The broad quiet river rolled its waters between woody hills. Higher up, the river wound, but here, for many tens kilometers, its riverbed unbent, thus giving the whole landscape a more majestic view. People here were particular, laborious, and laconic, and if they grasped the nettle, then they would necessarily succeed in it. On holidays, all of them liked to sing together cheerful songs and to drink beer. While the beer they brewed, was delicious and strong. And everything was perfect: corpulent herds grazed upon hills, fields eared, they had all they needed, and the table was sumptuous. They were able-bodied and strong, their women procreated healthy children, and therefore their life was quiet and well. And even if disturbing thoughts came to somebody, if something discommoded somebody's soul, then he only put so much of himself into his work, embraced stronger his wife, and everything caved in.


But it was not always that their life was so well-run. Other times were not forgotten neither: the times of bitter embroilment and ordeals, when their land was pulled to pieces, and lots of the avid took advantage of its temporary weakness and defeat. Then, all enemies made an arrangement and decided to conquer that land forever. And at the most trying hour, it already might have happened so that their dreams could have come true, because the people was absolutely weakened, and there was nobody to support it. But the black hopes were doomed to disappointment. The forces were found. And they addressed to the people, and appealed to its desecrated feelings and pride. And the people gathered up its courage. And the country rose from ashes. It brought the guilefully occupied lands back and strengthened its borders stronger. While the adversaries had to square up to it again, though they would not like to do that very much. Still, the country kept waxing in strength, and the time came, when its power became greater than before. Then, its foes got completely afflicted, while the people became cheerful again, because they were sure that tomorrow would be as good as today, or even better.


Almost opposite to each other, on both banks of that river, there were two villages, each on the slope of its hill. They had many similar features: the every day's routine and tidiness of houses; still, the one village loved darker and stronger beer and sang other songs. While it was no wonder they were little known with each other, though each day they could hear the noise of the bells across the river, and could distinguish their neighbors' houses, but there were neither bridge, nor ferry there. And they could only meet once in a year during a kirn, when people from all villages would come to the city, which was set at the same river far downstream, where its banks were connected by a newly-built bridge. During that holiday, Horst and Martha met. He was the first to notice her; as a rule, he would not be shy at it, but that time, he somewhat hesitated. Only later, after having seen how his friends had been looking at Martha, he took her out of her friends' circle to dance. Music rattled, all became a tourbillon, while the only things he saw, were her eyes and her happy smile. They danced again and again, then sat at a table, then went to the river But the day was too short for them, and it was high time to part. Martha waited for those treasured words, which would help both of them to live through a long separation: their niveous winter, and their rough spring with bourns and first flowers on the meadows, and their warm ringing summer, then, their fall would come again, they would take the crop again, and then, maybe, they would not have to part anymore at all. And those treasured words were spoken


It became warmer. The snow had already left flatlands, but cold brooks were still running down from hills, and mountain tops were still white. It was time for cadets to begin a new grade level, i.e. night instrument flights with a descent to small heights. The program was to be completed in some months. Back in winter, senior instructors determined the route, a part of which ran above the broad quiet river with almost a straight riverbed for long-long tens kilometers. In the neighborhood, there were several villages on hills and a pair of towns, thus, there would be no serious troubles for anyone, and even if there would, then, local people, as the flying school's chiefs believed, were conscientious, and therefore they would understand soon that all that would be done for their benefit, so that to make their country mighty, and so that to make everybody in the whole world to consider it.


Every time Horst abstracted his mind from his daily routine or had a spare minute, all his thoughts were about Martha. Though, a considerable period of time had already passed, there was spring, and there were lots of time left till fall. While Martha was so close: across the river, but there was no way to get to her. Last fall, their parents agreed and planned the wedding day right after the kirn. Horst had almost fallen asleep, but from the river, a strange roar came, as if a heavy bumblebee was flying somewhere on high. He opened the window, which gave into the river, and listened And he recognized that roar. Horst already knew that it was the roar of an airplane, flying high in the sky. And there, where that roar came now, there was Martha's village. Horst felt himself at ease and visualized Martha again, her house, which he had never seen, and fell asleep with a smile. Martha fell asleep soon as well; prior to it, she had also observed the airplane, flying somewhere in the darkness, over the Horst's bank. She already knew that it was an airplane, too


Thus, in searches for an invisible airplane, their sights met each time in the night sky.


Igor Savchenko

Minsk, January 2001


Russian-English translation: Andrej Bursau