Veronika: a Short Story
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When an arrogant Englishman visits the Czech Republic expecting easy sex, a beautiful Czech woman brings him face to face with the weight of Czech history and shatters his naivety.
Veronika: Plot Summary
The English narrator arrives in a small Czech town outside Prague and passes the afternoon drinking in a cafe. Discovering that the local girls go to a social club that used to be the town’s Communist headquarters, he decides to go there that evening and pick one of them up.
In the social club, he gets involved in a pool game with local lads that nearly degenerates into a fight. The leader of the locals offers him an honourable way out that he seizes with relief.
He spots a beautiful blonde girl and starts to chat her up. She says her name is Veronika. She is not as impressed by him or his chat up lines as he expects. Veronika takes control of the situation, making him drive her to a different bar.
In the second bar Veronika tells him the story of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich during World War Two and the revenge that the Nazis visited on her country. She also asks him if he wants her to be his girlfriend.
The next morning, he wakes up with no recollection of what happened next, although he suspects he may have had sex with Veronika. She is now driving his car. They arrive at a park and she tells him to follow her.
As they walk though the park, Veronika explains it used to be a village and tells the story of the massacre of men, women and children that took place there after the assassination, when the Nazis razed the buildings to the ground in revenge for the death of Heydrich.
Veronika’s recollection of the massacre ends with them standing in front of the statue commemorating the dead children. The narrator realises that Veronika is the daughter of the only child who survived the massacre.
Veronika is based on events that happened to me when I was in my twenties and used to travel to the Czech Republic a lot. The details have been altered to make them more dramatic, but the general thrust of the story is accurate. In reality the events didn’t take place in the course of a single night. The events Veronika refers to that took place in World War Two are all real too.
Veronika: The Opening Paragraphs
Czech girls? Bit tasty, so I’ve heard.
And the beer’s cheap.
And the flights, the flights they’re practically giving away.
Prague I’ve tried before. Trouble with that is every pissed up wide boy in England seems to be in the queue in front of you. It’s worse than Dublin. Although come to think of it, not as bad as Blackpool. But you see what I’m getting at.
I hire a Skoda at the Airport and take off east, somewhere off the normal tourist trail, in the mountains: dodgy sausages, the best beer in Europe and poor Czech girls with no fashion sense and dreams of a rich English boyfriend and pushing a pram round Regents Park.
I can’t go wrong, can I?
Reviews of Veronika
Wow! Just wow!
Bloody hell! I absolutely LOVED this! There is not a single wasted word here, but everything is covered: adventure, humour, atmosphere, travel, danger, eroticism, love, tragedy (not necessarily in that order) and so much more. The dialogue is supreme, and you have caught the Czech accent perfectly without ruining it by overdoing or exaggerating it. It doesn’t matter that it was based on a real incident, fictional or otherwise this was simply a pleasure to read.
Mr Shimmin, I finished this short story in fifteen minutes with tears in my eyes. Happens I am of the generation who actually remembers the war. I was not enchanted with your protagonist, but his voice was compelling, and genuine. I really expected the usual – some sort of bar brawl or being robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. All the more surprise at the ending.
There is horror and despair in this story. Death and destruction to unravel and understand. Maybe revenge to ignite, or at least answers to find.
Graeme’s magic transported me, effortlessly. Then the wave of insubstantial froth gliding me along crashed onto a rocky shore. Five stars, for sure.
An outstanding work which brings to life the tragedy of World War Two in a very subtle way.
Veronika: Book Cover
This cover is based simply on a photograph of the memorial to the children of Lidice who were executed at the concentration camp of Chełmno in the summer of 1942 . The sculpture was produced in the 1990s by Marie Uchytilová and stands near the old village. “The Memorial to the Children Victims of the War” is made of bronze and includes statues of forty-two girls and forty boys, aged from one to sixteen. It is a very powerful work and just adding the title and author made a straightforward but effective cover.
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