Vera Petrović: A novel

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Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven

The next day was a Sunday and it was such a sunny beautiful day off. I decided to walk to a Kalemegdan Park and Belgrade Fortress, consisting of the old citadel at the confluence of the River Sava and the Danube, in an urban area of modern Belgrade, the capital of Serbia.

I picked a book from the library and sat on a beautiful old bench. On the opposite side, some elderly ladies were doing hand embroidery, and kids were playing on the other side with their families. Squirrels went up and down the trees joyfully. At this point, I thought of my landlady and thought that she had everything. Why cannot she have a normal life where she gets married, has children, and simply plays with them like those mothers? She is very pretty and smart as well. I could not figure out why! I also had no idea why she was so miserable; however, I decided to help her overcome these feelings by, at least, listening to her. She needed someone to listen to her, and it seemed that it made her feel better. She did say once that she loved talking to me. I sat in the park for about an hour and then went to a nearby restaurant to have lunch. I had Belgrade pizza, and it was by far my favorite. I drank a fizzy drink with it and looked out the open window. The weather was so nice and so was the neighborhood. You could see the Yugoslav parliament building right on the other side of the street. It had magnificent buildings, beautiful architecture, and lovely flowers along the median strip. I arrived home, and she was sitting in the living room opposite her little library with a book in her hand. I went into my room, changed my clothes, and then joined her in the living room. She stopped reading and looked at me, saying:

“Would you like a cup of coffee?”

“Yes, I would love that!”

She went to the kitchen, prepared coffee, and poured it for me and her.

“Did you have lunch?”

“Yes, I already have.”

“I left you some food from the meal I cooked.”

“Thank you for that but I am full. What are you reading?”

“This is a novel entitled Death and the Dervish by the Bosnian author Mehmed ‘Meša’ Selimović. I have read this novel more than once, and every time I read it, I perceive it differently and understand the author better. The most touching thing to me is the injustice! How unjust a person can be to another human being! How many forms can this injustice take: the tyranny of political power and the unlimited domination of people’s destinies through conspiracies and scheming?”

“Can you give me more detail? This sounds interesting.”

“The events of the novel revolve around the protagonist, Ahmed Nuruddin, who is in his forties. This can be a difficult period where one would be too young to achieve his wants and too old to re-envision them. He loves his family dearly but lacks connections and bonds. His love for his family is bland. His upbringing was based on obedience, tolerating obstacles, and living for his own religion, and he always knew what he needed to do. Dervish’s way dictated this to him. Meanwhile, his brother Harun did something that led him to jail, and he is eventually executed. This is a decisive milestone in Ahmed’s life. He becomes more confused and starts having thoughts that manipulate him. Is what happened to his brother fair or is it injustice? The journey of torture starts for him. After all, he detests injustice and cannot tolerate it. He sees it as a sign of helplessness and mismanagement. In his viewpoint, this is what causes people to commit evil and crimes.

“When his brother receives capital punishment, Ahmed feels it as a whip on his skin, and it causes him to bleed. He knows his brother well and is positive that it was not in him to commit the evil things of which he is accused. He does not want to defend his brother nor support the cruelty exercised against him by the authorities. Here, Ahmed’s values take a turn. Ahmed later discovers by coincidence through a friend the reason his brother was arrested and eventually executed. It seems that Harun used to work for a judge, and he discovered documents that showed that the authorities had been punishing people who did not deserve it. The authorities had even gone farther to prepare reports and minutes of false confessions of crimes for those people before arresting them. Once Harun found out, they framed him too out of fear that he would tell and reveal their secret. Therefore, Harun was disposed of as fast as possible by execution. It is understandable that Ahmed is shaken and thus changes after learning everything and seeing how powerful evil can be. He becomes fearful and thinks deeply about how ridiculous life can be. This leads him to be an introvert and leads fear to rule over his decisions. He even feels that time is stronger than him and the freedom he is living is nothing but humiliation, resentment, and pain. Ahmed Nuruddin starts to seek authority and power so that he can avenge his brother’s death. He becomes a judge and follows in the corrupt authorities’ footsteps. He falls to his lowest point and signs an order for the execution of his friend Hassan. Once Ahmed, the judge, feels how low he has become, he senses the irony of his existence and loathes himself. Hassan manages to get out of prison, and Ahmed knows it and overlooks it. Now it is Ahmed’s turn to meet with death. His inner rebel vanishes gradually, and his instincts are less attached to life. This means that his inner revolt is defeated. This novel is filled with moral, philosophical, and psychological dilemmas. It clearly indicates the sorrow of human beings, their tortures in life, and their domination of others. It includes a deep analysis of the philosophy and the power of authority, by which man can be the victim sometimes and a perpetrator some other times. The beauty of this novel, in my viewpoint, is that it reflects a reality lived by the author. His brother Šefkija Selimović was executed by the Yugoslav Partisan Forces (militias formed to resist occupation forces) and was indicted for the acquisition of some belongings of the Partisan Forces. He was sentenced to capital punishment because he comes from a well-known family that has patriots in the Partisan Forces. The author and narrator Mehmed Selimović was sure that his brother was innocent. This was a turning point for all members of the family. Providing proof against Selimović had affected his life and constituted such a trauma for him that he seriously decided to think of supporting the revolt against the occupation. Yet after deeply thinking, he decided to support the revolt, which started to eat up its children. The author and narrator were not able to overcome his brother’s death. He wanted to escape, so he left Sarajevo and moved to Belgrade. This is a summary of the novel, yet I really recommend reading it and thinking about it. You will not be able to see the aesthetics unless you read it more than once!”

“I will give you a personal example. As I promised you before to tell my life story from A to Z, if you decide one day to write my biography, you can. You are a very good listener, and a good listener can store information and events and keep in his memory images and details and thus write them in sequence and in an engaging manner. Let me go back to this novel to illustrate how power can crush you and take your rights.

“One day, I was rushing to catch the bus to go home, and I heard a voice calling, ‘Vera, Vera…’ I stopped running and looked back. It was my sister who, with my mother and brother, kicked me out of the house. She cuddled me and kissed me as if she was trying to apologize for what she did. She then instantly asked:

‘How are you and what do you do for a living? I cannot wait to hear all about you and to catch up!’

“I felt an igloo on my heart as if my feelings for her were frozen. I couldn’t forget the day my family abandoned me, particularly this sister of mine! We shared the same room for years. We shared our joys and sorrows, problems, and good days, but she stabbed me in the heart. This was the hardest moment I had to live. However, I said to myself that she could have changed over the years. Maybe she had come back to her senses, so I looked at her and stared. Should I forgive her or repel her? I eventually hugged her. She asked:

“Where do you live?’

“I told her, and she asked me if she could come over and catch up because she had loads of things she wished to tell. I agreed and invited her to my place.

“We arrived at my house, and I prepared lunch. As I was preparing the meal, she was looking at my apartment and trying to take note of every detail in it. As we sat to have lunch, she expressed her admiration for the apartment and asked:

“How did you get such a lovely apartment in the city center? How much did you pay for it? Or did you get it from the state?’

“Her questions made me nauseous, and I knew that this greedy snake would never change no matter how many years had passed. I answered her after gaining some self-control.

“It is none of your business. Have your meal and say whatever you came here to say, then leave.’

“I wanted to tell you that our mother has died. We tried to reach you but couldn’t. Her last days were very difficult.

She got so sick that she had to stay in bed, and wished for death. She asked me, not my brother, to look for you and ask you to forgive her for the bad treatment she gave you! She believed that God was punishing her for what she did to you!’

“Forgive her? How can I forgive her? I do not think I can!’

“Please, Vera, forgive her. Otherwise, she will experience torture in her grave!’

“Listen, I never felt she was a mother to me. She was more of an opponent, a rival, anything but a mother!’

“I know the pain you have suffered, but please, I beg you as your only sister to forgive her!’

“Now, you admit the evil you have done to me?’

“We do, and we are all sorry for what we did!’

“I will be better than you all and forgive her, but I am doing so for my sake, not hers. I also forgive you and my brother so that I can live at peace and die without burdens of enmity with any of you.

“Are you done?’

“In fact, I am in great trouble, and I was wondering if you could help me. Our brother took over the house and got married there, and I currently live at Aunt Jovanka’s house. As you know, she lives alone and is ill, and she is afraid of dying on her own. When I moved in with her, she felt assured and safe from dying on her own.’

“I looked at her with rage and reminded her of her last words to me at my family’s house and said:

“So, do you feel the way I felt? Did you live the punishment? You tried to kick me out from my father’s house which belonged to none of you, and today you are kicked out in the same manner. This is God’s justice. You reap what you sow.’

“At this point, I felt that I had to end this unwanted visit, so I said:

“You need to leave now. I have some work to do.’

“She started crying, ’we are sisters Vera! Are you kicking me out of your house?’

“I am not, but I have work to do and need to leave the house.’

“She rudely said, ’It is alright. I will wait for you until you come back!’

“I got furious at her words and felt that giant waves inside me would swallow her. I felt lava inside me that I could not harness and said,

“Do you remember when you kicked me out of dad’s house!! Well, this is not my father’s house, and you have no right to be here. I have been better and kinder than you and allowed this visit to happen. I have served you lunch and did more than you deserve. You deserve nothing.’

“Yes, I apologize for all the bad deeds I did before, but you are the only person left for me in this world! To tell you the truth, our cousin came to our aunt’s house a couple of days ago and said that he will return to his mom’s house with his wife and children. I will need to leave the house. He asked me to go back to our brother’s house. I told our brother, but he categorically rejected the idea and said,’ my wife does not want you here. The last thing I need is trouble with her. I am already struggling, and my wife is a housewife and is pregnant.’

“All these circumstances led me to look for you in the City, but I could not find you. Today I saw you by coincidence, so do you really think that I will leave this apartment? I do not think so!’

“I was outraged! So I said, ‘How rude! Do you want to stay here by force? You want to impose yourself?’

“Not at all, but I am in a very critical situation! I do not know anyone who will take me in.’

“At this point, I remembered myself when I had no one to take me in and how I tried my best to find shelter even for one night. I thought she is my sister after all, and she will not try to harm me in the future. She knows very well that I can simply kick her out when I want to! So I said:

“Despite everything you did before, I will allow you to stay with me. However, you need to know that if you commit any mistake, you will need to leave the house at once.’

“She rejoiced as if she could not believe her ears and said:

“Tomorrow I will bring my luggage. Can you give me something to wear tonight, and tell me where my room will be?’

“We will arrange everything. Do not worry.’

“My sister used to work at the court, which was close to my place. The next day, as I arrived home, I noticed that she had indeed brought her luggage. She said:

“There is a man in the apartment opposite yours who introduced himself to me and expressed his desire to know me better. He said that he lost his wife in an accident and that he lives on his own. He showed interest in me, so what do you think?’

“This person has tried to hit on me several times. He is a loser and very bad-tempered. He tries this with every woman he sees, whether young or old. Never mind him and tell him if he tries again that you work at the court. This will put him off and scare him! He will not cross the line again then!’

“My sister stayed at my place for a while, and then one day, I found myself being summoned to court! I did not have any conflict with anyone! I received a subpoena. I took a day off from the bank and went to court. I was brought before a judge and found my sister sitting there! She claimed that the apartment belonged to her and needed me to sign some documents to make it official. I furiously looked at her and said:

“It is my fault! I should have thrown you in the street! You came back to harm me again! Rest assured, you could do it when I was young and helpless but you will not succeed now!’

“I turned to the judge and said:

“Your honor, my sister came to me seeking shelter after having no place to go, and I took her into my home and allowed her to stay. Now she is trying to claim my house! How could that be right?’

“The judge looked at me in a very uncomfortable manner and said sharply:

“She has a strong argument and a witness, too. They both claim that you have a psychological condition and are not sane enough to keep the property!’

“I wanted to rebel, but my tears were pouring and my heart was aching! I felt that people had turned into monsters and liars! I looked at the judge and asked him:

“How can the vice president of a bank be insane, sir?’

“He answered:

“I have no idea, but we will see about that!,

“I wanted to erupt like a volcano, so I looked at my sister and said angrily:

“Have greed, low morals, and pettiness led you to do this? How can you accuse your own sister of insanity? Your sister who took you into her house! Had I received a dog, he would have been more appreciative, but you are less than a dog. Your inhumanity has done dogs an injustice! Is this how a sister behaves?

“Once again, your honor, I am the vice president of a bank, and I am totally sane. You can ask any doctor to examine my mental state, and you can summon my direct manager and colleagues to inquire about my sanity. I am not what my sister claims.’

“The judge looked at my sister and neighbor and said:

‘Please, step outside.’

“As they did, the judge asked me to approach him and whispered rudely:

“I know they are lying. I can see you are of a sound mind. I can drop the charges for a price!’

“Excuse me, you have just said that you know they are lying!’

“Yes, I have known since the minute you started talking!’

“So, what are you waiting for your honor?’

“I am waiting for the price to be paid!’

“What do you mean by the price?’

“I need you to invite me to your place and make me dinner. You know the rest…’

“I lost my head even though I was in court! I looked at him with contempt and said:

“Do I look like a prostitute for you?’

“No, but you know that in life everything has a price!’

“And do you believe that the price is my honor and dignity!’

“I do not know. It is entirely up to you! You have to decide!”

“I cannot cross the line with you since you are the judge, but there must be other means to stop this!’

“You should know better!’

“Of course, I do, so I can tell you to do whatever you want! You are even worse than my sister is, and I will not give in to your demands simply because of the corruption in the judicial system. I will expose you sooner or later. You are a disgrace to the system, and this country will not have your likes act this way.’

“He bluntly said:

‘Most people working in the system are like me. You have sentenced yourself to strife by challenging the law! I represent the judicial system!’

“I said, defying him:

‘The corrupt judicial system would crack society and demolish trust between the citizens and the state! A poorly run judicial system that your likes enjoy will not last! If justice does not exist on earth, it does in the heavens and is more merciful indeed.’

“I went out fast and saw a lawyer in the hallway, so I asked him:

‘Are you a lawyer?’

“Yes, I am.’

“Can you give me the address to your office so that I can consult you on a case?’

“Sure, when do you prefer to come?’

“Tomorrow between 3 and 4 in the afternoon.’

“It suits me.’

“He handed me his business card, and I thanked him and left the court. The next day, I went to see him as agreed. He welcomed me and said:

‘I am glad you could make it.’

“Hello. My name is Vera Petrović, and I have a case in court.’

“Would you like a drink first? Tea? Coffee?’

“I asked for a coffee.

“After he prepared it, he said:

“Could you please tell me about the case in detail?’

“I explained everything in detail and how my sister was trying to take away my apartment. This apartment had cost me a lot of money and effort. He felt my pain and my fury

“Have your coffee, please. There is nothing to worry about. The case against you is extremely weak and has no solid foundation.’

“But something else came up!’

“What is it?’

“The judge!’

“What about the judge?’

“He offered to dismiss the case for me if I invited him to dinner and had sex with him!’

“You should know that this judge is corrupt and dirty. At certain higher levels, however, he is protected because they need someone like him, someone who has no conscience and can perform illegal business for them. Nevertheless, most judges are decent, and this is the reason the higher level hangs onto dirty judges who would sell their conscience for money and lust. They are only a few. Do not worry.’

“I was relieved by his words and I asked,

‘Can this judge do harm to me in this case?’

“Do not worry. We will ask the court to change the judge if we feel we have to.’

“I felt assured and said:

‘So what do we do now?’

“I will do all the legal proceedings, and when they notify me of the next session, I will let you know by phone. Can you please provide me with your full address and contact numbers at home and at work?’

“I wrote down what he requested and left the office.

“I went home and threw out the luggage of my sister, the snake, and then I changed the door lock. When she returned, she knocked on the door, but when I did not open it, she took her luggage and went to the neighbor who had become her lover behind my back even though I warned her to stay away from that loser. She refused to listen and eventually this loser managed to create a crack between my sister and me.

“One day after two weeks of waiting, the lawyer contacted me and asked me to come to court for the assigned session. I was there on time, and the lawyer and I stood before the same judge. My sister and her lover were there, too. The judge said:

‘You are so stubborn!’

“Your honor, I represent Miss Vera. Can we start please?’

“What documents do you have to refute the claim against her?’

“The lawyer presented documents from all my colleagues at the bank to prove my sanity, and then he presented certificates that proved my position at the bank. It was really impressive! The lawyer then asked the judge:

‘Is it necessary to have a medical report? If so, you shall have it by the next session.’

“The judge agreed, then adjourned the session until next time and asked us to leave. The lawyer looked at me and said:

‘Unfortunately, there is no case. The judge knows it well, but he is trying to gain some time for a purpose. Next session, however, he needs to issue a verdict because there is no solid foundation as I told you before. I have no idea how the judge agreed to entertain such a silly case even before he saw you.’

“We left the court, and I resumed my life as normal. After about a week, the lawyer contacted me again and asked me to go to a hospital the court had assigned to examine my mental state. I did, and they examined me. The staff at the hospital said a copy would go directly to the court and another copy would go to the lawyer’s office. I thanked them and left the hospital. I knew I was well and that the report was not necessary, but these were the demands of the unjust judge. I went in a hurry to the bank, and when I arrived, the manager called me to his office and asked:

‘Do you have any problems, Vera?’

“Not really, only a few issues which will be over soon, and then I will not be late to work.’

“Alright, but let me know what happens.’

“I excused myself and went back to my office.

“Thoughts were lingering in my head. I finished work that day, went home, and was surprised that someone was knocking at the door in the evening. I opened the door and it was two policemen.,

“I asked them, ‘What can I do for you?’

“One of them said, ‘Can we talk to you inside?’

“I answered, ‘About what?’

“We prefer to talk inside,” he replied.

“Come in,’ I said.

They came in and started looking around as if they were searching for something. Then he said, ‘Do you live on your own?’

“Yes, but what makes you ask such a question?’ I replied.

“Listen up, lady! You are dealing with people far stronger than you, and I really advise you to stop being so persistent. These people can put you away in a madhouse or throw you in jail!’ he said.

“I instantly knew that this was a conspiracy! I went to the living room and reached out for the phone to call my lawyer. I raised my voice intentionally to ask:

“I have two policemen in my apartment who are trying to deliver a message to me, but I simply cannot understand it. Could you please talk to them and ask what is it they want?’

“Put one of them on the phone, please,’ he said.

“They were both listening to the phone call, thus I asked one of them to talk to the lawyer.

“He asked him,’ Can you please clarify what you want from the lady?’

“Nothing, but yesterday the neighbors were complaining of screaming and shouting in the building, and we were inquiring from the inhabitants about it.’

“Did you make this clear to the lady when you knocked on her door?’ the lawyer asked.

“Not really, she did not give us a chance for that.’

“The lawyer asked the policeman to put me on and said, ‘They will leave in a hurry now!’ So I thanked the lawyer and hung up.

“Are things clear for you now?’ I asked.

“We are sorry for bothering you,’ they said as they left.

“I started to connect the dots at that moment. These two police officers were trying to render a message for me and intimidate me, but it didn’t work, therefore they left. It must be that filthy judge who had contacted some of his connections in the police! I really thanked the Lord it ended this way, yet I felt that things were about to get worse. After a while, the lawyer called to notify me of the next session in court.”

“We arrived on time, and I really felt relieved that the case was assigned to another judge. The judge looked at all of us and said: ‘What is this nonsense? Do you think the court has plenty of time to waste on such ridiculous cases! This case has no legal foundation!’

“The judge did not even look into the folder! Then, he turned to my sister and said, ‘How dare you do such a thing to your own flesh and blood! You know you have no legal right to claim anything! I could put you in jail for that! I do not want to see you here again!’

“Then he added to all of us, ‘You may leave after paying the court fees.’ We all went out and it was so surreal!

“Things turned around so fast that I could not believe it! This judge supposedly represented justice, but the reality of the Yugoslav judiciary system was that corrupted judge! I then turned to the lawyer and said, ‘What just happened?’

“He answered, ‘This is what should have happened since the beginning. Corruption is everywhere, but thank God, it is limited in the judiciary system! Some colleagues told me he was transferred to a remote area outside Belgrade after many complaints about him. He had to be disposed of. He began to be an embarrassment to his supporters. The important thing is that it is over and you can go back to your normal life in peace and no one will bother you.’

“He added, ‘You have my contact number. Please call if you need any help.’

“I thanked him and rushed home, for he had just relieved me and took a heavy burden off my shoulders. I have to say I knew the right thing would happen eventually, but I never imagined it would be in this way!”

Vera looked at me with eyes full of tears. She was in agony and furious simultaneously. She was desperately trying to conceal her emotions and pain. She said, “Can you connect what happened to me to this novel at hand now? Have you seen the difference between the two judges? I have read this novel a dozen times but the judge in the novel is an honest man who has principles to hold to. As for the one in my experience, he is a corrupt person with a lack of integrity and principles. He also lacks respect for such a great profession indeed.”

“Then,” she resumed, “We live in a country with different ethnicities, denominations, and nationalities, yet we do not feel it is a problem. At least, I do not! This was a source of strength for this country, but when some politicians, who only care about their personal interests and their filthy grudges towards others, assumed power, they attempted to separate. I am positive that if they succeed, this great country will fade away.”

Her analysis fascinated me for she sounded like an experienced politician with political perception and deep insight.

She added, “One day, I will tell you about politics and the politicians here in this country. This is the reason I am reading this novel of Mehmed Selimović, which portrays the violence of authority against individuals. One of the forms of such violence comes from the judicial arena, for example, the incident that I experienced. It was merely practiced against a helpless woman. I am sure that violence will generate more violence in the future, and that these people will rise up against all these practices without notice. After all, injustice can be tolerated for a certain time, but it never lasts forever. It will end sooner or later.”

It was sixish, and the weather was so beautiful outside. The curtains were dancing due to the lovely breeze, and the piano was playing next door. Vera prepared dinner and it was a light meal, as usual. I have to admit that she eats little for dinner. She prepared Serbian cheese sandwiches and I took care of preparing the tea. We watched TV together and all of a sudden she turned it off and said, “You might ask yourself, why a lady like me would live on her own?”

I answered, “Since you asked me this question directly, and since you seem to have read my mind, I will be honest. I have thought of this question on multiple occasions but I have been trying to put it off for some time! I have no idea why! But something prevents me from posing such a question to you!”

She looked at me with sorrowful eyes. Her eyes were burdened with tears of pain, disappointment, and grief. Hurricanes of rage were struggling inside her. Her heart and mind seemed to be struggling, and each of them blamed the other for its plight. She laughed her hysterical laugh, which she resorted to, whenever she was in pain and went to the kitchen to pick up her intimate friend, the brandy bottle. She sat down, sighed, and puffed like a volcano about to erupt.

After pouring her drink, and lighting her cigarette, she said, “Listen, no one likes to live in isolation. Even wild animals prefer to live in herds due to the protection it provides. Loneliness causes isolation and this leads to psychological disorders, like depression, grief, and anxiety. This solitary confinement becomes more difficult as one grows older. I tried my best to alienate myself from people and distance myself. This is not due to hatred or arrogance but because it makes me more comfortable, happier, and more secure and tranquil. I feel that I live for me only and by myself. When I became more alienated by choice, my choice was confirmed as the most appropriate. I was let down, failed, and hurt. I was an open box for them. I was very open-minded, and a loving person, but they insisted on letting me down. How do you expect me to find a soulmate? Someone to share your blessed moments and your sorrows with, and your sufferings, grief, dreams, and happiness with, and someone to share a life with! You need to know that I am not a vulnerable person because my loneliness made me stronger and more independent. It has strengthened my indifference. My past experience made me what I am today, for they made me feel far from being human. These experiences caused me pain, they were frustrating and devastating and made me feel like a nobody! Am I a nobody? No, but a bunch of human animals attacked me and were seeking lust, sexual adventures, authority, and money! These fierce savages tried to prey on me without any consideration of morality, religion, or any other restrictions! They enjoyed my pain and suffering! That is why I keep to myself! Isolation is way better than mingling with those immoral people. My prime motive to isolate myself from others is due to stories I will tell you shortly. The events I am about to relay would cause a woman to go insane become a prostitute or even homeless, but I had steadfastness and resisted all these scenarios. I will tell you three different experiences with three men who all tried to come into my life, each in his own way and unasked. They imposed themselves into my life and because I am a kind person and the last thing I want is to hurt others, I agreed. These events caused me to suffer.

The evening was over and we went to our bedrooms. Next day, I went to the university and was surprised that some foreign students like myself spoke of something I was not aware of! We had a Greek colleague, his name was Araklís who was quite nervous as he spoke. So I approached him and asked: “what is going on, is there a problem?”

He answered furiously: “problems rather a problem!”

I asked: “is it about our specialization?”

“No, it is about exams and professors!” he said

I inquired: “how is that? Can you explain?”

“My senior colleagues claim there are three bribed professors in our faculty!”

So I asked him: “how is that relevant to us?”

He answered nervously: “the subjects we are sitting for next month, two subjects. As for the third, it is for next year according to our senior colleagues in the specialization.”

So I asked again: “what do these professors want?”

He answered confidently: “some want bribes, (in foreign currency), others want foreign alcoholic drinks, and others ask for souvenirs, gifts, and stamps.”

I surprisingly said: “This is impossible!”

He answered: “%100, why are you surprised?”

I said: “because I expect the system to be stricter with no room for such conduct!”

He said: “next weeks, we will need to find some solutions to confront that!”

I left Araklís and met a student from the Middle East, so I asked him about what he heard and he confirmed. It was such a shock for me so I attended my lectures and headed home. In the evening as I was watching TV with Vera, she noticed, I was not myself so she asked: “is everything alright? Is your family doing well? How about your studies?”

“Today my colleagues at the university told me a story I cannot believe until the moment, despite that many confirmed it in the faculty!” I said

She asked: “what story would that be?”

I said: “some professors ask for bribery and students cannot pass if they decline to pay!”

She said: “this is not news for me! It is well known here and journalism has covered it a couple of times!”

I surprisingly asked her: “Are you serious about that?”

She stressed: “you heard me, this can exist in different walks of life! All segments of society can turn a straight person into a thief, an honest person into a dishonest one, a priest into a pretentious person, and a politician into a corrupt because everyone seeks money and in order to get it, they would sell anything! Conscience, righteousness, honor, or even dignity! This state, in its different republics, steals from each other, and usurp each other let alone ripping a foreigner off!”

I asked her: “so what shall I do now?”

“You, as foreign students have to come up with a solution!” she said

“And how do we do that?” I asked

“You need to unite and expose all these professors in different ways, you can, for instance, complain to authorities against them and they will tell you exactly what to do!”

I exclaimed: “but you have just said that each person wants his share of the cake!”

She answered: “yes, but not everyone is cheap! I believe the authorities and the secret police are still strong!”

I said: “we will have to wait and see!”

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