To be "an operator"

There is a story about one of my relatives that has been going around my family (in various exaggerated forms) since the 40s.

The protagonist is a great-uncle of mine. The setting, Europe at the end of the second world war.

My great-uncle had been fighting for the Allies. With the war over, he wanted to return to his family's ancestral home, a tiny village in Czechoslovakia (at the time), near Ukraine. He didn't know how much of his family had survived the war, but he wanted to bring as many as he could back to the US with him.

There were some obstacles. My great-uncle was in France. The village lay deep in Soviet territory, and the Soviets weren't keen on American passers-by. Border crossings lay ahead. The cold war was beginning. Europe was in shambles.

Somehow he acquired a jeep and some gasoline. Frankly, he probably stole the jeep. He drove the jeep across Europe. He spoke the languages. He made deals. The Soviet border guards drank well.

He found the village and married the only surviving female relative, then turned the jeep around to bring her to the US. They lived in California the rest of their lives.


I've known this story forever. It's part of what I am.
My great-uncle, he's what we call an operator. He speaks every language. He's undaunted by uncertainty. He thrives where others fear to operate. He doesn't follow the rules. He does the impossible. He has a toolbox a mile deep.

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