“Maybe my life was a hodgepodge of wonderful coincidences, I don’t know. Now that I am 80 years old and my wife, whom I have known and loved practically all of my life, recently died, I think about this a lot.
My name is Peter Messner, and this rather German name has helped me several times, even though I am of Jewish origin. Before the war, we lived in Czechoslovakia, and when Hitler came to power in Germany, my foresighted father had a feeling that this would not turn out well and decided to emigrate. He just came to me one day and announced to my mother, me, and my siblings that he managed (for a lot of money) to get visas to Ecuador. We were supposed to leave for Genoa, Italy in two days and wait there two weeks for a ship.
Before the war, we lived in Czechoslovakia, and when Hitler came to power in Germany, my foresighted father had a feeling that this would not turn out well and decided to emigrate.
It was a big rush, you know, but in the end, we all packed and set off for Italy. In Genoa, we lived in a small but clean hotel at the edge of town. We did not leave the hotel very often, because we, of course, knew about the Italian fascists’ hatred of Jews. But once when father went out shopping, he saved a person. A car was about to run him over, and he pulled him up from the ground at the last minute. The person understandably felt gratitude towards my father and gave him a business card with words written on it that if he needs anything, he could turn to him.
The name on the business card was of a high-ranking member of the National Fascist Party of Italy. A paradox, isn’t it?
On the day of departure, there was a lot of confusion, and we waited two hours in line for boarding. When it was our turn, my father realised that he had left the passports in the hotel safe. Since the next ship was to depart in a month’s time, we couldn’t do anything else but take a taxi and try to present the documents during the last hour before the ship was scheduled to depart. But when we arrived at the port, we heard this large noise. The ship that we were supposed to take was blown up by a torpedo. Nobody survived. To the customs officers, we didn’t survive either.
We were on the list of passengers on the sunk ship. We didn’t have anywhere to live, and our remaining money would hardly be enough for new tickets … Then my father remembered the business card. He called the number on the card, and in several minutes, the fascist that he rescued was standing in front of us. He offered us accommodation in his house for a whole month, and prior to departure, gave father a letter that should be presented to the military or the police in the event of any problems.
So we made it to Ecuador after all. It wasn’t what I would call beautiful there, but at least there was freedom. Horrible news came from Europe during the war. And after the war, it wasn’t really any better.
My father told me one day after getting back from work that he managed to arrange school for me in the United States. And so I left for the land full of opportunity, which I had not even dreamed of yet. I was thrilled, but the problem was that I had to leave after my studies. So I got this life-saving idea that I would join the army. Surprisingly, they accepted me, and I worked as a bartender in an officer’s club during the Korean War.
My father told me one day after getting back from work that he managed to arrange school for me in the United States. And so I left for the land full of opportunity, which I had not even dreamed of yet.
One day, I brought a cocktail to a certain general who asked me who I was and where I was from. I truthfully told him that we are from Czechoslovakia and that my family is in Ecuador. I also mentioned that I must return to Ecuador after finishing my military service even though I would rather stay in the United States. The general was thinking and then said that the only possibility is for the US Senate to grant an exception and that this is a difficult thing, but that he would try to arrange this for me. And believe it or not, in two months’ time, I received it. I only found out later that this general was Dwight D. Eisenhower.
My life is full of interesting coincidences. In relation to Czechoslovakia, for instance, I found out that I own a house in Prague that the communists forgot to confiscate. Thanks to Czech friends, I managed to get it back. However, I have not been to the Czech Republic, and due to my advanced age, I unfortunately have no plans to do so.”
In his old age, Peter Messner got married for a second time, and he lives a happy and satisfied life in the USA.