Let me back up a bit on the history side...
It's a bit hazy, because I wasn't there personally, but Russia overran Czechoslovakia in the sixties. My stepfather was in a cafe in Prague, when the soldiers came marching in. He removed the flick-knife from his boot and stuck it into the underside of the table before he was arrested. That one move saved him from being shot on sight.
Now I'm not sure why he was arrested, his surname was Svoboda, the same as the last Czech Prime Minister, but I do not know if he was a relative. His father's name was Rudolf, I think. I know there was a great Czech painter by the name of Rudolf Svoboda, but that's about it...
Anyway, Stan's father, we'll call him Mike, went off to a concentration camp. Rotten potatoes and rotten cabbage were not his favourite fare, so he escaped. Must have been Winter, as my mum tells it, as she reckons he would take his boots off for the night, in barns etc, and there would be blood everywhere, from where he was shot. (Couldn't feel them in the cold?) He made his escape on skis, but I do not know where he got them from. Stolen, or hand made...
Somehow he made it to Australia, and he never bothered learning the language properly as he always wanted to go home eventually. There was a large Czech population around the Cross, so he had plenty of friends whilst in exile.
Meeting him is another mystry to me, he is in our christmas photos from 1968, and I remember my first meeting with him.
Mum was living with him, I spent a weekend with them, and informed my Grandfather that they were married. My grandfather never lied unless he was telling a joke, so he promptly put me on his lap and said 'Your mother is Not Married to That Man and Never Will Be'. (Don't the capitals just make it look so important?!?)
Needless to say, after several attempts, mum conceived my brother. She was six months pregnant when I went to live with them, after Big Al took off.
We lived in the top half of a terrace house, the loo was outside and downstairs, there was one bedroom, a huge lounge and crooked covered balcony which I always viewed with suspicion! I was always worried that it would fall with my (sparrow) weight. The lounge had a large round 'sawn-off' oak table in it, and we used to eat at the table, seated on cushions. It was so much fun! (In later days when we put wonky legs back on it it would fall over regularly...
The night before 'Stan' was born, mum warned me I might wake up on my own in the morning. True, I got up, mum had gone to hospital and I ate brekky with our elderly landlord and landlady downstairs, went to school, and Grandpappy took me back to his place after we went to visit Mum and Stan.
Apparently, Mum had had trouble finding Mike, and when she got to the hospital they just told her to sit down. Mind you, she had nearly given birth to Stan in the back of the taxi when Mike had finally got the message. (I think the police kindly tracked him down at one am up the Cross. He was a professional gambler, living by the same wits that helped him escape and survive...)
'Stan' looked like Uncle Fester - all bald and beady-eyed and grumpy looking in his hospital photo! He was a precocious child, (Or was that attrocious?), always wanting everything just out of his reach. They had to block his nose to get him to let go of the teat when they thought he should have finished feeding - although he always screamed blue murder that he was still hungry. He was positively running by the time he was eight months old, and demanded instant attention each morning even though it was probably anly 5am. (I am awake - entertain me.)
I often had to explain that Stan was not my father's son, to friends, well meaning adults etc.
'Oh, so he's only your half-brother?' This from the well meaning adults, kids have much more nous.
No, he's my full brother because I Don't Half Love him.
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