The sun is shining, the temperature’s rising, and in Vienna three illegal workers are building a house for six Euros an hour. They build quickly. They build in the mornings, they build in the afternoons, they build in the evenings. They are paid on Fridays, sometimes later, depending on the mood of the gentleman who hired them. If he wanted his house to reach to the heavens, they would gladly build it that high. But nobody wants to pay them that much. The gentleman who hired them is humble. He wants only two stories and a swimming pool. And he would prefer to pay them some time later.
And so the three of them build up to two stories and the Lord in heaven remains calm because the wages are so low and the lords over the earth are so cheap that nobody is interested anymore in building a tower that may reach unto heaven.
The three workers come from Eastern Europe. The first, the head-builder, is Czech. He’s seen 50 winters in this world, and has been in Vienna for five summers. His name is Karel Nemetz, his face is still young, his eyes small and blue, his head bald, his thoughts in the homeland, his German good. He has also worked in Italy. He worked there with his father and his son. They picked apples. It is said to have been hard work. They had to climb trees. In one of them, his 70-year-old father, in the other, his 22-year-old son, and in the middle, him, Karel. Not only the Nemetz family‘s men, all the men from Pobeda Street in Brno hung from Italian apple trees. They were chased up and down the trees, for four Euros an hour. Bad. Very bad. After that Karel found better work in Austria.
His father has, unfortunately, died in the meantime; otherwise he could have also come here. “It’s peaceful for him below ground. Nobody can chase him anymore, up or down,” says Karel as they build.
The second worker comes from Romania, is called Dan, is 28, has been living illegally in Vienna for seven years, has lost seven kilograms, always sends money home to his seven siblings and, although he can get by well enough in German, still doesn’t know what the word Wahrheit means. In all these years he has never needed it. He has needed a visa, a certificate of registration, a job, but never the truth. A few days ago Karel was relating something in German and used the word. Dan did not know it. Karel tried, for a while, to explain the word’s meaning to him but soon gave up. It wasn’t that important. Dan got along well without the word “truth.“
The third worker still doesn’t know the meaning of many words. He’s called Juri, is 33, comes from Moldavia, got off a ship in Italy a year ago, mixed in with the people and six months later suddenly surfaced in Vienna. He doesn’t speak much German. Mostly he uses two sentences, which he has since learned to pronounce irreproachably. Both are questions. “Is the boss coming today?” is one, “How long do we still have to wait for our wages?“ the other.
Now the three of them are building a house together. They build in the mornings, and the afternoons and the evenings. They are only paid when the boss feels like paying.
One morning Juri’s hands start to bleed. The stigmata appeared overnight, while he was sleeping in his sleeping bag at the building site. Since he does not have any insurance and since he did not dare to show his wounds to a doctor, the people have been deprived of a miracle and the church of a saint. “It’s from shovelling,” says Karel, and picks up some bandages from the pharmacy. “Be quick,” advises Dan, “don’t let the boss see that, or he’ll hire somebody else.” Juri wraps up his hands and gets back to work.
The sun is shining, the temperature’s rising, in Vienna three illegal workers are building a house for six Euros an hour. They speak German to each other. The first one talks a lot, most happily, however, about the fact that his father can no longer be chased up an apple tree or down from an apple tree. The second does not talk much and still doesn’t know what the word Wahrheit means. The third listens, sometimes looks at his colleagues, sometimes into the heavens, and asks, “Is the boss coming today?” and “How long do we still have to wait for our wages?“ Yesterday the stigmata appeared on him. But nobody should learn about this, or he’ll lose his job.