ON ADVANCED PROJECTS FOR BRITAIN’S R.A.F. HE POSSESSES VALUABLE KNOWLEDGE WE WOULD LIKE TO EXTRACT FROM HIM.

I SYMPATHISE, BUT HE’S HERE AT THE INVITATION OF THE NEW GOVERNMENT ALONG WITH OTHER SO-CALLED EXILES. IT PAINS ME TO SAY IT, BUT I CANNOT TOUCH HIM.


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PETROFF NODDED UNDERSTANDINGLY THEN CONTINUED IN A CONSPIRATORIAL MANNER.

JUST KEEP TRACK OF HIM. I AM FLYING TO MOSCOW SOON BUT WHEN I RETURN THE SITUATION HERE MIGHT BE CHANGED. THAT IS ALL I CAN SAY.

THE FOLLOWING DAY THE FIRST THING MAREK DID WAS TO VISIT THE CEMETERY WHERE HIS PARENTS, ADAM’S GRANDPARENTS ON THE CZECH SIDE OF THE FAMILY, WERE BURIED. THEY DIED FIGHTING THE NAZI OCCUPIERS IN NINETEEN FORTY-FOUR. LITTLE DID THEY KNOW THAT JUST A FEW YEARS LATER IT WOULD BE THE START OF A TWENTY-YEAR SOVIET OCCUPATION.

BUT I CAN READ BETWEEN THE LINES. HE’S HINTING THAT THE SOVIET UNION MIGHT INTERVENE AND RESTORE THE STATUS QUO. I CAN HARDLY WAIT.

…WE’RE BEING WATCHED.

I’VE GOT THE STRANGEST FEELING THAT...


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LATER THAT DAY THEY CLIMBED THE STEEP STREETS LEADING TO THE CASTLE AND CATHEDRAL, AND YET AGAIN ADAM HAD THE SAME FEELING.

THERE’S SOMEBODY BEHIND US.

ADAM LOOKED ROUND SUDDENLY, CAUSING A SHADOWY FIGURE TO DUCK INTO AN ENTRANCE.

I DON’T SEE ANYONE.

THE BOY HAS SHARP EYES. I MUST BE MORE CAREFUL. IF I LOSE THEM CAPTAIN STRASKY WON’T BE VERY HAPPY.


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MAREK HAD ARRANGED TO HIRE A CAR AND A COUPLE OF DAYS LATER THEY HEADED INTO THE COUNTRYSIDE. IT WILL BE GOOD TO SEE MY COUSIN JAN AGAIN AFTER ALL THESE YEARS. HIS SON LUKAS IS YOUR AGE, ADAM, SO YOU SHOULD GET ALONG.

HE’S IN SUCH A CHEERFUL MOOD THAT I SHAN’T SPOIL IT...

...BY TELLING HIM THAT THE SAME CAR’S BEEN THE SAME DISTANCE BEHIND US EVER SINCE WE LEFT PRAGUE. IT’S PROBABLY NOTHING, AT LEAST I HOPE SO.

GRADUALLY THE COUNTRYSIDE BECAME MORE HILLY AND WOODED AND EVENTUALLY THEY TURNED UP A TRACK LEADING TO A LARGE OLD WOODEN HOUSE OVERLOOKING A LAKE. THIS WAS WHERE MAREK’S COUSIN, JAN ZELENIEC, LIVED WITH HIS SON LUKAS. JAN AND HIS SON ARE MY ONLY RELATIVES LEFT HERE. HE’S A SUCCESSFUL LANDSCAPE PAINTER BUT HE’S SUFFERED FROM A MUSCLEWASTING DISEASE FOR SEVERAL YEARS.

IN HIS LAST LETTER JAN HAD SAID HIS CONDITION WAS GETTING PROGRESSIVELY WORSE, SO A CONCERNED MAREK DID NOT KNOW HOW HE MIGHT FIND HIM.


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THOUGH PREPARED FOR THE WORST, MAREK WAS NONETHELESS TAKEN ABACK TO SEE HOW GAUNT HIS COUSIN HAD BECOME AND THAT HE WAS NOW CONFINED TO A WHEELCHAIR. JAN, I DIDN’T REALISE...

THAT I WAS FADING AWAY? YOU WEREN’T TO KNOW AND I’VE STILL GOT ALL MY WITS ABOUT ME. YOU MUST BE ADAM. THIS IS MY SON, LUKAS.

HI, AND YOU CAN CALL ME LUKE.

MAREK AND JAN WENT INSIDE TO ESCAPE THE HEAT OF THE DAY WHILE ADAM AND LUKE QUICKLY GOT TO KNOW ONE ANOTHER. WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR MOTHER? ALL I KNOW IS THAT SHE DIED A FEW YEARS AGO.

SHE WAS KILLED IN A CAR CRASH. SHE LOST CONTROL OF HER SKODA ON AN ICY ROAD. THIS IS THE SAME MODEL. THE REAR ENGINE PUTS ALL THE WEIGHT AT THE BACK AND MAKES THE STEERING TOO LIGHT. IT’S NOT A BAD CAR, BUT THE ENGINE NEEDS TO BE MOVED.


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THE LAKE BELOW THE HOUSE WAS SURPRISINGLY BUSY WITH HOLIDAYMAKERS, AS LUKE EXPLAINED.

I CALL THEM THE SUMMER PEOPLE. THEY COME HERE FOR A WEEK OR TWO TO RELAX. AT THIS TIME OF YEAR ALL THE CABINS ARE OCCUPIED. WE’VE GOT A SMALL BOAT SO WE CAN GO SAILING AND SWIMMING.

SOUNDS GREAT.

INSIDE THE HOUSE JAN WAS GIVING MAREK SOME DISTURBING NEWS. I’M DYING, MAREK. I PROBABLY WON’T LIVE OUT THE YEAR. WHEN I’M GONE LUKE WILL BE ALONE. WHAT I REALLY WANT IS THAT YOU TAKE HIM BACK TO BRITAIN WITH YOU.

BUT...BUT I WAS PLANNING TO COME BACK HERE TO LIVE NOW THAT EVERYTHING’S CHANGED.

JAN SHOOK HIS HEAD SLOWLY AND GAVE A LONG SIGH, HIS EXPRESSION BECOMING DEADLY SERIOUS. DON’T BE FOOLED BY ALL THIS. THE RUSSIANS WON’T LET US WALTZ OFF INTO THE SUNSET. LIKE THEY DID TO HUNGARY TEN YEARS AGO, THEY’LL INVADE AND IMPOSE A HARD-LINE COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT. ONCE AGAIN WE’LL BE CONTROLLED BY AN ALL-POWERFUL SECRET POLICE.



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