I could blog about some technical aspect of migrations or some solution that was hatched in a late night flash that comes darting into my almost restful sleep, and those will come about, they must, it is what we do! However there is time for those blogs, in this I will help bring into view a glimpse of the journey on a recent assignment that was bestowed upon me and how my, call it a hobby if you like, interest in reading and studying of World War II history and events intermingles with this journey.
Working as a consultant in the migration space for Coherence offers assignments that can take a willing consultant around the world, away from the desk in the cubical or the kitchen table used as the desk area while working remote from your dwelling, out into the real world, no virtual stuff here, of different cultures and customs. Never has such a career allowed me to obtain challenging and rewarding assignments with the mixing of remote work and traveling to client locations, and as you will be given a chance to see here, the opportunity on short notice to just GO!
I, like others, may complain from time to time about the issues of traveling, and it can be a strain and a source of stress, however when I am sitting at that kitchen table day after day, or night and day as the case maybe, supporting a migration project it seeps into my being that need to go someplace, the need to disembark and arrive and explore. Is that not what traveling is all about, exploring, to be exposed too new places, sights, sounds? The sound of my coffee maker spilling its daily duty needs to be replaced.
Reading of History has taken over a portion of my waken hours and a daily dose goes noticed missing when skipped. How this has come about I cannot explain for when I was in school I thought history classes were assigned to allow the pursuit of more socially unaccepted adventures. However, here I am and I am not one that questions every evolutional change that comes about within my little sphere of existence, so I handle it like I handle most areas of my life. I dig in and enjoy the journey.
I have already brought to attention my enjoyment of reading and studying World War II history and events. The books and resources on the subject are just enormous and no wonder it still stands today as the largest single event in human history. The span of its influence is still felt today and will for sometime to come. With the advent of the e-reader the addiction of overload is not curtailed but fostered, which turns out to be a very good thing for my back. I once performed the calculations, calculating that to carry my entire current library I would need three wheelbarrows, two backpacks and few extra hands. Simply unbelievable, it is with me at all times. Not the wheelbarrows. Once I did forget to pick it up off the seat of my return flight home. There it was in the hands of a resourceful service agent on the Sunday’s flight out. Another reason why not to change seats with the gentlemen that is asking you if you don’t mind changing seats so he can sit next to his wife. There is no record of these kindly offers; my e-read is in the hands of someone other than its owner.
When I get the chance to travel outside of the United States, after making the required pre-engagement preparations, travel plans, etc., after all work does come first and for-most as it should, I start my own research into the what role and which events of WWII the current engagement is going to be taking me too. When I had the chance to travel to Prague located in Czech Republic on a recent assignment I was thrilled. It is this story that I would like to bring the reader into.
The Sunday afternoon was one of those central Florida afternoons in late summer with the existence of growing towers of cloud formations that keeps a pilot of light aircraft with eyes begrudgingly away from the flight deck. I had just completed a flight with friends to a nearby island airport for a lunch of local seafood. Securing the aircraft I received a phone call asking if I had time to discuss the need to fly out today to Prague! Now I will have to admit that the call was a complete surprise however I had been working with the same client prior to this call. If I recall it was a week or two of sitting next to my hardworking coffee maker.
Prague? Quick, where is Prague, are we talking of some city in North America missed named? No, we are talking about Europe. Again my mind searches the iron core wound memory…. Poland? I think to myself, no… it is in Czechoslovakia. Oh, no it is not Czechoslovakia any longer but the Czech Republic.
Oh yes Mr. Project Manager I think I can fly out this week but I am not in a place to check the status of flights or hotels. Give me a half hour to get home and check. Well that is fine but we need you there on Monday was the response. This is going to the other side of what my plan was for this Sunday evening. It is Sunday afternoon! I will have to give you a call back once I get home. End of the phone call.
As I said, I knew the project manager that called and that the project he was supporting was the one I had done some remote work for over the past few weeks covering for a fellow worker.
I was getting tired of the kitchen table and ready to travel, however, did I have enough time to get home, check flights to Prague, make hotels plans, and not to mention time to figure out who my contact would be in Prague? What time of the day am I going to be getting into Prague? I take few breaths and the internal gears, and iron core memory starts into over drive. A quick check of flights uncover that I can get in on Tuesday. A quick call back to the PM and the response is, NO! We need you there on Monday! Back to the airline site to discover that I could, if I leave my dwelling in a half hour, if traffic is light get to the airport in time to run to the gate. My core memory is starting to cache now. On the phone to the weekend travel support service to help book flights and hotels, all the while I am moving about grabbing the items for my kit. On the phone and packing at the same time, no my case is not always packed but the contents are arranged for quick folding and packing. Washer to Dryer to Case is what I say.
I turn to auto mode and start formulating checklist for the task at hand. Flights, hotel, contact, clothes, laptop, cash, passport, wallet, secure the dwelling, long flight need snacks, and of course my e-reader. Wait, Prague! It will have to wait until I clear TSA, clear TSA? I am booking an international flight that is wheels up in less than two hours, will they even let me on this flight. No time to figure all that out right now. Pack, and returning to my checklist I also return to automation mode.
Now I cannot speak for anyone else but to me this is exciting. Being a team member, an operative, with an operation in GO mode. On my way to explore! How exciting!
Tickets in hand, heading to the dreaded TSA line. Oh, it is so fine to have enough flights under your belt to by-pass that snake of humanity. Pre-Check. A gift from the Travel Gods. I find myself within the club area. Ok, time to review checklist. Bags secure, laptop charged, phone charged, contact information in hand. Time to relax and fire up the e-reader. Checking books that relate to Prague and World War II brings up a list but one catches my eye. “The Killing of Reinhard Heydrich The SS Butcher of Prague” by Callum MacDonald.
The long flight affords me ample reading time. As soon as that bell rings the e-reader is up and ready. While reading I vaguely remember a movie based on this story. I will have to look that up when able. The story is of the operation “ANTHROPOID”, the assassination of the SS Obergrupppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrick, that’s to take place in Prague. One of the most powerful men in the Third Reich. Ambitious, ruthless, intelligent, with a self-promoting personality, and regarded by some as Hitler’s successor. No sleep on this flight I need to know this story or at least most of it prior to landing in Prague.
A British SOE planned operation “ANTHROPOID” was the planned assassination of Reinhard Heydrick training a three-man team to be parachuted into Czechoslovakia. Once on the ground it was up to the team to determine if the planned operation could be completed and how it would be carried out. The team would be dropped into the moonless night in the dead of winter over farmlands to reduce the detection by the occupiers.
No parachutes for me tonight, all of sudden the coach seat does not feel all that bad. No in cabin freezing temperatures or the mind numbing drone of the Royal Air Force Halifax. The SOE operatives would jump with components of a wireless system. This he would secure under the snow to be recovered weeks later. Wireless, a cell phone, WiFi? No a simple radio with mores code ham radiotelegraph key for sending messages. I have often wondered what it would be like to have my own radiotelegraph key and sending messages to friends over the air in morose code. How romantic would that be! On second thought perhaps I should rethink this endeavor. It would be my luck that the NSA would be banging on my door and demanding why I am sending lunch codes to the opposition or some such rubbish.
Security was such that even between groups of SOE operatives there would be no discussion of either’s mission or operation tasks. One of the first task of the SOE “parachutes” was to make contact with the local operative agent. The BBC radio would send coded messages informing the operatives with vital contact information. Of course operation details were kept very secret. In fact one operative was known to answer any inquires from other team operative members with “Oh I am in town only to count the ducks on the Vltava”. The Vltava being the river that flows through the Prague.
Approaching the drop zone I confer to my mental checklist for operation “Go”. Equipment secure, passport ready, landing card completed, contact plan memorized and the details of the operation committed to deep core memory.
Taxi to the hotel and a quick turn around, I am ready to make my contact. Meeting in the hotel lobby we exchange the necessaries and precede to the train station for a short journey to the client’s site. I am informed that it is going to be a full day and I best prepare for a solid eight to ten hour day. My mental math tries to calculate the total hours I have been awake this Sunday. Can’t figure that out without much pain. Why the Information System realm does not use the Universal Coordinated Time system (UTC) like the aviation realm I don’t understand. With UTC you don’t have to factor in time zones. Of course flying a polar flight path is for another conversation.
The operation proceeds to plan and it is a full week of work and no play. But, this is what I am here for. It is an operation that needs to be carried out to plan. Little time is left for site seeing. This last sentence reminds me of what I encounter when others learn that I travel for work. The response is normally something like, “oh I would love to travel for work” but after close examination it is clear that my idea of travel to support my work is not the same as their idea of traveling. This is not a vacation; it is an operation to be carried out. It is not a family trip to Disney World.
The workweek flowed into Saturday and a full workload didn’t allow my escape until early Saturday evening. Again, think operation mode. I did get a few hours to make my way to my personal goal of visiting the church, which helped harbor, the SOE operatives during the occupation.
Two Czech agents, Jan Kubis and Joseph Gabik, trained in Britain, were parachuted into Czechoslovakia on 29th December 1941. Five months later, on 27th May 1942, a grenade was used to kill Reinhard Heydrich while he was travelling in his open car in Prague.
After the assassination the SOE agents hid in safe houses and eventually took refuge in Cyril and Methodius Cathedral hiding in the crypt. The Prague Fire Brigade were forced to flood the crypt. The bullet ridden vent area is visible from the street.
I was able to secure some time to allow a few photos while on location in Prague.
There is a 1975 movie “Operation: Daybreak” directed by Lewis Gilbert which was filmed on location in Prague that does the story well.
I can inform you that operation “Go!” is proceeding as expected.
From somewhere in Prague, counting ducks.