continued from here
Ari & Moolie cautiously made their way down to the docks, looking far more Russian than Jewish with their new look. Moolies arm still throbbed, but it had stopped bleeding and showed signs of beginning to heal. An "itch" had settled in, and he took that for a good sign.
There were three ocean-going vessels in port, each of them uglier and less sea-worthy looking than the next. Moolie (being the older brother) wanted to approach the ships one at a time, and alone, while Ari waited in the shadows. If something went wrong, that way, they wouldn't have both of them. As luck would have it, the first ship was interested in having a couple of extra hands on deck... they didn't care about identification or work cards... but they weren't offering much more than berth and cigarette and vodka money. Moolie didn't hesitate, and signaled to Ari to come join him.
They signed ficticious names in the log books, got their gear, and reported to the man who appeared to be in charge. He also appeared to be drunk as heck. But he proved to be a difficult task master, and as dawn broke, he put them and the rest of the crew to work loading crates and boxes from the dock onto the ship. Malingering wasn't allowed, and his eye was everywhere. By the time they called for a breakfast and coffee break, both boys, who weren't used to hard physical labor were thoroughly worn out, and Moolie's wound had to be rewrapped, it had begun bleeding again. When a member of the crew saw his wound and asked him where he'd gotten it, he casually mentioned he'd gotten it in a bar fight in Volgograd. The crewmen's eyes went wide, and they gave him (and his brother) wide berth after that. Volgograd, was known to be a tough town with even tougher bars.
They put their backs into their work for the rest of the day, stopping briefly for a lunch of boiled chicken, hard-boiled eggs, and vodka, followed by 6 more hours of grueling work. The ship, ready for sailing on the mornings tide, Moolie and Ari were taken to their berths, and both collapsed into their hammocks (canvas beds hanging from hooks below decks) in a dank, dark and smelly room with a dozen other crew members. The night passed without incident, although Moolie & Ari arose to find much of their meager belongings were gone. They hadn't had the foresight to keep all their belongings on them, and had placed them on a common shelf, and, well... you can guess the rest.
They were reduced to the clothes on their backs, their eating knives, and money in their pockets (and in their shoes). They wouldn't be making that mistake again. The ship sailed smoothly, the captain a son of a bitch who knew how to run a smooth ship, and tolerated no insubordination. When one of the crew gave him a little backtalk, the captain called him to his side... put his arm around his shoulder, and promptly threw him handily overboard. Fortunately for the crewman, they weren't far from shore.
The ship sailed for several days, until reaching it's destination of Sevastopol in the Black Sea, where Moolie and Ari were fortunate enough to gain passage (and work) on a freighter, of Greek registry, headed for Cyprus, Beirut and Palestine. Moolie and Ari kept their heads low, worked hard and were left alone. In each port, they helped unload and load the ship, and were getting stronger (emotionally and physically) with each port they made. Finally, they were headed toward the Palestine coastline, but the British (who controlled the region) had the port blockaded, and wouldn't allow the ship to land. The British military liaison boarded and searched the ship, but still refused to allow the ship to land. They decided that they'd have to swim for it, waited for evening and dove overboard, and swam for the shore, under cover of darkness. The water wasn't too cold, and they were in the water for longer than they could imagine when they finally landed ashore, falling face first onto the sand of the Holy Land. Exhausted and exhilarated, they kissed the sand, said a number of appropriate prayers, this time in Hebrew, and laughed heartily at their good fortune.
Unfortunately their good fortune didn't last, as a searchlight on a British Jeep from a British patrol carrying Sten automatic weapons lit up the beach all around them. They were too tired to make a run for it, and were easily taken. The British returned them to their ship, still anchored offshore, and sent them back. The ship returned with them to Athens... Exhausted and dejected, they tried to think of their next move. Maybe they should just try to find the Jewish community in Athens and settle in. How bad could it be? Nah... they'd had their taste of the promised land... the land of milk and honey... they would be back.
to be continued.