Thursday, June 08, 2006

War booty

My Dad and me were chatting about motorcycles - the conversation was sparked by a Kawasaki parked near the designated smoking area of a medical diagnostic center where I took him to an MRI scan one evening early this week. (A plate on the wall next to center's entrance boasts the British-American Tobacco Company logo. I can just guess this means they partially funded it. Trying to relieve a guilty conscience, I guess, for all those lung cancers.)

Anyway, I digress.

My Dad owned a 1957 BMW R25 motorcycle back in his young days. (Here's a site with photos if you're curious how does one look like.) He and my Mom used to travel a lot with it all around the country when they were a young couple. As it happens, I was eventually born, and the bike was less and less used - as convenient a vehicle it was for a man and his woman, it was not really usable at all for transporting a family with a kid (and later, two kids). I remember the bike from its years when it was gathering dust in our shed where I sometime retreated to play with Dad's tools. Rarely, Dad would take it out and drive it for half an hour around the countryside. Then its battery died, and he didn't get to replace it. One day, Mom sat down with Dad, and told him that, in her opinion, they should sell it. Dad opposed the idea. He was too attached to the bike emotionally even if he didn't use it much anymore. In a strange twist of fate, the very next day a man from our village knocked on the door. After Dad invited him in and seated him down, he said that he came to ask whether the bike would be for sale. Dad agreed to sell the bike, although with a heavy heart. The new owner took good care of the BMW. He repainted it and repolished it, replaced all that needed replacing. When I saw it few months later, I could hardly recognize it - it looked gorgeous, as good as new. Now (about 20 years later) Dad told me that his heart sank every time he saw it in the village. I told him that that's silly - the BMW definitely had a better place with its new owner.

I asked my Dad whether the new owner still has it. He told me that he met the new owner's wife few years ago, and asked her the same. She told him that when we were invaded by serbian forces back in 1991, they fled with their car and left the bike behind. After the territory was liberated in 1996 and they went back, they were not too surprised to not find it - the chetniks took it. She told him that during the war, these thugs could drive any vehicle they laid their hands on over to their serbian homeland, and the authorities would happily register it to their name if they claimed it was a war booty.

I told to my father: "see, now this is something to make your heart sink."

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