A Very Unfunny Thing Happened To Me On The Way To Janow Polaski

By Harry Arpadi

The same company, Animex which provided the US with Polish ham and other meat products, also provided the world with highly respected Polish- Arabian horses. These horses are not race horses. They are three-quarter the size of regular horses and are raised as show horses. Somewhat like dogs who are raised and groomed to appear at dog shows. At auctions, some of these beautiful horses were sold for millions of dollars. I could not tell the difference between one horse or the other. They all look alike to me. Going back to the Middle Ages, these horses originally were from the Middle-East by nations like Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and others. The Poles captured them when they defeated the Turks after they tried to conquer Hungary and when they came to their aid. The cavalry was big in those days. In fact, all armies depended on horses before motorized vehicles took over the role of horses. The Polish cavalry equipped their horsemen with lances on which they hung banners cut into strips which created such fearful noises when they started to attack the enemy that they terrorized the opposing army who then often turned around and fled. The Poles to this day claim that had they not been successful in defeating the Turks then, all of Europe would have been under Turkish rule.

Animex conducted auctions of their Polish-Arabian horses in Janow Polaski and also in Scottsdale, Arizona, inviting the rich and famous of Europe and the U.S. Raising horses and other animals was at that time a tax shelter which attracted the well-to-do. This is how I met Merv Griffin. At a cocktail party in Scottsdale we started what eventually turned out to be a more than half hour conversation. Asking me how I was involved with Polish-Arabian horses, I told him that my company was the advertising agency for Animex products that not only promoted horses but also Polish Ham. He was fascinated that I never ate ham and he kind of interviewed me as he did at the time when he had his national Television show. We chatted for quite a while and he thought his audience would enjoy hearing my history on his show. Of course this never happened. I also met Mike Nichols who attended the auction in Poland. We were sitting next to each other on a bench watching horses being exercised and paraded on the track. I greeted him and introduced myself to him. “We have similar background” I said, “you fled from Germany, so did I. But just look at you, you are such a great success and I am not. Where did I go wrong?”  It got him to laugh out loud. After a few more back and forth, fortunate for him, a reporter and camera-man wanted him to pose for pictures. I still remember him calling out “this is my better side” pointing to side he wanted photographed.

To get to the auction from Warsaw to Janow Podlaski which was located near Bialystok was three hours by car and of course longer by bus which Animex provided. I missed the bus but I was confident that I would get a ride from my Animex colleagues. However in the hotel lobby I was invited by a couple to ride with them in a taxi they had hired. They were originally from Iran but had settled on the west coast. I was ready to enter the back of the taxi when my host suggested that I take the front seat next to the driver. The taxi was a spanking new, luxurious, brilliant blue Mercedes. And very shiny. At that time, cars in Europe were not equipped with safety belts. It was a Sunday morning, traffic was light and we made very good time. Sitting next to the driver on my left, I was leaning back with my knees securely wedged below the glove compartment when suddenly a truck appeared from a side road, right in front of our taxi, ready to enter into the highway. Our taxi driver, to avoid the collision, sharply veered to the left, the taxi’s right fender where I was sitting, smashing into the truck’s right fender which pushed us off the highway into a deep ditch that divided the highway. After the taxi came to a complete stop, I got out and found myself miraculously uninjured. I then peeked into the back where my generous host and his wife were sitting, I found them somewhat shaken up, some bloody scratches with one of them suffering a bloody nose, bruised but not seriously hurt. Our poor driver was in total shock, somewhat dazed but still able to curse violently in Polish. His brand new, beautiful, shiny blue taxi was a twisted wreck. The front end pushed in, the frame quite twisted, it appeared to be a total wreck. People in cars headed for the auction apparently recognized my host and gave all of us a ride to the auction. We arrived just in time for lunch. I remember vividly thinking how close I came to have missed out on this wonderful roll, stuffed with matjes herring, onions, pickle and served with a large glass of ice cold vodka. At this point I started to tremble, realizing how lucky I was to have escaped a complete disaster. People at the auction, having passed the wreck, were telling me that they didn’t believe that anyone could have survived this accident. I truly believe that having my knee wedged securely against the dashboard or glove compartment prevented me from being pushed into the windshield upon impact thus saving my life or saving me from being badly injured.


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