The tinkling music from the merry-go-round counter-pointed a waltz being blasted over microphones from the spinning swings. Bread and circuses, Robin thought. Did they really work? Did this kind of “friendship festival” have any impact on the way their former enemies looked at them? He found it hard to believe.
Or were the children being influenced unconsciously? Older minds were calcified. Look at Frau Neuhausen who still believed that Hitler had made Germany “great” again. Yet maybe those children giggling in delight as an American GI did magic tricks on an improvised stage would associate America with laughter, cotton candy and a brighter future.
He caught sight of WAAF Flight Sergeant Hart with her daughter returning from the pony rides. To his surprise, she was escorted by Major Dickenson. The adults each held one of the little girl’s hands as she pulled up her feet and swung between them. Dickenson stopped and pointed to a stand selling cotton candy. Flight Sergeant Hart’s daughter started clapping her hands and pleading with her mother. The responsible WAAF hesitated but then gave in. Major Dickenson went to the stand to buy the candy, and Robin continued.
A large crowd had collected around the pistol range and as he passed a round of applause swept the crowd. He paused to see what was happening. Standing before the target was a short, plump girl in trousers and boots who looked vaguely familiar although he couldn’t place her. They had moved the target back another yard, yet she levelled the pistol and put another six shots into the bullseye with ease. As the applause sounded again, he remembered who she was: the Hero of the Soviet Union he’d seen at the ACC.
Quickly he looked around for other Soviet soldiers, but there were none in evidence. Of course, this girl was not in uniform either, so theoretically they might be mixing in the crowd although he’d been told that was strictly against SMAD orders. He looked more closely at the spectators. Most of the men in the crowd were either over sixty or American, French or British soldiers with their German girlfriends. Then, with a start, he caught sight of Corporal Borisenko in uniform close to the front of the crowd and clapping enthusiastically for the Soviet sharpshooter. Was that a coincidence? There was no prohibition against contact with the Soviets, of course, technically they were still Allies after all, and yet... Maybe he should mention it to the IO?
Robin continued, found the booth selling hot drinks and got in line. Progress was slow. When he finally reached the front, he ordered two hot chocolates and then retraced his steps, carrying the hot drinks in a cardboard tray. He caught sight of the Hero of the Soviet Union and Corporal Borisenko walking side-by-side, their heads together in earnest discussion. He changed course just enough to intercept them. Borisenko looked up surprised when he called her name but saluted without a trace of discomfort and promptly introduced her companion as “Mila Mikhailivna, who I met at the ACC luncheon.”
“Are you enjoying the afternoon, Miss Mikhailivna?” Robin asked the Soviet heroine directly, and Corporal Borisenkov translated his question into Russian.
The young woman broke into a wide smile and gave a lengthy answer which Borisenko translated as: “Very much, sir. She’s never seen anything like this before.”
Interesting, Robin reflected. Maybe the bread and circuses had another audience as well?
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