Sunday I awoke at noon. Surprised? Lest you think I’m slipping into lethargy let me tell you the tale of the Bastille Boat Bash to aid the children of Chernobyl.
Saturday evening we (Judy, Ivea and Mike & Debbie) arrived at the dock shortly after 7pm. I had just found out that the schedule was to cruise until 11:30 then dock and disco until 2am. Midnight sounded late but survivable. It was a “dinner cruise” but the caterer had a mixed reputation and the buffet table was a mob scene so we had eaten leftovers at Judy’s earlier. This left us in strategic command of the dessert table and the free champagne bar while others jockeyed for their food.
The boat was something like the Wendella and other cruise ships on the Chicago river or something like our Li river trip in Gulin. It was a two deck ship and the top deck & tables were jammed so we staked out a spot on the lower deck at the back of the boat on some life preserver boxes. We were between the stairway to the upper deck just below the band and the only toilet on board. The trip was for Expatriates (Expats) and I discovered that most of them were Brits and not that many Americans. Did some mingling (which is the reason I wanted to go) but not much mixing went on.
The river trip was beautiful. Great view of the city with gold capped cathedrals and forests punctuated with beaches and underside views of massive bridges. Later we could see the stars clearly from the boat.
An hour or so into the trip I stopped to survey the remains of the food table and briefly exchanged pleasantries with a Canadian chap in a black shirt and white jacket (hereinafter referred to as the Guy) who was rather boisterous and was wrapped around a young Ukrainian woman (hereinafter referred to as Girl1). I proceeded on my assigned task, procured Champagne and returned to the team hangout in the stern. Later I observed the Guy at a table on the upper deck at a table with Girl1 (who was now wearing his jacket) and Girl2.
Later I was sitting in the back of the boat chatting with an American woman who heads the US/Ukrainian High School exchange program. There was some shouting and we looked up to see a passenger with his forearm on the neck of the Guy pinning him against the wall outside of the toilet. We intervened and separated the two. As the angry man and his female friend (in white French costume) screamed at the Guy about how revolting he was. I took her by the arm and escorted her to the stairs out of sight of the Guy. By now much alcohol had been consumed all around and good judgment was not at it’s best.
Shortly thereafter another man came down the stairs, turned the corner, walked up to the Guy and punched him in the face. He went down like a brick, his glasses went flying and again intervention was appropriate. One lens of the Guy’s glasses had popped out and some time was spent locating it.
It was shortly after 11pm and the boat had made several turns up and down river and now appeared headed for the dock for which I was grateful. It had been pleasant but I was tired and needed a good night’s sleep. It would also be more difficult to get home after midnight as the busses, trolleys & trams shut down and the taxis are not such a good deal.
I looked up and saw a man on the outside of the railing moving toward the rear of the boat. I presumed it was a crew member preparing for docking. As he moved out of the shadow into the light I recognized “the Guy”. He just stood there on the rear corner of the boat. I looked back a Judy (whom I was talking to) and when I looked back he was gone. There was a splash and I could see the ripples and what appeared to be thrashing behind us. Ieva ran up the stairs and told the organizing committee to call the captain. I sprinted the distance of the ship on the lower deck and told the crew to tell the captain. I ran back to the stern but by now we could see nothing.
Ieva had watched the whole scene develop. the Guy stood, looked back at the boat, then turned (appeared intentional not a slip) and jumped. When he hit the water he appeared to thrash like someone who was in trouble. If you also include that he was drunk, irrational and the current was strong the prospects were not promising. What was it? A drunken Stupid/Stupor, an act of dispair, a suicide? We could only ponder and pray as the boat circled and searched. These things happen so fast that they leave you with a sense of unreality. No instant replay to try and grasp what occurred. The surge of emotion as the consequences of the action come to mind
The boat turned back but it was tricky business at night with buoys and shallows on both sides. Several of the crew appeared with life preservers and one stripped to his briefs and put on a life jacket, ready to go in after the Guy. We circled and cruised what the captain thought was the area with many people looking and a searchlight sweeping the water and shore for a couple of hours before abandoning the search. Later a small Police boat arrived and started cruising in along the shore.
As we neared the dock a patrol boat came along side and we stood offshore for 15-20 minutes. Judy, Ieva and I were escorted to the Bridge where we found a Police Officer, a British woman from the organizing committee who had observed the incident, Girl1, Girl2 and the woman who sold us the tickets (who was also a translator). We were told the we were to go the police station to file a report.
The policemen wanted all of us and the entire organizing committee to come to the police station with them. Everyone else disembarked and headed home. We left the boat together and followed the policeman across the deserted dock a few blocks up to the “station”. Two boat crew came as well but the British woman and organizing committee were not seen again.
They took us into small room that appeared to be an interrogation room with bars on the windows. In the hallway was a steel door to what appeared to be the “cell” They then took the 2 crew and Girl1 into their main “control room”. The control room had a bank of phones with selection buttons (circa 1950’s) and a VHF radio console (circa 1960’s). The man in charge asked the questions and proceeded to record the information by hand (rather laboriously and slow) while he was asking questions. I took a short trip to the toilet which was a squat affair reminiscent of rural Syria or perhaps the yellow mountains level. Did not stay long.
Some time after 3am we were ushered into the control room to have our statements recorded. The policeman asked us to tell him what we saw and asked some questions during the process. The translator gave him our answers and he “carefully” inscribed them on his paper. (Oh for a tape recorder and word processor at that moment). By 4am we had finished, still puzzled by the turn this was taking.
During the interrogation the translator tried to call the Canadian Embassy (wrong number and the American she rang was was no doubt shocked to get awakened). They then called his hotel. The plot began to thicken. The hotel claimed he had arrived dripping wet and locked himself in his room for the night. The timing of when he jumped, where we were, and the logistics of getting to the hotel didn’t appear to work. Meanwhile the policemen got distracted and the translator showed us what was found in the Guy’s jacket pockets. Along with some money was a condom and a pair of handcuffs. Apparently both Girl1 and Girl2 had admitted to sleeping with the Guy who had only been in town for a week.
Was he alive in bed at the hotel or floating in the river somewhere?
About 4:10am an officer came with a car and took us home. The translator remarked “you have a rare opportunity, the sunrises are very beautiful in Kyiv”. About 4:30 am I crashed in my new bed, turned off the alarm and gave thanks that it was over.
Two days later we were told that he had indeed made it to shore and his hotel. Rumor has it that the Canadian Embassy personnel showed up and escorted him to the airport