A Trip I will never forget - C.E.M.
The following is a write up about a trip we made to Yugoslavia while visiting in Europe in about 1970. It was prepared to be presented at the memorial service of Dr. George Oswald, a friend who , with his family, was serving the Lord in Austria.
The year was about 1971 and my coworker and were given a sum of money by our church on the occasion of an anniversary of our founding The Evangelical Baptist Church of Bucksport , Maine, by means of which we were able to travel to Europe and visit several of our missionaries. One family that we were supporting was the Oswalds who were serving under Bible Christian Union in Vienna, Austria. We carried a small sum of money from the church for the Oswalds by which it was hoped they would be able to go on a brief holiday. One evening shortly after we arrived and after the children had gone off to bed, we came up with the bright idea of traveling into Yugoslavia. I am sure it was George’s idea for he had often traveled behind the iron curtain with literature etc. in the effort to encourage believers and there was a particular lady in that country with whom he had contact who ran a bed and breakfast establishment and he was sure that we would be welcomed to stay there a few days. Before the evening was over George had it all planned and in fact they were going to leave the very next morning and the plan was that we would leave immediately and travel to Venice where we could sightsee for a few hours meeting the Oswald family of 5 there later and together we would embark on our adventure. We were a bit nervous about the whole escapade, but as I remember, George was sure it would all work out, so the two of us left on a night train out of Vienna that evening and we met as planned the next day. We left on the following morning by train headed for the Yugoslavia border. It was wild.
My friend and I were traveling on a Urail pass which meant we could jump on and off of the trains in Europe anytime one was available, but we were told by the Italian ticket agent that it was no good in Yugoslavia and that we would have to purchase tickets when we got to the border of that country. The trouble was that we never knew when that happened because it seemed that for hours we were jerked back and forth on that train and it seemed that we would never get started. When we did we were all so sick of it that we didn’t know what was going on. Poor Sue had a migraine headache and was in misery. The kids seemed to be having a great time and George just knew that everything would be fine. " Sure, George, you just keep telling us that!" Well, he did.
We never knew when we crossed the border but soon a conductor came through the train which apparently our car had been attached to in all the shuffling around that we were doing. No one could communicate but we assumed that he wanted tickets. The Oswalds had purchased theirs through so they were ok, but where were the other two tickets? While we were attempting to explain the situation with lots of hand signs etc., ten year old Darva Sue dug some old train tickets out of a play purse that she had brought along in grown up style and for some reason the conductor smiled and left our compartment. George had said it would be ok – but by this time we were getting nervous. Before long we learned that some Japanese students had been expelled from the train and that didn’t help matters. Sue’s headache got worse and things were pretty tense. Especially when the conductor came back and this time he was angry and wanted our tickets. Again, Darva Sue produced the magic tickets and he finally left our compartment, but we expected him back at any moment as we practically held our breath. But, by the grace of our great God, Whom George was trusting even if the rest of us weren’t, he never came back and finally we arrived at our temporary destination in Rijeka. What a relief when we stepped onto the platform until we looked up to see the hammer and sickle on the stack of a large Russian ship at the dock, reminding us that we were behind the iron curtain and we had better be careful not to get too comfortable.
I must share one more episode in this little George Oswald drama. Where were we going to stay that evening before leaving on a bus for Rovinj the next day? Oh, the man at the train station would see to that. He told us by motioning, ( no one could understand a word the other was saying) in fact, he warned us to stay where he could see us. I wandered out on the platform to get a breath of air and he came out and angrily ordered me back inside. Soon a plump little lady put in an appearance who beckoned us to follow her. (It was his wife, as we found out later and he was making a little money on the side by putting us up in his house). Well, we obediently followed our new guide as she led us to a five story cement walk up and carrying all our luggage we proceeded to the very topmost floor where there was an apartment with , believe it or not, and outdoor toilet out on the deck. All this time Sue was suffering but George just knew all would be well. They got the bedroom and my friend and I slept on a couch in the same room with the lady of the house with a sheet hanging in between her section of the room and ours! The kids were all in with their parents and the old grouch from the station went on a drunk and I never saw him again - I don’t know where he slept.
The next day we traveled on a fairly decent bus to our final destination at the bed and breakfast. It was lovely there and we had a wonderful time fellow shipping with our hostess and her Croatian sister. The lady of the house knew German so she and the Oswalds could communicate. We had a preaching service on Sunday and as I spoke, the message went through a German translation and then into Croatian. In a day or so, my friend and I left on a ferry to Trieste and the Oswalds stayed on a bit for needed R and R . And, as George said, it all worked out just wonderfully.