The Old Man and the Sea
Jouni meets John in Helsinki to deal with a local communication company.
Trying to dig into her past, Jouni hears about the legend of a U-boat that disappeared at the bottom of the Baltic Sea carrying a loads of German gold bars on board. The legend comes from a now deceased drunken Estonian fishing trawler Captain who used to tell a tale to bar acquaintances in Sompasaari after the war. He was claiming to have sold stolen Russian diesel to a drifting German U-Boat at the end of the war and of having been paid in gold bars.
John and Jouni take a helicopter ride to Tallinn where they track a surviving crewmen of the Estonian trawler who claims to having been shown a gold bar bearing an engraved Swastika. The fisherman, now in his 80s, confirms that a woman and her infant were on board.
GULF OF FINLAND, BALTIC SEA
A white & blue AgustaWestland AW139 helicopter glides across the Gulf of Finland. Jouni's looking at the horizon through the large square window. She thinks of her mother. John is on the phone, speaking Chinese.
APARTMENT COMPLEX, MAARDU, TALLINN, ESTONIA
-You have those in China, right?
Asks Jouni as both John and herself walk along rows of eight storey buildings.
-In Mainland, yes, but not really in Taiwan.
On either sides of the street, Soviet era apartment buildings lay derelict amidst new cars driving on freshly pave bitumen. State of the art intelligent street lights turn on as dusk engulfs the neighborhood.
-Not that the architecture is comparable, but it reminds of this time I visited an art district in Beijing, District 747 or whatever. Anyways, we were walking through this revamped industrial complex probably build in the fifties. The buildings were like one of two storeys high made out of brick and there were these pipes sticking out and running from one building to another, even crossing the street. So this guy who was showing us around, I think he was chair of some local university department, told us that the complex had been conceived and build by East-German engineers and he said that without blinking. I didn't have much to do with anything there. I was just accompanying my girlfriend who was preparing some kind of art school exchange program and she was traveling with the head of her school who was obviously Jewish. The Chinese guy kept going on and on about the ingenuity of the Germans. I guess he thought that because we were westerners, we would be flattered. The Jewish guy kept nodding. I have never been there, but from picture I've seen and movies, it was like we were walking downtown Auschwitz. Anyways, I don't know why I'm telling you that.
-Here, number 7, That's the address we're looking for right? Asks John, interrupting Jouni.
-Yeah, 7, that's it, answers Jouni as she looks up at the apartment building.
CORRIDOR, APARTMENT BUILDING, MAARDU, TALLINN
John and Jouni look at name plates in Cyrillic as they reach the third floor of the apartment building. Buzzing "Made in USSR" T12 fluorescent tubes give to the corridor an eery atmosphere. Jouni, on a matrilineal quest, wonders what is it that she shares with this man, so far from her culture, whatever culture she clings to. A young girl runs past them and reaches the last door. She knocks frantically as her bodily language shows an urgent need to pee. A woman opens the door and wonders who are those two strangers standing behind her daughter who disappears under her arm.
Jouni smiles and salutes the woman using one of the few Finnish expressions she knows, "hei", hoping that this Estonian woman will appreciate the gesture and understand the English which will inevitably follow.
-Hi my name is Jouni Wilson. We are looking for Mr. Laja, Erik Laja.
The woman looks at Jouni, then at John, then at Jouni again and answers in Estonian then in Russian. Jouni smiles and remains speechless for a moment.
-Erik Laja, we're looking for Mr. Erik Laja, an elderly man.
Jouni mimics an old man holding a cane.
-Old man... You know.
The woman repeats that she doesn't understand her when John steps forward and introduces himself in Russian with a tick Chinese accent.
-My friend here is looking for an old man for whom we were given this address.
Both the woman and Jouni look at John in disbelief. The woman answers.
-You mean Vanaisa? My husband's father. What do you want from him?
She looks at Jouni as if she was wondering if she could be an illegitimate daughter. John continues.
-We have reasons to believe that Mr. Laja might have been on board a ship along with my friend's mother and grandmother during the last days of the war.
-What war? asks the woman.
-The second world war. In 1945.
-Hah, the submarine story, replies the woman. He's a crazy old man.
Jouni asks John to translate as she notices that the woman seems to know something.
-She's mentioning a submarine story.
Jouni looks at the woman while asking John.
-But is he here? Is he alive?
John asks the woman in Russian.
-Is Mr. Erik Laja still alive?
-Yes, he's in his room. Come in. Why would I care, who would want to talk to him anyways.
ERIK LAJA'S ROOM, MAARDU
Back from rushed visit to the washroom, the little girl now sits on her grandfather's lap as he cleans his glasses to get a better glimpse at the two unexpected visitors.
-So what's your name cutie, asks Jouni.
The little girl's eyes widen and her mouth remains shut as she looks at her grandfather with amusement. Jouni turns to John.
-Guess you're gonna have to continue with the translation.
-Ok, what would you want me to ask? Don't make it too complicated though.
Jouni looks at the old man trying to create a bond. The old man remains perplex.
-Well, I guess you can start by introducing then tell him that we got his name from old log books in the Helsinki Port archives and that we were then able to trace him back to this address.
Once Jouni starts asking questions about a woman passenger and a baby, the old man's face lights up as if this detail triggers a domino effect of reminiscence.
OUTSIDE THE APARTMENT COMPLEX, NIGHT, MAARDU
John and Jouni walk out of the apartment building.
-Guess the poor man must have been pretty freaked out. After telling incredulous listeners for over sixty years that his fishing trawler was once boarded by a mysterious U-boat at the end of the war, now shows up a Russian speaking China-man along with an American woman interrogating him about it. Anyways, you never told me you spoke Russian. Thanks.
Jouni grabs John's hand who plays it mysterious.
-There are lots you don't know about me.
The couple strolls into the Estonian night.