dertoncs among themselves, lamentingrnthe barbarity of a country that allowsrnmeat and fish to be handled on the samernpremises. The natives were louder, butrnmore eurious than incensed: “What’srnthat you’re doing?” the’ would ask. “Oh,rnnothing,” Beppe vould reph’, relishingrnthe conflict between the individual andrnthe mass, “just some new kind oi octopusrnI got in. With feather on ’em.” Wlien,rnsonre mouths later, Beppe offered us arnVenetian as a cook, all he said by way ofrnrecommendation was that she is his wife.rnOr mavbe he offered us his wife as a cookrnand said, lay wa’ of reconunendatiou,rnthat she is Venetian.rnThere is a story about Byron, whichrnthe late Sir Peter Queiuiell had dug uprnwhile researching tiie cireiunstanccs ofrnhis life at the Palazzo Mocenigo, involvingrna local tpe reminiscent of our ownrnMargarita. “La Fornariua,” the baker’srnwife wlio became the poet’s mistres.s andrnlater his housekeeper, once snatched offrnthe mask of a noblewoman who happenedrnat that moment to have acceptedrnBvron’s arm. When he later reproachedrnher, explaining that Madame Contariuirnis a lady, she snapped back: “She may berna lady, but I am a Venetian!” How wellrnthat defiant mi sou Venexianal would sitrnon our beloved Margarita’s lightly mustachioedrnlips. No wonder Byron worriedrnabout his weight.rnMargarita took over the household untilrnSandra’s replacement could arrivernfrom Moscow. It c[uickly turned out thatrnthe selfsame cpialities that made her arnlegend in our kitchen —her innovativernboldness bordering on recklessness, herrnopen disdain for evep,’thing with a printedrnlabel, her fierce sense of independencern—were grossly counterproductivernin a maid. Mi son Venexianal In a week’srntime, the house was laid waste, with thatrnmorning-after feeling about it, as if somebod’rnhad tearfully asked a couple ofrnbachelors not to trash the place. Plantsrnkilled, papers missing, books nroved, ashtraysrnfull, laundry’ dirt}’, the iron broken,rnBeppe watching football in the kitchen,rnMargarita’s daugiitcr sunbathing on thernterrace, and Margarita herself nowhere tornbe seen. “Do not ask Chaliapin to representrnvou in court, demur if Cicero offersrnto sing for you, and never assume that arntalented cook will make a dutiful housekeeper,”rnwas how I finished telling thernstor}’ to mv friends at the Villa Parisi.rnThe following Sunday, I was at thernMarco Polo airport to collect Vera.rnThere is a moment on the yvav back.rnonce the boat enters Venice and crawlsrnout into the Grand Canal at Ca’ d’Oro,rnthat is so absurdly unforgettable that I,rnnot content to relive it daily in the freezeframernof my own window, seize ever’ opportunit}’rnto go to the airport just to experiencernit afresh. And there I was,rnwatching Vera next to me. Vera who hadrnnever been out of Russia, Vera about torncollide, at five kilometers an hour, withrnthe absurdly unforgettable moment,rnwatching her and thinking, “Well?rnWell? What will she say?”rnNothing. She never even looked uprnonce. Tlic Grand Canal is none of her business.rnShe is the Stakhauovite nraid I want.rnAndrei Navrozov is Chronicles’rnEuropean correspondent.rnLetter From Kosovornby Marko LopusinarnThe Gate to QuagmirernA team of Yugoslav journalists from NarodnirnTelegraf recently visited CamprnBondsteel, invited as guests to what usedrnto be their country’.rnBondsteel is the largest U.S. militaryrnbase in the Balkans, and in what seems arnbad omen, the biggest that the U.S. military’rnhas constructed since Vietnam. It isrnbeing erected in the heart of Kosovo, onrnthe crossroads with Metohija, which allowsrnAmerican forces to control the bordersrnof both Serbia and Vlacedonia. Thernlocation was selected by a special Pentagonrnteam of military strategists andrnplanners. The construefioir of the basernbegan vithin weeks of NATO’s takeoverrnof Kosovo in June 1999. Given the logisticsrnand the size of the effort, the plansrnmust have been in place well beforernNATO launched its air war. (But that’srnanother story.)rnThe base is named after infantry Sgt.rnJames Lero Bondsteel, who was killed inrnVietnam in 1969 —another bad omen.rn”All you can see here is built to last fivernears,” explains Captain Russell Berg, thernmedia liaison officer at the main headcjuarters.rnHowever, the scale of the constructionrnof Camp Bondsteel raisesrndoubts; Would such massive amounts ofrnmoney and effort be invested in a basernthat’s only going to be used for five years?rnThe camp is being built on 700 acres ofrnland that, only a year ago, was known asrnSojevo, a Serbian agricultural farm. It isrnsurrounded by 14 kilometers of barbedrnwire. Every’ inch inside the encampmentrnis separately fenced and illuminated atrnnight with dozens of reflectors: The basernshines from afar in the Kosovo night. Thernfew remaining Serbs who used to farmrnthe land call it “Las Vegas in the mud.”rnCamp Bondsteel is intended to holdrn5,000 military personnel, with 3,300 alreadyrnin place. It is being constructed inrnthree phases and is now 80 percent completed.rnThere are 160 barracks housingrn24 U.S. military units and seven KFORrnformations. The barracks are fenced withrna tall double line of sandbags strengthenedrnwith steel wire. “Security- effort,”rnCapt. Berg explains. “Our experiencernfrom Lebanon, where terrorists attackedrnus, taught us something, and evervthingrnin base is done by our rides to providernmaximum securih’ and defense from possiblernterrorists.” I can’t help but wonderrnwhich terrorists die Americans are thinkingrnof Although the Americans blamernthe tension in Mitroviea on SlobodanrnMilosevic, they generally avoid the subjectrnof what is to be expected from Albaniansrnin the future. Heads turn away; c|ue.stionsrngo unanswered. The air is thick withrntension. As a Serb, I understand.rnAt Camp Bondsteel, the GIs can exitrnthe base only on “official business” —inrnother words, when they are patrolling inrnscjuads outside to “keep the peace.” Wernwitnessed the exercise of a special militaryrnpolice unit that conducted therninfamous weapons search in KosovskarnMitroviea in late February. They practicedrnthe tactics of holding and attackiirgrnprotesters. Who will the next protestersrnbe? Wlio will be the next enemy?rnCapt. Art Horton from North Carolina,rnthe commander of the exercise, is read}rnwith the answer: “We are ready to intercederneverywhere, at any time, and againstrnanyone.” Capt. Mark Chitwood, thernhead of military police, is quick to add:rn”Our standpoint is that no American soldiersrnshould go to Mitroviea again sincernthe situation in that city is way too difficultrnand if we go there, we’ll only make itrnworse.”rnIn the meantime, Bondsteel grows bvrnthe hour. It is so enormous that there is arn”city transport” organized for its inhabitants.rnThree white buses with about 30rnpassengers each depart from the mainrn.38/CHRONICLESrnrnrn