Henry Gets Work in Belgium

Per aspera ad astra.  Through hardships to the stars.  
Henry was what we might call today a true ‘Renaissance’ man, e.g. someone with knowledge in a wide range of topics.  Skilled in languages and athletics, he would surprisingly pull out a favorite list of Latin phrases, or sing the tune to an opera he remembered seeing. The above saying was one of his favorites. 

I was very lucky to know Lapailles. He was a senator, and Belgium had some restriction on incoming refugees, coming in from Turkey, or Yugoslavia. There is no work for the Belgium people, so (like always) I was lucky because I know some one.

Lapailles said go to the Mister so and so, I forget his name, and tell him that I sent you, and he give you some job. So he gave us the job at the pool. Last days of the summer – and in Belgium they have two weeks of sunshine a year they so happy. Low country, mostly they have rain. Leon and I made a few bucks.

Then the same Mr. so and so sent me to the Hotel Splendid. He said ‘that’s my hotel too,’ He was one of the millionaires of Belgium; he owned the public pool and the hotel.

The owner of the solarium liked me. So I go to his beautiful villa outside Brussels. I say I’m a gardener (since I worked at Freege) and he asked me to shape the tree just so.  But I still remember I was up in the tree when the branch broke and I hit the ground.  End of that job. 

Then we are outside the hotel, I am directing people and Leon was so strong he was carrying luggage. But we figured out quick it was better to be inside than out in the rain. The owner bought new carpet and needed carpet layers.  So, just like in Auschwitz, ‘Yes, sir, we are excellent carpet layers.’  And Leon and I moved inside to work. I learned how to put the carpet down, nail it and so on.  We went room after room. It was good work except the boss-foreman was an Irishman.  Every day at noon he went out for lunch and came back drunk.  

I was lucky another way too. Within a month Leon and I both had girlfriends. – Henry Zguda

Note – Henry saved the above  business card. I checked Google maps and Vilvorde is a town or suburb about 20 minutes outside of Brussels.  There is still a municipal pool in operation at the address on the card above: Heldenplein 13a, or in French 13a Place des Heros, or in English Heroe’s Square 13.   

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