Being young and somewhat foolhardy, I resolved to leave the country on Good Friday in 1948 by swimming the Morava river. I chose a spot 200-300 metres upstream from a railway bridge that led to Marchegg on the Austrian side. The water was very cold and swift. By the time I got to the middle of the river, I realised with horror that I was approaching the bridge at an alarming rate. In my effort to increase my progress I must have made lots of splashing, because it woke up the sleeping dogs on the bridge and they in turn must have alerted the guards, because all hell broke loose. This must be the end of me, I thought. The full moon was up and here I was, a swimming duck.
Mercifully, the current took me into the shadows of the bridge and I became invisible again. I managed to make it to the other side under the cover of the shadows, and trotted as fast as I could to Vienna.
Many years later, when the border opened, my good wife insisted that she wanted to see where I came from and meet my relatives. Well! She fell in love with the place and the people. After many visits, last summer she said she wanted to see the place where I made my dash. After consulting local maps we found the access road to the bridge was off limits.
Out of a desire to show photos to our grandchildren, and armed with Australian passports, we decided to be foolhardy again. We found the bridge, but the place where I entered the water half a century ago was overgrown by 20-metre trees. The river had changed its course, and was no more than a series of muddy waterholes. Making my way over the bridge, snapping away with the digital camera, I stumbled over some guards sunning themselves. No dogs here, but my Australian G'DAY!! made all hell break loose again. After I explained my sentimental reason for being there, the officer in charge said: "In 1948 we made sure no one went in that direction, and now we're here to make sure no one goes in this direction." Times change, I suppose.
8. Apr 2002 at 0:00