Post Eagle Newspaper

Wednesday

Feb 21, 2024

45°F, few clouds
New Jersey

Time Now

12:00:00

The Statue

There is a castle in Poland named Janowiec. It is on the outskirts of a small town, actually an artist colony, called Kazimierz. The castle has two towers and on one of them stands a very proud statue of Kosciuszko with an endless view of the rolling countryside.

  The statue was cast in cement by some unknown artist many years ago and was left abandoned by a roadside. It eventually wound up in front of a peasant farmhouse where, mistaking it for some saint, old peasant women would adorn it with flowers and actually carry on religious devotions singing hymns to their hearts’ content. After a few years, the owner grew pretty tired of this sort of thing, but there wasn’t much he could do about it.

  It so happened that one day Mr. Kozlowski, the proud and only owner of a castle in Poland, even if it represents no more than the might ruins at Janowiec, former seat of the powerful Firlej family, was bicycling past and noticed the statue half hidden among cherry trees. He was most surprised to find a statue of Kosciuszko standing in front of a peasant farmhouse, all bedecked in flowers, with candles all round it to boot. All of a sudden he felt a powerful urge to get possession of the statue, imaging how well it would look on top of the castle tower at Janowiec.

  He had little trouble in reaching a bargain with the owner, who had had about all he could stand of hymn singing and sold it by the weight at one zloty per kilogram. Mr. Kozlowski, who could hardly wait to see the statue installed on his tower, thought he’d just made the best bargain of his life.

  Mr. Kozlowski sent Stanislaw Zlotnik, his farm manager, to collect the statue and bring it to Janowiec. Zlotnik, a big, hefty man, had imagination and a rare sense of humor.

  He set out in a cart drawn by a couple of nags, one of them on loan from a neighbor, for the proud owner of Janowiec Castle couldn’t afford to keep two horses. It was quite a distance to go, over forty kilometers in fact, but nothing was too much for Mr. Kozlowski or his aid where the castle or its ‘museum’ was concerned. With food from his wife enough to last him a couple of days and a pint of local vodka, he set off happily first across the Vistula to Pulawy, then another half a day’s drive to his destination.

  Outward bound, with the cart empty, it wasn’t bad going. The road was good and the weather fine. Troubles began when he reached his destination. The Kosciuszko statue was heavy, weighing eight hundred kilos. It was some job to get a weight like that in the cart. To make matters worse, it had to be done by night, lest the old crones should get wind of their ‘saint’ being carted away in such disrespectful manner.

  At last, after a great deal of cursing and swearing, Zlotnik and the former owner completed the job. Kosciuszko was laid on his back in the cart, thickly covered in straw, his upraised arm, which had once held a sword, pointing accusingly heavenward. Dawn was just about to break when Zlotnik set off, homeward bound.

  As luck would have it, people going to work at the factory in Poniatowa use the same road, also setting out before dawn and traveling by bike. One of them brushed against the cart in passing. “What you got in that there cart, mate?” he called out. Zlotnik looked up and down before answering . . .

  “Can’t you see, mate? Taking a drunk home from the wedding.” And he applied the whip to his horses, hoping to put as much distance as possible between himself and Karczmiska, before daylight. But another man on a bicycle passed him and also noticed that upstretched arm . . .

  “Got a sick man there, mate?” he called.

  “Yeah, that he be, mate.”

  “Taking him to the doctor’s?”

  “The doctor’s or the cemetery, as God wills, man.”

  “He be as bad as that, mate?”

  “You said it, mate.”

  The man got off his bike and walked up to the cart for a closer look. He touched the upstretched arm and jerked away violently saying . . . “He’s stiff and cold all like a corpse!”

  “Well, that’s what he is” said Zlotnik, “I knife him myself.”

  This produced and electric effect and the man was off before you could say knife, leaving Zlotnik chuckling broadly.

  It was broad daylight before he passed Karczmiska. Wouldn’t be long now before he reached the “Stag and Hounds” in Kazimierz. That pub was always first to open and last to close.

  Nearing Kazimierz, the road runs steeply downhill. Zlotnik took the precaution of fixing an iron rod to serve as an extra brake. The Kosciuszko statue weighed all of those eight hundred kilos. Zlotnik got off the cart pulling back on the reins for all he was worth, pressing on that extra brake till the sparks flew out, sliding on the heels of his boots, but he got the statue into Kazimierz all safe and sound. Or, almost, for suddenly from round the corner out jumped old Piecyk, the Militia sergeant, on his rheumatic legs, shouting “Stop or I shoot.”

  That was all very well but the cart with its weight was traveling fast. The horses were straining at their harness and Zlotnik, purple in the face from his exertions, was ploughing up the road-surface with his boots as they hurtled past the militiaman, who fired burst in the air, while Kosciuszko’s arm pointed to heaven in horrified protest.

  Thus the representative of the people’s authority fires a salute in honor of Kosciuszko’s entry into Kazimierz. Swearing himself blue in the face, the sergeant hobbled after the cart, which had vanished around the corner, as fast as he legs would carry him. He soon caught sight of the cart stationary at the roadside, the horses’ sides heaving, their driver breathing hard and that human arm still pointing skyward.

  Sergeant Piecyk now saw that the man on a bicycle was right when he reported shortly after daybreak that he’d seen a cart with a corpse in it. Pistol in hand, old Piecyk walked up to Zlotnik importantly and croaked. . . “I arrest you in the name of the Law!”

  “Me?” muttered Zlotnik, his face going blank with amazement. “What on earth for?”

  “What for?” the sergeant hissed and jabbed Kosciuszko’s outstretched arm saying “For that! For carrying a corpse in your cart!”

  “But, Good God, Sergeant! That’s Kosciuszko. His cement statue I mean!”

  The sergeant, his eyes popping out of his head, touched the arm, went quite purple in the face and spluttered . . . “I arrest you, citizen, for . . . for breaking the speed limit!”

  It all ended happily with the two of them leaving Kosciuszko in the cart outside the “Stag and Hounds” going in for a couple of quick ones inside. After that, Kosciuszko drove up in splendor to Janowiec Castle without further mishap. For a couple of hundred zlotys and a pint of vodka, two local builders got the statue up to the top of that tower in no time at all.

. . . . SEE YOU SOON,  GOD BE WILLING. . . .