Cast of Characters
Denis (Pronounced, Denis) *
Sychov (Pronounced, Sychov)
First Border Guard
Second Border Guard
Tiny Polish Man
* The short form of Denis in Russian sounds almost exactly like English’s Dan. Thus, Dan represents the shortened form of Denis.
Moscow, 1991. Mid-day on Arbat street.
The Arbat is a pedestrian mall in the center of Moscow. Merchants peddle souvenirs from small folding tables. The customers are mostly foreigners. People pass by the tables without stopping.
One of the merchants is SYCHOV- a friend and former classmate of Dan. SYCHOV works the crowd like a carnival barker.
SYCHOV: (Shouts, with a thick Russian accent) Dohlly, dohlly, Rahshen dohlly! Meester, kahm een. Tehk a luk, pleez!
A man approaches Sychov from behind. It is DENIS (DAN).
DAN: (Also with a thick Russian accent) How mahch?
SYCHOV: Noht expenseev. Veddy cheap. (Sychov turns and recognizes Dan). Oh, hi.
DAN: How’s business?
SYCHOV: . Some thieves pinched my neighbor’s lock box and got away with three hundred rubles. Guy bends over to tie his shoe, and poof– it’s gone.
DAN: I’ve got an idea. Let’s ditch this place and go to Germany?
SYCHOV: Got any connections there? (Suddenly shouts) Dohlly, dohlly, Rahshen dohlly! Noht expenseev. Veddy cheap.
DAN: (Startled) Would you warn me next time?
DAN: No connections. But I can’t stay here.
SYCHOV: You’re serious?
DAN: Are you happy here?
DAN: Then what’s there to think about? We’re going. I heard you can buy a sponsorship to Poland and from there, walk right into Germany. The border’s totally open.
SYCHOV: Why Germany?
DAN: To live there. Really. Kowalski told me about it over the phone.
SYCHOV: I don’t know German.
DAN: You don’t know English either, but you’re screaming it like your tongue’s on fire.
SYCHOV: I’m advertising.
DAN: Right. So you coming with me?
SYCHOV: No, I don’t want to.
DAN. Look, a Russian is like a drug addict. Until you drag him out of his environment, he’ll keep living in shit. Why do drug addicts stop shooting up when you throw them in a clinic? Because of the healthy environment. And why do they start shooting up again when they’re back on the street? Because of the un-healthy environment. Get it? It’s all about the environment. There’s a better environment – a better life out there, Sych.
SYCHOV: Yeah, I know. I still don’t want to go. I’m applying to study chemistry.
DAN: You? Since where are you a chemist?
SYCHOV: I’m not. But I have connections.
DAN: Do what you want. You don’t know where there’s an electronics store, do you?
Sychov turns away from his table and points.
SYCHOV. Over there, I think.
While Dan and Sych scan the nearby storefronts, three passers-by approach the table. They’re thieves. One of them picks up the most expensive matryoshka doll from Sych’s table. Sychov whirls around and grabs his hand.
SYCHOV: Hold it, you bastard. What are you up to?
THIEF: (Speaks with an accent) I was looking.
SYCHOV: (Still holding his hand, circles the table) Yeah? I don’t like how you look. How about I tear your beard off?
THIEF: Are you talking to me? You said that to me? When I’m done with you, even your mother’ll wish I killed you…
Thief punches Sychov, knocking him into the table. Dolls fly into the air; the table’s legs buckle. Sychov ends up on the ground. Passers-by stop to look. Sychov quickly jumps to his feet and scrambles to pick up his dolls.
SYCHOV: (In a panic) Dammit, dammit, dammit. Move! Dammit, dammit…
SECOND THIEF: Mama’s boy.
THIRD THIEF: Bye bye, sweetie!
The thieves roar with laughter. As they turn to leave, one of them chucks a doll at Sychov. Sych lunges at them.
SYCHOV: You son of a bitch!
The crowd makes way as Thief easily tosses Sychov aside.
THIEF: Careful you don’t bruise that soft face, sweetie.
Dan finally realizes what’s happening. He rushes to help Sych, but Second and Third Thieves block his path.
SECOND THIEF: No fair, pal. They’ll settle this one-on-one.
DAN: Let go!
THIRD THIEF: Do you want to live?
THIRD THIEF: Stay back.
Dan steps back. Meanwhile Thief and Sychov grapple. The thief is toying with Sychov, who swings wildly, takes a punch in the face, falls, stands back up, flails again, takes a punch again. The crowd yells.
CROWD: What are you looking at? Stop them.
SECOND THIEF: (Pointing at Sychov, he addresses the crowd) Comrades! This man peddles souvenirs. He won’t fight back. He’s swindling people. There’s no other way to deal with these lowlifes.
THIRD THIEF: Look, they’re selling off our country to foreigners for a few kopeks.
CROWD: That’s right! Get ‘em!
SECOND THIEF: I have a wooden knife at home. My grandfather gave it to me, after the war. I wouldn’t sell it for a million rubles because it’s a reminder of my past, all our pasts.
CROWD: Nothing’s sacred to this cockroach. He asked for it.
They beat Sychov for no reason.
DAN: Sych, look out!
Sychov is knocked to the ground.
DAN: Get up, Sych, get up!
Sychov is out cold and lies still.
CROWD: That’s all you’ve got?! Is he alive? Hey, sweetie! (Listens) Looks dead to me.
The crowd starts moving again, then quickly disperses. The thieves vanish. Dan is left alone, crouched over Sychov.
DAN: Sych. I’m sorry! I thought you could handle it yourself! Do you understand me? Sych, are you okay? Can you hear?!
SYCHOV: Is Germany far from Brussels?
DAN: Huh? Uh, I don’t know. Probably .
SYCHOV: We’re going to Brussels. To the Court of Human Rights. We’re taking them to court.
SYCHOV: All of ‘em. We’ll win, too. Let’s go.
DAN: You’re serious?
SYCHOV: Yeah. Inflation, no apartments, no jobs, you were just saying.
DAN: (Helps Sychov to his feet) But you have a job.
SYCHOV: I had a job. (Stomps on what’s left of his dolls, and screams) Sons of bitches! I’ll see you in court!
Sychov has a piercing, high-pitched scream.
DAN: Come on, stop it. We’re going.
SYCHOV: Let’s go.
Dan and Sychov exit.
Moscow. A Train Station, mid-day.
On the platform. FATHER, MOTHER, Dan and MASHA stand around a large suitcase, which is full of things to sell.
MOTHER: Now, don’t go picking any fights!
DAN: I won’t.
FATHER: But make sure stand up for yourself, got it?
DAN: I got it. (To his wife) Let’s go, we’re leaving. (To his parents) Time to go.
Dan and Masha step away for privacy.
DAN: I’ll write you as soon as I’m there. When I get all set up I’ll let you know right away. You’ll come when I call, right?
MASHA: Yes. It feels like I might never see you again. Like when a guy leaves for the army. It feels just like that.
DAN: How do you know? You’ve never had a boyfriend in the army.
MASHA: You really want to know?
DAN: Did you wait for him or not?
MASHA: Don’t be stupid.
Dan approaches him. Father hugs Mother, wipes tears from her face.
DAN: Mom, it’s not like I’m going to Kolima.
MOTHER: I’m sorry, I can’t help it.
DAN: I don’t get it, where’s Sych?!
FATHER: I told you. He’s not the kind you want along in enemy territory.
MOTHER: Should we find our seats?
DAN: Mom, what are you talking about? Where are you going to sit? In my suitcase?
FATHER: Get ahold of yourself.
DAN: I’m sorry, Mom.
MASHA: He’ll be here. There’s still time.
DAN: Come on, we’re going.
Dan and Masha again step away from the others.
DAN: You could live with my family for a little while. Should I talk to my mother?
MASHA: No, I’ll stay in the dorm.
DAN: No hard feelings?
MASHA: I love you.
Dan hugs and kisses her.
MASHA: Just remember one thing for me, okay? Please don’t assume that everybody’s out to get you.
DAN: I don’t. Where did you get that?
MASHA: Not everything people say has something to do with you.
DAN: Stop it.
MASHA: Just try not to get upset.
DAN: I won’t.
FATHER: Your wingman’s still AWOL, Dan!
DAN: (Snaps at his father) What’s it to you?!
FATHER: It’s okay, let him say what he thinks.
DAN: You know why I’m going? Do you know?
FATHER: You’re about to tell me.
DAN: Because you threw us (points to Masha) out of the house.
FATHER: And I’d do it again. You have to learn how to take care of your family. If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t have gotten married.
DAN: Shut up.
FATHER: What did you say?
MOTHER: Stop it, that’s enough.
DAN: What did you come for, anyway? So you could grin like a fool and entertain us with your jokes? Nobody’s laughing, it’s not funny.
FATHER: (To Mother) I’ll be in the car.
DAN: You’re not going to say goodbye to your own son?
FATHER: (Without turning around): It’s just nerves. He’s afraid of the draft.
DAN: What did you say?
Father exits. Sychov walks along the platform, dragging a wheeled trunk behind him. Sychov walks by Dan’s father.
SYCHOV: (To Father) Hello, sir! (Comes closer) So did you read the weather forecast for Poland? (To Mother and Masha) Hello.
DAN: What’s that?
SYCHOV: A welding machine. Everything’s on the gold standard over there. Where did you hide the money?
DAN: Different places. In cigarettes.
SYCHOV: That’s no good. That’s where they’ll look first of all. Mine’s in the last place they’ll look—trust me (giggles). Should I tell you where? Wanna know?
STEWARDESS: Ladies and gentlemen, the train is leaving the station. All passengers, please take your seats immediately.
MASHA: Denis, goodbye!
Tears and hugs.
Brest, Russia. A train station. Mid-day.
Absolute pandemonium. An enormous crowd of people. Everyone carries enormous bags and suitcases. They’re here to cross the border. Shouts and yells: “Comrade Captain, Comrade Captain, may I speak with you for a moment?”, “Get out of my face!”, “Tolya, Tolya, where are you?”, “How dare you? Take your hands off my bag!”, “Who’s touching me?!” and so on. Dan is stuck behind the barrier – he wasn’t allowed through. Sychov has already passed through. He talks with Dan through a fence that blocks the train-station exit on the Polish side. The crowd is so thick that Dan is pressed against the fence.
SYCHOV: Just give them the suitcase and they’ll let you through.
Sychov nods toward several portly customs agents, who watch the commotion indifferently. One of the customs agents leans possessively on Sychov’s welding machine.
DAN: Thieving bastards.
SYCHOV: What are you so angry about? You’ve still got money hidden.
DAN: (Whispers furiously) Louder, Sych! I don’t think anybody heard you!
The crowd suddenly shifts. Dan is shoved against the fence.
SYCHOV: Give up the suitcase!
DAN: (Struggling to breathe) No.
Sychov shakes his head, crouches over, and straining for nonchalance, extracts money from his socks. Meanwhile a Customs Officer approaches him – the same one who took his welding machine.
DAN: Sych, Sych, look out!
VOICE FROM THE CROWD: Hey Einstein, look behind you!
Sychov turns around. The customs official towers over him.
OFFICER: What’s that you’ve got?
SYCHOV: Nothing, I was adjusting my sock.
Without listening to Sychov, the customs officer crouches down and pulls a wad of bills from Sychov’s sock.
CUSTOMS OFFICER: Is this all of it?
SYCHOV: That’s all, I swear.
CUSTOMS OFFICER: How about I reach down your throat and tickle your spleen?!
SYCHOV: Here’s more. (Hurriedly unbuttons his fly and pulls a few more bills from his crotch). That’s all, I swear.
From the other side of the gate, the crowd reacts loudly to Sychov’s actions. People shout, “What are you, stupid?” “Dumbass!” Ass licker!”
CUSTOMS OFFICER: (Turns to the fence) Who’s got a problem here?
The crowd goes silent. The customs officer walks back to his colleagues. Sychov runs after him.
SYCHOV: Excuse me. Since you just took my money, do you think you could let my friend pass through?
VOICE FROM THE CROWD: (To the customs officer): Hear that? This guy misses his girlfriend.
CUSTOMS OFFICER: (To Dan) Let’s go, come to the gate.
A man shoves his way to the gate. It is not Dan. He’s disappeared into the crowd.
SYCHOV: That’s not him. Where’s Dan? (Shouts) Dan! Denis!
VOICE FROM THE CROWD: I’m coming, sugartits!
DAN: (From the crowd) I’m here!
A suitcase suddenly pops above the crowd, floating as. Dan scrambles to the gate. Dan, squeezing past other immigrants and yelling “Get your hands off me!” finally reaches the point of entry. The customs officer lets him through, then locks the gate shut behind Dan. The crowd snarls angrily.
CROWD: (To the customs officer) Hey, Commander! Comrade! Asshole!
SYCHOV: (To Dan) You made it!
DAN: Just don’t hug me, alright?
SYCHOV: What’re you so pissed about?
DAN: You gave them all our money.
SYCHOV: They wouldn’t have let you through!
DAN: You didn’t have to give them everything, okay? I was about to make my move.
Dan exits, furious. Sychov hurries after him.
Poland. On the border with Germany. A field. Night.
Dan and Sychov lie in a ditch and wait for border guards to walk away. Near them is an opening in the barbed wire fence.
Four empty beer bottles are scattered near the ditch. Dan peeks over the lip.
SYCHOV: What if they’re still there? What if they see us and start shooting?
DAN: Yell louder, Sych – they can’t hear you yet.
SYCHOV: Kowalski never said anything about border guards with machine guns!
DAN: Are you coming or not?
SYCHOV: Let’s wait a minute.
DAN: They’ll head back this way in a half hour. It’s now or never.
SYCHOV: …Give me some money, I’m going home.
Two border guards enter with machine guns. They walk up to the ditch so they’re almost on top of Sych and Dan. If the guards looked down, they would see them.
FIRST BORDER GUARD: Wieviel Uhr ist es? [What time is it?]
SECOND BORDER GUARD: (Looks at his watch, says in German) Knapp zwei. [Going on two.]
FIRST BORDER GUARD: Ich hab über Mäuser gelesen, die eine Taste drucken und davon ein Vergnügungsgefühl im Gehirn bekommen. Sie drucken unendlich diese Taste, bis sie sterben. [I read about these mice that press a button and a pleasure signal gets sent to their brains. They kept pressing and pressing it until they died.]
SECOND BORDER GUARD: Ach. [Ah.]
FIRST BORDER GUARD: (Irritated) So wird’s festgelegt. Man muss richtig geboren werden, sodass alles vom Anfang an bestimmt werden kann. Zur richtigen Zeit und am richtigen Ort geboren. Ordentlich geboren. Daran führt kein Weg vorbei. [It’s fixed that way. You’ve gotta be born right, so everything’s in place from the start. Born in the right place at the right time. Born properly. There’s no way around it.]
SECOND BORDER GUARD: Du bist ein Trottel. [You’re an idiot.]
FIRST BORDER GUARD: Das bist du. [You are.]
The first border guard unwraps some chocolate and gives half to the second border guard.
FIRST BORDER GUARD: Jedenfalls gibt es ein besonderes Mittel in Schokolade. Wie Hormonen für die Glücklichkeit. Sie heissen Endorphine. Sie geben einem gute Laune. [Anyway, there’s a special substance in chocolate. Like, hormones for happiness. They’re called endorphins. They make you feel good.]
SECOND BORDER GUARD: Und wie steht’s mit Wurst? [What about sausage?]
FIRST BORDER GUARD: Andere Hormone. [Different hormones.]
The border guards exit. Pause. Sychov and Dan start to crawl.
SYCHOV: Give me some money – I’ll send it back to you from Moscow.
DAN: I won’t give you any money. Forget it. We had a deal.
SYCHOV: I don’t want to go to Germany anymore. There’s nothing to do there.
DAN: Like there’s something to do in Moscow?
SYCHOV: It’s our country.
DAN: Don’t make me laugh.
SYCHOV: Everybody knows me there.
DAN: Look, it’s a dead-end place. People might know you, but that means they hate you. Everyone hates everyone else. Only foreigners get their asses licked. Good old USSR. Nothing ever changes there. It’s a dead end place.
SYCHOV: (Thinks about it) Okay, I’m out. No offense, I just thought we were doing this for some fun, an adventure.
DAN: This is serious, Sych.
SYCHOV: Yeah. Germans with AK-47’s. I’m sorry.
DAN: Fine. I’ll forgive you – just sit here for a little. Keep your head good and hidden so you don’t give me away. Got it?
SYCHOV: For how long?
DAN: Until you’re tired of them walking around here.
SYCHOV: What? I don’t want to sit alone. In that case I’ll go with you.
DAN: Just don’t shout, please.
SYCHOV: Fine, let’s go.
Dan and Sychov crawl out of the ditch and dash toward the barbed wire. Dan drags the suitcase behind him.
East Germany. A forest. Early morning.
Dan and Sychov walk through a forest. An eerie haze hangs in the air.
SYCHOV: We made it out! Can you feel it?! (Shouts) Hitler ist kaput! Look, no mushrooms anywhere. Even Poland had mushrooms, but not here. What’d they do with all the mushrooms? And no birch trees, either?
DAN: I don’t like it here at all. Look.
Sychov and Dan stop walking. Three bodies lie on the ground in front of them. They’re Romanians.
SYCHOV: Fuck. They’re dead.
DAN: (Crouches, examines the bodies) No, they’re sleeping.
SYCHOV: They look mean as hell. I bet they’re murderers.
DAN: What’s your problem? Why’d you stop?
ROMANIAN: (In his sleep) Două sute de mărci? Asta e scump …
[Two hundred marks? That’s expensive…]
DAN: Let’s get out of here.
SYCHOV: They probably crossed the border, too.
DAN: So? Come on.
Dan and Sychov continue walking. They find more groups of sleeping Romanians.
SYCHOV: Look, they’re all over the place. And everyone’s snoring.
DAN: Don’t stop. Come on.
SYCHOV: I got sleepy all of a sudden. Look, there’s a road.
DAN: No – no paths, no roads.
DAN: We’ve got to find the nearest town. Then we’ll blend in.
SYCHOV: Looking like this, we’ll stick out no matter where we goAnd it’s not about how we’re dressed. We’re too twitchy. Hell, in Moscow you pick out foreigners right away.
DAN: Sych, I’m sick of you already.
SYCHOV: To get to West Germany we’ve got to act confident. Like locals.
DAN: We’re not taking the road. We’ll get caught.
SYCHOV: We’ll say we’re lost. We got lost in Poland and accidentally ended up here.
DAN: No. We’ll go through the forest.
One of the Romanians wakes up and rubs his eyes. He sees Sychov and Dan.
ROMANIAN (in Romanian): Hei…[Hey…]
Dan and Sychov walk a bit faster.
DAN: (To Sychov) Don’t turn around.
ROMANIAN: Tu! Vino aici! [You! Come back here!]
DAN: (To Sychov) We hear nothing.
ROMANIAN: Nu merg în acest fel, este un câmp minat. Hei! Opreste-te! [Don’t go that way, it’s a minefield. Hey! Stop!]
Dan and Sychov run until they’re out of breath. One-by-one, the Romanians wake up, and shout after them: “Unde te duci? Asta e un teren minat” [Where are you going? That’s a minefield!”]. Dan and Sychov run out onto the road. As the shouts fade, a motor is heard growing louder A car pulls up.
SYCHOV: I’m going to vote. I know how I’ll vote.
Sychov and Dan stop. Sychov puts his hands in the air, fingers splayed. Two policemen get out.
FIRST POLICEMAN: Lass mich vermuten: Wir haben uns verlaufen. [Let me guess: We’re lost.]
SYCHOV: We’re lost.
SECOND POLICEMAN: Wir sind Touristen.[We’re tourists.]
SYCHOV: We’re tourists. We’re lost.
FIRST POLICEMAN: Und ich bin Bruce Willis. [And I’m Bruce Willis.]
SYCHOV: Thank goodness you came. There are half-dead people all around. They came at us with knives! We’ll wait here while you deal with them.
SECOND POLICEMAN: Hände aufs Auto, Beine auseinander. [Hands on the car, legs apart.]
Dan and Sychov understand the order instinctively, and do as instructed. The second policeman starts patting them down.
DAN: (To Sychov): That’s the last time I listen to you!
SYCHOV: Look! They’re tearing around in Zhigulis!
SECOND POLICEMAN: Halt’s Maul. [Shut your mouths.]
Second Policeman finishes his search and slaps cuffs on Dan and Sychov.
SECOND POLICEMAN: Get in the car! Now!
Dan and Sychov obediently climb into the car. First Policeman puts Dan’s suitcase on the hood of the car and opens it.
SECOND POLICEMAN: Ein Paprika? Schon wieder? [A pepper? Again?]
FIRST POLICEMAN: (Looking over a baggie with peppers and beans) Ich habe keine Ahnung, warum sie schwarzen Paprika hierher bringen. [I have no idea why they bring black peppers here.]
SECOND POLICEMAN: Vielleicht haben sie’s gern? [Maybe they like it?] (To Dan and Sychov) Hey, Russen, habt ihr Paprika gern? [Hey Russians, you like pepper?]
DAN: (To Sychov) Don’t say anything. (To the officers) We don’t have any money.
FIRST POLICEMAN: Was hat er gesagt? [What’d he say?]
SECOND POLICEMAN: Ich weiss nicht. Wahrscheinlich dass er Paprika mag. [I don’t know. He probably said he likes pepper.]
FIRST POLICEMAN: Russen sind nur Clowns mit Atomwaffen. [Russians are just clowns with nuclear bombs.]
The police get in the car and drive away.
Rostok, Germany. The seafront. Evening.
An enormous, rusted-out barge is lashed to the dock. It burned the entire previous night and well into the next day. The flame has died down; whisps of smoke rise from the barge.
In front of the barge, on the wharf, immigrants wander aimlessly. Their possessions are stacked in piles, including burnt suitcases. Some sit on their suitcases, waiting. Music plays from a radio.
Dan sits on his suitcase. A tiny Polish man approaches him.
POLE: Witam. Nie pamiętam książki. Jest to podręcznik. Żółty.Widziałeś? [Hi. I lost my book. It’s a textbook. Kind of yellow. Seen it?]
DAN: I don’t understand.
POLE: Cyganie go ukradł. Szarpnięć. [Gypsies stole it. Bastards.]
The Pole leaves. Dan looks around and pulls the stolen dictionary from his breast pocket. He opens it and reads intently. Sychov and KOLYA walk up.
DAN: (Without looking up) Did you find out?
SYCHOV: Not yet.
KOLYA: They’re sending you out to the country. Mecklenburg. You’ll be feeding geese.
SYCHOV: This is Kolya. We just met.
KOLYA: You’re definitely not soldiers?
SYCHOV: No, we just crossed the border.
DAN: Sych, you ever try wiring your jaw shut?
KOLYA: Don’t worry. I’m with you guys. I won’t say anything. I hate Germans. They call the police for everything. (To Dan) What’s your name?
DAN: (Reluctantly) Dan.
KOLYA: I know where they’re sending you.
KOLYA: Don’t piss yourself…Cologne.
DAN: Who told you?
KOLYA: The Germans were talking about it. (In German, with a horrific accent) Do you speak German? “One little Medusa, one little Medusa, one little medusa sat on a stone.” You should learn the language.
DAN: I’m studying.
KOLYA: Aw, it’s not use anyway. You want to be like the Germans? Shop for sales? Turn the heat so low the toilet seat turns all frosty? You like how an ice-cold toilet feels on your butt cheeks? There’s another way. Give the world the finger. Like me. Throw your chest out, step on toes, bomb stores. In the end, they’ll kick you out. It’s your choice.
DAN: Not my style.
KOLYA: (Suddenly aggressive) What are you, special?
A thunderous crack jolts everyone onstage. People shout and turn to run . Weak flames rise from the barge.
A NAZI’S VOICE: (Far off) Ausländer, go home! Deutschland den Deutschen! [Foreigners, go home! Germany for Germans!]
KOLYA: Molotov cocktail. Shitbirds learned it from us.
SYCHOV: Not again.
KOLYA: No, that’s the guy who got away from the police. I’ll carve a swastika into his ass!
Kolya shoves his way through the crowd and runs into the night.
SYCHOV: Those bastards want to burn us alive. (Shouts) Hitler kaput!
DAN: Stop screaming!
SYCHOV: Fine. I won’t.
DAN: Fuck, what are we doing here?
DAN: I wanted to dodge the draft. But here, it’s worse than the army. They say army food sucks, but here the beer tastes like piss and the bread’s like tree bark. The army makes you march in formation, but here they herd you like sheep into a pen, shouting in German the whole time. Explosions all around, like a war movie. I thought we’d find the good life. If this is the good life, then I’m Helmut Kohl.
SYCHOV: Let’s go back home .
DAN: Go back? So they can rub my face in it? Fuck that. I’ve got nowhere to go. My room at home’s gone; Dad’s storing the Zhig’s winter tires there. And my sister’s there too, now. I’ve got no choice. It’s either settle down here, or I don’t know what.
SYCHOV: (To Dan) Look, it’s Kowalski.
DAN: No shit. Kowalski!
They approach Kowalski. Next to him is an elderly man sits on a lawn chair, grinding his teeth. It is Kowalski’s Grandfather.
DAN: Hey, Kowalski! How’d you get here?
KOWALSKI: By accident. I was meeting Grandpa. Now I’m taking him to Cologne.
SYCHOV: We’re going to Cologne, too!
KOWALSKI: From what I heard, they’re sending you all to Mecklenburg.
DAN: You’re sure?
SYCHOV: We’ve got no choice?
KOWALSKI: This isn’t the good old USSR. Bribes don’t work. By the way, Kolya’s full of it. Don’t listen to him. He nearly chopped a guy’s head off with an axe. The guy was getting ready for work one morning, and Kolya pulled an axe out from under his pillow. Thank God he dropped it. The axe.
SYCHOV: He seems okay.
KOWALSKI: You know what they call him? The Mormon. He joined the Mormon church because he thought it’d get him to America. He’s on the run from them, been hiding all over Germany.
DAN: Hold on, Mecklenburg’s no good?
KOWALSKI: Is the Gobi Desert dry? Mecklenburg sucks.
GRANDFATHER: (Suddenly) You’re lying, Sashka!
KOWALSKI: Shut it, will ya, Grandpa?
GRANDFATHER: Liar. They’re sending everyone to Cologne.
KOWALSKI: Don’t listen. He’s just cranky and frustrated. He’s a veteran.
SYCHOV: Sir, it’s an honor.
Grandfather doesn’t answer.
KOWALSKI: He’s always on about “I was here when we took Berlin, I don’t want to die with the Fritzies.” But where can he go? His whole family moved here. We can’t just leave him back home.
GRANDFATHER: They’re sending everyone to Cologne.
KOWALSKI: Enough about Cologne. (To Sychov and Dan) Don’t listen. The Germans have an apartment waiting for him in Cologne. He’s not all there. Grandpa, who won the war?
KOWALSKI: See? Anyway, you should try joining the French Foreign Legion. You have to kill people for five years, but then you get French citizenship.
DAN: Do you have connections here?
KOWALSKI: If you were Jews, then maybe. You’d be on government rolls here for the rest of your lives. But you’re not Jews. Why did you come here, anyway?
SYCHOV: You wrote us letters saying it’s good here.
KOWALSKI: I write letters all the time. Of course it’s good, but not for everybody.
DAN: Then why did you tell us to come?!
KOWALSKI: I mean, I said it’s good here, but I didn’t tell you to come.
DAN: Brilliant. Outstanding.
KOWALSKI: You’ve got to think for yourselves, make your own decisions. That’s what people do here. It’s up on the chalkboard on the first day of school – everyone for himself. For us, when we finally figure that out, it’s too late. Look, you’re here. Just get used to the place. You’ve got problems? We’ve all got problems. Figure it out for yourself.
DAN: Right, fine. You go to hell.
SYCHOV: Come on, Dan. It’s Kowalski. We’ve known him forever. He’s one of us.
DAN: Go straight to hell.
KOWALSKI: Whatever you say.
Dan walks over to his suitcase and sits. He pulls out his yellow textbook and buries his nose. The tiny Pole walks up.
POLE: Hej, to mój podręcznik. Masz to. Chce go oddać. [Hey, it’s my textbook. You’ve got it. Give it back.]
DAN: (Leaps away) I told you, I don’t understand a word you’re saying!
POLE: Jestem w błędzie. To nie jest mój podręcznik. [My mistake. It’s not my textbook.]
The Pole leaves. Sychov walks over to Dan.
SYCHOV: You were pretty mean to Kowalski.
DAN: You feel sorry for him? He’s going where they’ve got a lifetime supply of weed, just waiting for him. We’ll be mixing concrete with Albanians until we keel over. People really change. He used to be normal. What happened to that normal guy we used to know?
KOWALSKI: (Having overheard) You’re just jealous. You’re screwed here and you know why? Because you came here out of jealousy.
Dan turns toward Kowalski, but he’s already vanished into the crowd. Kolya enters.
KOLYA: (Keyed up) Germans! The Germans are here! They’re sending us off!
DAN: To Cologne?
KOLYA: What? Cologne? (Laughs) Oh God, that’s priceless. Cologne!
DAN: What’s so funny?
People gather their belongings and begin walking toward Kolay’s entry-point.
KOLYA: (Breaks off laughing) What’s the matter? You don’t like it here?
Dan is quiet. Kolya slaps the textbook out of Dan’s hands. It falls to the ground. Kolya exits.
SYCHOV: (To Dan) Lets go, a line’s forming. Come on.
SYCHOV: Oh come on, I’d be scared , too. He almost killed a guy with an axe.
DAN: I’m not scared.
SYCHOV: Okay. I believe you. Let’s go. If you want, I’ll grab a spot in line for us…
DAN: Fine , let’s go. What are you shouting for?
SYCHOV: I’m not shouting.
DAN: Yeah, you are. You’re so naïve, Sych. It’s really killing me…
Sychov and Dan exit.
Schwerin, East Germany. A construction site. Mid-day.
Dressed in filthy overalls, Dan mixes paint. A pair of young German workmen, Ludwig and Helmut, walk over to him.
LUDWIG: Dan. [Dan.]
DAN: (In German, with poor grammar and a heavy accent) Ihr könnt die Bohrmaschine nicht haben. [You can’t have the drill.]
HELMUT: Wir brauchen keine Bohrmaschine, Dan. Wir müssen reden [We don’t need the drill, Dan. We want to talk.]
LUDWIG: Wir haben den Eindruck, dass du auf uns herabsiehst. [We get the impression that you look down on us.]
DAN: Verstehe ich nicht. [I don’t understand.]
HELMUT: Du liebst uns nicht. [You don’t love us.]
DAN: Lieben? [Love?]
HELMUT: Du siehst auf uns herab. Du findest es seltsam, dass wir uns lieben. [You look down on us. You think it’s strange that we’re in love with each other.]
LUDWIG: Das tut weh, Dan. Deine missbilligenden Blicke haben wir einfach nicht verdient. Wir sind Menschen – genau wie du. Wir sind frei, genau wie du. Du hast dich dafür entschieden, hierher zu kommen. Wir werten das in keiner Weise. Aber wir sind freie Leute und wir wollen eben zusammen sein. Uns gegenüber wäre es unfair, dafür verurteilt zu werden eine freie Entscheidung getroffen zu haben. Oder sehe ich das falsch?
[This is hurtful, Dan. We don’t deserve your disapproving looks. We’re people – just like you. . We’re free, just like you. It was you who chose to come here. We don’t judge you for that. But we’re free people, and we want to be together. And we don’t deserve to be judged for making a free choice. Or am I wrong?]
DAN: Ich kann euch nicht folgen. [I’m not following you.]
LUDWIG: Helmut und ich haben etwas gegen die Art und Weise wie du uns anschaust. [Helmut and I strongly object to the way you look at us.]
HELMUT: Besonders wenn wir uns während der Mittagspause gegenseitig füttern. [Especially when we feed each other on lunch break.]
LUDWIG: Mit solch einem Misstrauen und dieser Feindseligkeit wollen wir uns einfach nicht abfinden. Ostdeutschland ist anders als Westdeutschland. Seit dem Zusammenbruch des kommunistischen Systems zeigen sich die Leute hier sehr ablehnend gegenüber einer gewissen Freizügigkeit. Uns wäre wohler, wenn wir diese Ablehnung nicht auch noch am Arbeitsplatz erfahren müssten.
[It’s hard for us to accept such mistrust and hostility. East Germany is not like West Germany. After communism collapsed, people here became extremely hostile to freedom. We would prefer not to experience this hostility in our place of work.]
HELMUT: Schwule sind auch Menschen, so wie du. Wir sind alle gleich. [Gays are people too, just like you. We’re all the same.]
DAN: Ja, ihr habt Recht. Tut mir leid. Ich werde euch nicht mehr so anschauen. [Yes, I agree. I’m sorry. I won’t look at you anymore.]
LUDWIG: (To Helmut) Ich habe dir doch gesagt, dass er ein guter Mensch ist. [I told you he was a good person.]
HELMUT: Ja, hast du. [Yes, you said so.]
LUDWIG: Wir mochten dich gleich. Ich habe Helmut erzählt, dass du hinter dem Eisernen Vorhang gelebt hast. Das hier ist alles neu für dich. Deswegen benimmst du dich auch so. [We liked you right away. I told Helmut you used to live behind the Iron Curtain. This is all new to you. That’s why you behave like you do.]
HELMUT: Ja, hat er mir erzählt. [Yes. He told me that.]
LUDWIG: Ich bin froh, dass wir das klären konnten. [I’m happy we cleared the air.]
DAN: Ja, ich auch [I’m happy too.]
HELMUT: Also, Freunde – lasst uns mal einander ordentlich drücken und unsere Freundschaft hochleben. [Come, my friends – let’s embrace on another, and celebrate our friendship.]
DAN: Lieber nicht.[Let’s not?]
LUDWIG: Na los – lass uns diesen Streit begraben und wie Freunde umarmen. [Come – we’ll put this argument to rest. Let us embrace as friends.]
The Germans hug Dan from either side.
DAN: Nein! Ich will nicht! [No! I don’t want to!]
LUDWIG: Wieso denn? [Why not?]
DAN: Weil ich Umarmungen nicht mag. Ich respektiere euch, aber ich will keine Umarmungen. [Because I don’t like hugs. I respect you, but I don’t want to hug.]
HELMUT: Klar. Dann geben wir uns dafür eben die Hände, in Ordnung? [Okay. Let’s shake hands? Agreed?]
DAN: Na gut, aber lasst uns das schnell machen. [Fine, just make it quick.]
Ludwig and Helmut take Dan’s hands. They pause, enjoying the moment..
DAN: Nehmt die Bohrmaschine. Und nun geht bitte einfach, ja? [Take the drill. Just go, okay?]
Schwerin, East Germany. Nighttime.
A well-lit courtyard in front of Steffan’s house. Scraps from a meal remain on a picnic table. Half-inflated balloons hang in the air. Four Germans—Steffan, Steffan’s girlfriend, Mark and his wife—all stand facing a television. The cord runs back into the house. Mark holds a microphone; the Germans are singing karaoke.
Dan and Masha stand nearby. They hold bottles in their hands. Dan’s is wine; Masha’s is water.
MARK: …Ich mag es. [I like it.]
STEFFAN: Wie idiotisch. [That’s idiotic.]
MARK: Na, komm schon. Es ist ein tolles Lied. Wer ihn kennt, springt ein und singt mit. [Come on, please? It’s a great song. Whoever knows it, jump in and sing along.]
Steffan reluctantly presses a button on the remote control. The TV plays a children’s song.
MARK: (Sings) “Eine kleine Meduse, eine kleine Meduse, eine kleine Meduse saß auf einem Stein.” [“One little Medusa, one little Medusa, one little Medusa sat on a stone.”]
One of the women sings harmony. Steffan pretends to grab his ears.
DAN: My stomach is killing me. They said it’s an ulcer. From stress.
MASHA: Who said?
DAN: I went to a free clinic. Can we go home?
MASHA: Dan, it’s not polite.
DAN: I’m dying here.
MASHA: Fine. Let’s go.
The Germans turn off the TV. Dan and Masha try to sneak back into the house, but just as they reach the door, Steffan calls to them.
STEFFAN: (In Rusian, with an accent) Dan, please vate. (Dan and Masha stop). I promised my freidns that you would tell them about your adventure on the barge. Please, tell the story. It was funny the way you told it.
As Dan tells the story, Steffan translates for the Germans.
DAN: Basically, people were freaking out. Everybody’s waiting to find out where we’ll be sent. Me and Sychov were totally clueless. They tell us we’re going to Mecklenburg, and we’re like, “What the hell is Mecklenburg?” Then people tell us it’s hell on earth.
The Germans explode with laughter as Steffan translates.
DAN: Yeah, yeah. They said this place is hell on earth. Then some neo-Nazis started throwing Molotov cocktails. People were running all over the place, me and Sychov included. I run and think, why wasn’t I born Jewish? I’d be sitting in Cologne in a subsidized apartment, with weed to spare!
The Germans howl with laughter.
DAN: So that’s the story. We’re leaving.
STEFFAN: Dan, just a minute. Can you sing us that Russian song? About the homeless man whose mother died?
DAN: Right now?
STEFFAN: Yes, for my guests. (To the Germans) Ich bitte ihn, ein sehr schönes russisches Lied zu singen. [I’m asking him to sing a very beautiful Russian song.]
MARK: Das wäre schön. [That would be great.]
DAN: Steffan, I was drunk when I sang that for you.
STEFFAN: You’re drunk right now. Have a drink and sing.
DAN: No, Steffan. (To the Germans) Es tut mir Leid – ein andermal. [I’m sorry – some other time.]
STEFFAN: Dan, hold on.
DAN: (Angrily) What do you want, Steffan?
MASHA: (Senses something’s wrong) Denis, wait.
DAN: (To Masha) No, let him say what he wants. You want me to sing a song? Maybe I should just grab my ankles, too, and let your guests have a go?
STEFFAN: Dan, don’t insult me.
DAN: Insult you? No, you’ve got it all wrong. I’m thrilled you woke us up at one in the morning and dragged me here with my pregnant wife so I could sing you a tune.
MASHA: Denis, stop it.
DAN: What are we, clowns? (To the Germans) Like in the circus? What fun! (To Steffan) That’s what you Germans do? First you lend people a hand, then you fuck with their heads?
MARK: Was sagt er? [What’s he saying?]
STEFFAN: Wir streiten. [We’re arguing.]
DAN: (To Masha) Come on, we’re going back to the room. Open the pantry, Steffan.
STEFFAN: Dan, that’s not fair.
MARK: Steffan, wir gehen jetzt. [Steffan, we’re leaving.]
STEFFAN: Es ist noch früh. [It’s still early.]
STEFFAN’S GIRLFRIEND: Es ist spät. [It’s late.] (Kisses Steffan). Ich gratuliere, mein Schatz. [Congratulations, darling.]
Mark and his wife shake hands with Steffan. The Germans leave.
DAN: Open the pantry, Steffan.
MASHA: Denis, please, please calm down.
STEFFAN: I’m sorry I’ve made you angry, Dan. It was wrong of me. Is that how you say it in Russian? (Masha nods) I was wrong. Please, stay.
DAN: Listen, I don’t understand you. Let me tell you something, straight-out.
STEFFAN: Go ahead.
DAN: Are you a pervert? You can say yes, I won’t be offended.
STEFFAN: No, I’m not a pervert.
DAN: Then why do you let us stay here? I don’t get it. What do you want? I heard there are two kinds of Germans: The kind who love Russians (because they’re sado-masochists), and the kind who hate Russians. Am I right?
MASHA: Dan, you always ruin everything.
DAN: (To Masha) Be quiet. (To Steffan) Am I right?
STEFFAN: Yes. There’s some truth to that.
DAN: So that means you love Russians? And puppies, too, right? You like puppies, so you got yourself a puppy.
MASHA: Denis, what are you saying?
DAN: Answer yes or no.
DAN: (Shoves Steffan): What the hell do you want from us?!
DAN: (To Masha) Shut up! (To Steffan) What do you want?
STEFFAN: I just like you. In a good way. You seemed nice. I wanted to help you.
DAN: Steffan, don’t lie.
MASHA: Forgive us, Steffan.
STEFFAN: Dan, how about I sing something for you? Could I dance? Would you like that? (Dances and sings) “One little Medusa, one little Medusa, one little Medusa sat on a stone.”
DAN: I can’t stand that song anymore!
STEFFAN: You could listen as a birthday present for me.
DAN: Fine, okay. Pour me another, Steffan.
STEFFAN: I’ll be right back. Everything’s fine. I’ll be right back.
Still dancing, Steffan runs into the house.
MASHA: You couldn’t just apologize to him?
DAN: Oh, stop it. Apologize for what?
MASHA: Your problem’s that you love holding grudges. Steffan’s a good person. He let us stay with him and didn’t know us from Adam. Would a Russian have done that?
DAN: I don’t understand you. Are you on my side? Are you on anybody’s side?
MASHA: I’m on your side.
DAN: Then act like it.
Steffan reappears. He is grinning mischeviously, holding his hands behind his back.
STEFFAN: I know how angry Russians get when people say they drink a lot of vodka…
DAN: Let’s get on with it.
STEFFAN: (Reveals a bottle) You know, there’s a kind of magic in this bottle…
DAN: Especially when you drink it.
Dan twists off the cap with a flourish, then proceeds to fill wineglasses with vodka.
STEFFAN: Dan, can you tell me what the Russian expression “grab my ankles” means?
Schwerin, East Germany. A construction site. Mid-day.
Mountains of trash. In the center of the construction site there is a portable toilet marked, “DIXIE.” Kolya stands nearby, dressed in workmen’s overalls. He addresses the toilet.
KOLYA: Who among us loves Dixie? Denis loves Dixie. Dixie is kind; she is tender. Anyone can use her; she has no morals. Any guy, even if he’s got no job, no family and no prospects, can take a turn inside here; she let’s in all comers. That’s why she’s always busy. So our villain keeps her occupied and goes about his nasty business.
The door whips open and Dan emerges from the toilet.
DAN: What are you yakking about?
KOLYA: What were you up to in there?
DAN: What’s it to you?
KOLYA: Don’t lie to me—you love Dixie. You’re always locking yourself in there.
DAN: I’m married.
KOLYA: So what? When I was married, I polished my knob for days at a time.
DAN: You don’t say.
KOLYA: What’s that, irony? I don’t like irony.
Dan walks over to a wheelbarrow, puts on heavy gloves, picks up a shovel and starts loading trash.
DAN: What are you standing around for?
KOLYA: I won’t work in the capitalists’ shit piles. I’m no whore.
DAN: Of course you’re a whore. You get 25 marks an hour.
KOLYA: I didn’t come here to be exploited by the bourgeouisie.
DAN: It’s me getting exploited here. You see me busting my ass here?
KOLYA: Nobody forced you. It’s my fault everyone busts their asses? Hell, they don’t work this hard back home in the camps.
DAN: You were in the camps?
KOLYA: So you’re a prosecutor now?
Dan realizes the conversation is pointless and continues shoveling sand into the wheelbarrow.
KOLYA: (Makes himself comfortable on the sand pile) You know, I’ve seen a lot in my time. Different people, different countries. I’m originally from Siberia. In school they wanted me to be a policeman. Can you believe that? No way. I wanted to be a boxer. I got pretty good at it, even won a few tournaments. But then the factory shut down and I quit boxing and went on kind of a vacation to Berlin. Right away I couldn’t stand the Germans.. I always wanted to got to America. So I went to the American embassy and said I work for the KGB.
DAN: (Continues shoveling sand) What happened?
KOLYA: The bastards interrogated me and threw me out on the street. But I never broke.
DAN: No shit.
KOLYA: I signed up with the Mormons to get an American visa. The Mormons are a bunch of thugs. No tea, no coffee, and cigarettes? Forget it.
DAN: So then you ditched the Mormons.
KOLYA: Who told you?
DAN: Everybody knows.
KOLYA: It’s the other way around – they ditched me!
DAN: I heard you were in England for a while.
KOLYA: I didn’t like it there. Trains clatter everywhere. It sucks. I was in England twice. The first time I didn’t think to apply for asylum. The second time I applied, but they turned me away. It was because of the first trip—if it’s your second trip, you can’t get asylum anymore. I was in Italy, too – ate nothing but kiwis for ten days. They’re cheaper there. Been to France, too.
DAN: Where’s better? Here?
KOLYA: It’s pretty much the same.
DAN: Why don’t you ever just stay where you are?
KOLYA: That’s a serious question. A philosophical question. I think it’s a disease. I can never just sit in place.
DAN: You’re sitting right now.
KOLYA: Fuck you. It’s something in my soul, understand? My soul is restless.
DAN: (Tries to get at the wheelbarrow, where Kolya’s sitting.) Get up.
KOLYA: Hell no. I’m not breaking my back for the Germans.
Dan continues shoveling trash into the wheelbarrow with a shovel. The owner – HERR RÖPKE, appears. He approaches quickly; he sees Denis working while Kolya sits.
RÖPKE: (To Dan) Sag deinem Kollegen dass er gefeuert ist. [Tell your coworker he’s fired.]
KOLYA: What did he say?
DAN: You speak German.
KOLYA: Translate it.
DAN: He says you’re fired.
KOLYA: For what?
DAN: Probably because you’re just sitting there.
KOLYA: (leaps to his feet) I’ll break his nose! Who’s he?
DAN: He keeps records. A bookkeeper or something.
KOLYA: You’re out of line, Bookkeeper!
Kolya determinedly walks toward the German. Röpke jumps into the Dixie toilet and locks the door.
KOLYA: (Kicks at the door) Open the door, citizen! I’ve got a phonecall to make!
DAN: Kolya, let it go. He’ll call the police.
KOLYA: So you’re on his side now?
DAN: You’re screwing with my life.
KOLYA: Drop the shovel.
KOLYA: Drop shovel down and let’s talk. You pussies come here because you’re scared to live in your own country.
DAN: Who’s talking about Russia?
KOLYA: I love Russia. She doesn’t love me. That’s different. But you don’t understand that.
Kolya leaves. Dan stands for a while, then goes back to shovelling trash.
RÖPKE: (From the toilet) Er ist verschwunden. [Is he gone?]
DAN: (In German) He’s gone.
Röpke comes out of the toilet.
RÖPKE: Es tut mir Leid. Ich hab dich gern, du bist ein guter Arbeiter, aber… [I’m sorry. I like you, you work hard, but…]
DAN: Feuerst du mich? [You’re firing me?]
RÖPKE: Schon gut, ich feuere dich nicht. Aber sorge dafür, dass er nie zurückkommt. [No, I’m not firing you. Just make sure he never comes back.]
RÖPKE: Was hast du ihm gerade jetzt gesagt? [What did you just say to him?]
DAN: Ich habe ihn verflucht. [I cursed at him.]
RÖPKE: OK. Zurück an die Arbeit. Geht es dir gut? [Alright. Get to work. Are you fine by yourself?]
DAN: Ja. [Yeah.]
Röpke leaves, defeated. Dan goes back to shoveling. Sychov appears.
SYCHOV: (Shouts) Danny boy!
DAN: Don’t call me Danny boy.
SYCHOV: Okay. Well? What do you think?
DAN: About what?
SYCHOV: I’m growing my hair out. It’s the style now. Did I tell you I’m getting married?
DAN: To who?
SYCHOV: I don’t know. Still haven’t decided. But definitely a German.
DAN: Sych, take a look at yourself. What kind of German would want to marry you?
SYCHOV: I’ve already got one all lined up. (Whispers, winks) Keep it under your hat!
SYCHOV: (Still whispering) Under your hat!
DAN: What did you get yourself into?
SYCHOV: All you need to know is (still whispering) my career is about to take off.
DAN: Sych, what did you get yourself into?
SYCHOV: Oh, forget it.. So how’s it going?
DAN: You can’t tell? Just relaxing, taking some “me” time.
SYCHOV: (Bursts out laughing) Good one! Well things are great with me. Business is good.
DAN: You’re stealing cigarettes?
SYCHOV: Dan, how could you? I’m selling them.
DAN: Are they stolen?
SYCHOV: What does it matter? I met a couple of Asian guys. They’re supplying me. Want me to introduce you?
DAN: Don’t introduce me to anybody.
SYCHOV: (Back to whispering) Listen to this, you won’t believe it. When I figured this out, I couldn’t stop shaking. Our little Schwerin is home to no less than thirty white Mercedes. Maybe more. And if you add up all the Mercedes, you get an even number.
SYCHOV: Does that not freak you out? Are you weak in the knees?
DAN: Are you feeling alright?
SYCHOV: An even number. Ring any bells?
DAN: Sych, you’ve lost it. Completely.
SYCHOV: Thirty Mercedes. Probably more. The numbers are on the plates. Work it out yourself. You’ll go crazy, too.
DAN: Sych, snap out of it. Your banana’s come unpeeled. You’re not well.
SYCHOV: Everyone’ll be there. Me and you, too. Under your hat. Remember—under your hat.
Sychov leaves. Dan throws down the shovel. Then he reaches down, picks up the shovel, and continues loading the wheelbarrow with trash and sand.
First Location: Schwerin, East Germany. An apartment
Second Location: Moscow, Russia. An apartment.
Mother is calling Dan.
MOTHER: We wanted to ask you, what kind of money should we bring? Do they spend dollars there or marks?
DAN: Dollars? Think about it, Mom.
MOTHER: Well they take dollars here.
DAN: This isn’t America!
FATHER: Is he talking back?
MOTHER: No. We’re just talking.
DAN: Was that Dad?
MOTHER: Yes, he’s here.
DAN: Bring marks.
MOTHER: Are you sure? What if they have a default?
DAN: Mom, what else will you do with your marks? The mark is forever, it’s rock-solid. They’ll be spending marks long after we’re all dead.
MOTHER: Please, dear, let’s not talk about death?
FATHER: Give me the phone.
MOTHER: No. He didn’t mean it.
FATHER: Give it. (Takes the receiver from Mother) So, big man, you like talking back?
DAN: Put Mom on the line.
FATHER: What did you tell her?
DAN: I didn’t say anything.
FATHER: Send us the sponsorship. We’ll bring Uncle Tolya along with us.
DAN: What for?
FATHER: What for? He’s your uncle. You can’t put him up for a few nights? Cook him a meal or two?
DAN: Dad, we never talked about this.
FATHER: He’s already excited. He’s driving over here in his car.
DAN: I’m happy for him.
FATHER: I won’t go without Tolya.
FATHER: Don’t count on me being there if Tolya can’t come.
Father gives the phone back to Mother.
FATHER: He’s gone barely a year, and suddenly he’s a cheapskate.
DAN: Mom, tell him.
FATHER: If this were Georgia, you wouldn’t say no. Georgians know how to take care of their families. I’m not going without Tolya!
DAN: What happened?
MOTHER: He’s standing on principle.
DAN: I love Uncle Tolya, but our apartment is tiny. When did he decide Uncle Tolya was coming?
MOTHER: Just now.
DAN: (Laughs bitterly) What’s he, retarded?
MOTHER: Denis, he’s your father!
Schwerin, East Germany. On the lakeshore. Mid-day.
Masha slowly pushes a baby carriage along the embankment. Dan runs to catch up with her.
MASHA: Shhh. Hi.
DAN: Did she fall asleep?
MASHA: Just now.
DAN: Can I see? I mean, she is my daughter.
MASHA: Who’s stopping you?
DAN: Why is she frowning? Is she anxious?
MASHA: It’s you who’s always looking anxious. She’s asleep.
DAN: Would you stop shouting?
MASHA: Do you want to fight about it?
DAN: Definitely. That’s the most interesting part of married life.
Masha walks away with the baby carriage. Dan follows her. Masha wants to say something, but Dan interrupts.
DAN: Listen to what happened with Merkel today. I was mixing chocolate, as usual, and he’s walking in circles, burning a hole in the floor. He stops: “Work’s over today—you’re done stirring chocolate.” Then he says he wants to photograph me. Wait, did you want to ask me something just now?
MASHA: Just go on.
DAN: Okay. Merkel says, “I want you to be a model in my photographs.”
MASHA: I always said you’re handsome.
DAN: He wants me to model in the nude!
MASHA: Shhh. Don’t shout.
DAN: Nude. Well, not totally nude. He thought of some funny bits, like standing with a Wermacht helmet over my penis, you know?
At this moment, Masha and Dan walk by a German. Dan and Masha switch over to German.
MASHA: Hast du ja gesagt? [Did you say yes?]
DAN: Na ja. Und? [Well, yeah. So?]
MASHA: Also. Gut für dich. Echt. [Okay. Good for you. Really.]
DAN: Er ist schwul, na und? Er ist Kunstler. Und er hat vor, nach Westen umzuziehen. Macht jeder. Was denkst du? [So he’s gay, so what? He’s an artist. And he’s got plans to go to the West. That’s what everyone’s doing. What do you think?]
Passersby are hidden from view. The pair switch back to Russian.
MASHA: No, good for you. It’s fine. I guess.
DAN: Did Sych call yet?
MASHA: He called. He said he’s happy, then he hung up.
DAN: See what I mean? He’s crazy.
MASHA: I feel sorry for him. Was he like that in high school?
DAN: Hard to say. I remember how he used to shout. I mean, he was probably screwed up even back then. I don’t remember. His mom was weird.
MASAH: That kind of thing gets passed on. Poor guy.
DAN: Kiss me.
MASHA: Just a quick one.
Dan and Masha kiss. Sychov appears in a black beret.
SYCHOV: (Shouts) Marital bliss! Hi there! You didn’t wait?
DAN: Actually we did.
MASHA: (To Sychov) Shhh, Sasha’s asleep.
Sychov comes closer, taking off his beret. He turns it upside-down and shows it to Dan and Masha.
SYCHOV: (Whispers) My hair started falling out. See?
DAN: Good for you.
SYCHOV: You never listen, Dan.
DAN: Sych, I already told you, you should go to the hospital. You’re not well.
SYCHOV: I’m unhappy. Nobody loves me.
MASHA: Misha, stop it. We love you.
SYCHOV: Yeah, you do. And Germany loves me, too.
DAN: (To Masha) Let’s go.
SYCHOV: And I love this beautiful country, which has given me everything! More than everything! (Shouts) I love you, Germany!
DAN: Sych, didn’t she tell you to knock it off? And quit shouting in Russian.
SYCHOV: You must not strike me. I’m a soul without socks in a cardboard box.
DAN: (Takes the baby carriage, says to Masha) Let’s get out of here.
Dan and Masha walk, but Sychov latches on and continues yelling.
SYCHOV: I love you, Germany, for your perfectly baked Russian rye, which you sell on every street corner for a song! I love you for your bike lanes and your abandoned bikes, which deliver us into temptation. I love you for the artist Yanosh and his funny drawings! I love you because when you fart in the concert hall, there are no old ladies to scold you!
Suddenly, Sychov goes quiet and walks over to Dan and Masha. Nazis enter. A large group of bald, muscular fellows in black, in heavy boots with dour faces.
FIRST NAZI: Seid ihr Russen? [Are you Russians?]
DAN: Ja. Wir sind Russen. [Yes. We’re Russians.]
MASHA: (Shields the baby carriage with her body) Wir gehen. Verzeihen Sie uns bitte. [We’re leaving. Please forgive us.]
FIRST NAZI: Wir haben Russen nicht gern. [We don’t like Russians.]
SECOND NAZI: Da Russen und andere Ausländer kotzen uns an. Ihr habt euch unser Heimat versaut. Warum seid ihr nicht in Rußland geblieben? [You and other foreigners fouled our homeland with your stench; I can smell you everywhere. Why didn’t you stay in Russia?]
FIRST NAZI: Warum seid ihr hierhergekommen? [Why did you come here?]
MASHA: Bitte, tun Sie uns nichts an. Ich habe ein Baby. Bitte. [Please, don’t hurt us. I have a baby. Please.]
FIRST NAZI: Warum seid ihr hierhergekommen? [Why did you come?]
DAN: Was wollen Sie? [What do you want?]
FIRST NAZI: Beantworte die Frage. Warum seid ihr hierhergekommen? [Answer the question. Why did you come?]
DAN: Wen kümmert es? [Who cares?]
MASHA: Denis, don’t. Let’s go.
FIRST NAZI: Sie gehen nirgendwo hin. Zeit für eine Abrechnung, hier und jetzt. [You’re not going anywhere. It’s time to settle up, once and for all.]
MASHA: (Weeps) Bitte, lassen Sie uns gehen. Wir haben nichts getan. [Please, let us go. We We didn’t do anything.]
DAN: (Pushes her aside) Get back, Masha.
Dan stands face-to-face with the First Nazi.
DAN: Ich nehme an, Sie sind hier der befehlshabende Offizier? [So you’re in charge here?]
FIRST NAZI: Das geht Sie nichts an. [What if I am?]
DAN: Sind Sie hier der Befehlshaber? [Are you in charge?]
FIRST NAZI: Ja. [Yes.]
DAN: Sie sind der Größte hier. [You’re the toughest one here.](To the Nazis) Wer ist der Größte hier? Er? [Who’s the toughest? Him?]
SECOND NAZI: Er ist. [He is.]
DAN: (Taking off his coat) Na gut, Sie und ich. Sagen Sie ihren Männern, sie sollten zurückbleiben. [Alright, you and me, let’s go. Tell them to stay back.]
FIRST NAZI: Was willst du denn hier? [What do you want?]
DAN: Ich will Sie zum Kampf stellen. Kommen Sie schon. Im Einzelkampf. Sie und ich. [I want to fight you. Come on. One on one. You and me.]
FIRST NAZI: Beruhige dich. [Don’t get excited.]
DAN: (In German) Wer ist aufgeregt? Ich? [Who’s excited?] (In Russian) I’m as fucking calm as I’ve ever been.
FIRST NAZI: Wir wollen hier keine Schlägerei. Keine Ärger mit der Polizei. Wir wollen euch hier nicht wiedersehen. Verstanden? [We’re not going to fight you. We don’t want trouble with the police. Don’t let us see you here again. Got it?] (To all) Gehen wir. [Come on.]
SECOND NAZI: as? Sie lassen ihn frei? [What? you’re letting him go?]
FIRST NAZI: Wie gesagt, wir gehen. [I said come on.]
The Nazis leave.
DAN: (To Sychov) Did you see that? See them pissing themselves! They ran away! Did you see?
SYCHOV: Masha, what’s wrong?
MASHA: I can’t take this anymore. We’re moving away. Right now.
DAN: You’re frightened, aren’t you?
MASHA: What do you think, Danil? I’ve got a baby. What if something happened? I can’t stay here anymore. What are we doing here, anyway? It’s awful. Nothing makes sense; I’ll never get used to it. Whether I’m walking through a park or lying in bed at home, I’m always frightened. Everything I say comes out wrong. No matter what I say, in Russian, German, it doesn’t matter, people look at me like a street orphan. Who can live like this? Who can survive it? Why did we ever come here? It’s not as if we were starving at home, Danil! Things were fine, and we left!
The baby starts crying.
DAN: I’ll kill those bastards!
Dan starts toward the Nazis, by Sychov grabs him and puts him in a bearhug.
SYCHOV: Dan, don’t do it. There’s too many of them.
DAN: Let go.
SYCHOV: Dan, you’re too smart for this. Stop…
Dan struggles to get away, but Sychov holds on.
(Between Scenes 11 and 12, ten years pass.)
2001. Hamburg, West Germany. Mid-day.
Summer. An outdoor plaza. A modern art exhibit, with dozens of works. The public weaves through the displays. One spot features Siamese twins. In fact, they are just two young men with Asian features, dressed in an enormous shirt and wearing huge pants. Each has his own leg.
Dan enters with his work of art. It is a large chocolate sculpture resembling a portion of the Berlin Wall. The sculpture is mounted on castors. Dan stops in front of the “Siamese Twins.”
DAN: (In German) Das ist mein Platz. [That’s my spot.] (The “twins” don’t react.) He! Du bist auf meinem Platz. [Hey, you’re in my spot.]
FIRST TWIN: (In Chinese) We don’t understand.
DAN: Immigrants, eh? Okay. (Pulls out a badge) That’s my spot, I was standing there. I bought that spot. You’re gonna have to move.
SECOND TWIN: (In thickly accented German) Der Künstler, Döner, erzählte uns, hier zu stehen. [The artist, Doner, told us to stand here.
DAN: Es ist mir egal, wer du gesagt. Es ist mein Platz. Hier ist mein zu ermöglichen. Nun gehen Awat. [I don’t care who told you to stand here. It’s my spot. Here’s my permit. Now get moving.]
SECOND TWIN: Ihr Deutschen hassen Einwanderer, nicht wahr? Arschlöcher. [You Germans hate immigrants, don’t you? Louts.]
The “Siamese Twins” exit. Dan rolls the chocolate wall into its spot and stands nearby.
DAN: Meine Damen und Herren, schauen Sie sich dieses Berliner Mauer, und nehmen Sie ein Stück.Nehmen Sie ein zu halten, oder essen Sie es jetzt. Kommen Sie, probieren Sie es!Anschließend über die Straße gehen, um das Café Artiste für Kaffee! Hereinspaziert, nicht so schüchtern!
[Ladies and gentlemen, I invite you to see this Berlin wall, and take a piece to remember it by. Take one for later, or eat it right away. Step right up, have a bite! Then head across the street to the Café Artiste for a spot of coffee! Step right up, don’t be shy!]
The passersby ignore Dan’s pitch. Steffan enters.
STEFFAN: Hi Dan. Hows it going?
DAN: Steffan, hey!
They shake hands warmly.
STEFFAN: How’s life, buddy?
DAN: You learned to speak Russian?
STEFFAN: A friend taught me. Your wall’s melting, by the way.
DAN: Yeah, I know.
STEFFAN: How come you’re shouting?
DAN: Sorry. I’m kind of tired. Do you like it?
STEFFAN: It’s very impressive.
DAN: No really, what do you think? In Russian?
STEFFAN: Well, I can’t quite say…
DAN: Come on, just let me have it.
STEFFAN: Well, the Berlin Wall isn’t on people’s minds anymore. It’s not timely. You might have done something like this right after the wall came down…
DAN: I see what you mean. I wasn’t here back then.
STEFFAN: I understand. But it’s still very beautiful.
DAN: Want a piece?
STEFFAN: Thanks, I’m full.
DAN: Take one for the road.
STEFFAN: Thanks. I’ll pass. Forgive me, but I have to go. I’m meeting somebody here.
DAN: A Russian?
STEFFAN: You guessed it. Good luck with your art, Dan.
DAN: So long, Steffan. I’ll call you sometime.
DAN: A Berlin Wall made of fine, dark chocolate. Step right up for a taste of modern, timely art.
FATHER: Bunch of cheapskates, eh?
DAN: I’m not selling it, I’m showing it. Hi, Dad.
Dan and Father hug.
FATHER: It’s melting on you.
DAN: Yeah, I know.
FATHER: It’s huge. Lots of chocolate, I bet. Come on, drop this nonsense and let’s go home.
DAN: Are you serious?
FATHER: Of course. I don’t understand. You spoiled so much chocolate. What’s the point?
DAN: There’s no point. It’s modern art. It’s for people to look at.
FATHER: Are they looking?
DAN: Honestly…I wish they paid more attention.
FATHER: They’d pay attention in Russia.
DAN: Are you serious?
FATEHR: Okay, don’t get worked up, I’m kidding.
DAN: You know, I haven’t seen you in ten years and you’re just like you always were.
FATHER: And you’ve become a new man. It’s a beautiful wall. I’m telling the truth. It’s melting everywhere, though. Too bad.
DAN: Nobody wants to eat any.
FATHER: Could I have a bite?
DAN: Do you want to try it?
FATHER: Sure, why not?
DAN: Then I’ll have some, too.
Dan and Father each break off a piece, sit on the curb and eat.
FATHER: Where’s my granddaughter? In school?
DAN: She asks about you. Wondered when you’d come.
FATHER: I’ll go see her now.
DAN: You should wait. The school is pretty strict. They might not let you in. Masha’s picking her up this evening. You’ll meet her then.
FATHER: What is this, anyway?
DAN: The Berlin Wall.
FATHER: I’ll tell you what, Denis, you should have made the Kremlin wall. People here would eat that for sure. Down to the last crumb. Listen, why did you leave? Was it to get away from me?
DAN: It’s hard to say. It just happened.
FATHER: Maybe I should immigrate, too?
DAN: So I can take care of you? Bet you’re looking forward to that.
FATHER: I won’t stay long. Things are too complete here. I feel like there’s nothing to do. There’s no pleasure when things are this perfect. It’s a paradox.
DAN: We always want what we don’t have.
FATHER: And everybody else’s chocolate looks sweeter than ours, right?
FATHER: Why don’t you want to come home?
DAN: I don’t really have time.
DAN: I can’t pull myself together, Dad.
FATHER: Stop being so hard on yourself. Look at everything you’ve done. You’ve got a family now, a daughter. Good for you.
DAN: But nobody praises me for that, except my relatives.
At that moment, a passerby approaches the wall, breaks off a piece, and carries it away.
FATHER: Looks like things are picking up.
DAN: But I didn’t even do anything.
FATHER: It’s because he saw us eating it first. That’s called active advertising.
DAN: I need some coffee. You coming?