The Cobblestone from the Herrengasse by Arthur Rindner

I would like to share with you an interesting short story from my first visit to Czernowitz in 1988.

I was posted for 2 years in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) USSR, representing an American Airline. On completion of my tour I returned to the company base which was Frankfurt Germany. I was told that a newly hired employee was working in the base and that he was from Russia.

The employee, Peter, came over to my office and we exchanged salutations in Russian and I asked him from which town he came from, to my surprise he said he was from Czernowitz and that he was born in the Ruska Uliza (the street on which I was born), what a small world?

The same week I received permission from the Russian Ministry of the Interior (UPDK) to visit Czernowitz which had been denied to me during my tour of 2 years while in Leningrad.

I asked Peter if he had relatives or friends in Czernowitz who could help me there. He said that he has a cousin living in Czernowitz and that they will help me.

I returned to Leningrad and flew to Lvov and from there by train to Czernowitz. Peter’s cousins were waiting for me and received me in a very hospitable way and were very helpful.

On my departure from Czernowitz they asked what I would like to take with me from Czernowitz, my reply was, that I wanted a cobble stone from the Herrengasse. They thought that I was a little bit screwy. I asked that they pick me up from the Cheremosh hotel around 01:00 AM and be driven to the Herrengasse, where with a screw driver I removed a cobble stone. Peter’s cousin’s husband who drove me there was very nervous and scared and he hid behind a building whilst I dug up the cobblestone!

I returned to Leningrad for the flight back to Frankfurt together with my cobblestone and I started to think and then it was my turn to be worried. How was I going to take this stone through customs and out of the USSR? This was the period of Chernobyl and the Russians would think that I was a spy removing radiation contaminated evidence. After a while of pondering I came up with a solution. I requested that one of my former Russian employees place the stone under my seat on the aircraft prior to my boarding.

The cobblestone will be placed on my father’s headstone in the cemetery in Netanya. I always remember his talking about the grandeur of the Herrengasse during our good life before the war.