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 Whistleblowers Need Protection




A free man in Paris with almost $10,000 American, Paszkowski enjoyed many of the pleasures available in the capital of lights. Under an assumed name, different from the one in his false passport, he checked into a hotel in the suburb of Vincennes and took the metro downtown to shop. He equipped himself with the basic necessities, clothes and a suit from LayFayette department store and wandered the boulevards near the Seine pondering his next move. In a large city like Paris, he wasn't afraid of bumping into any Polish agents or anyone else who knew him. He enjoyed a vibrant life in Montmarte, Montparnesse and the Latin Quarter for several weeks.

One evening as he strolled down a little street near the Place Pigale, a young woman approached him and spoke to him in French, which Paszkowski didn't understand. Suddenly, he felt a blow to the base of his neck from behind. His legs buckled and he fell to his knees.

The young woman practically fell over him in her haste to empty his pockets. He tried to push her away, but felt an iron grip pushing on his neck from behind, effectively pinning him to the ground. Paszkowski struggled to rise to his feet to no avail, so he quickly changed tactics and kicked out, connecting with the woman and knocking her off her feet.

Now he could concentrate on the vise gripping the back of his neck. Using all his strength, he pushed up and threw himself backwards against the wall of the adjacent house. The man holding him loosened his hold but somehow retained his grip. Paszkowski took a step forward and again smashed back into the wall. He heard the man's head hit the wall and felt his attacker finally let go of his neck. Hearing him hit the sidewalk, he quickly turned around. Now in the grip of a violent anger, he kicked the fallen man repeatedly. Both muggers lay unconscious on the sidewalk, their blood splattering the wall.

Paszkowski beat a hasty retreat when he saw a police car heading in his direction. He wasn't fast enough. Two police officers jumped out and grabbed him, throwing him to the ground and handcuffing him. Picking him up like a sack of flour, they tossed him inside their car. An ambulance siren could be heard closing in, rushing to pick up the two attackers. Obviously, someone had witnessed the incident from a window overlooking the street and had called the police and an ambulance.

At the police station, Paszkowski sat quietly on a chair in the small room they took him to for questioning and watched a chubby gendarme writing out a report. "You know monsieur, the charges against you are serious. Very serious," he repeated in German, looking at Paszkowski through his small glasses. "Aggravated assault against two citizens of France."

Paszkowski in the meantime was trying to present the best case for his own defence by explaining he had only acted to protect himself. He knew that his Swedish papers would be less than useless when he saw another uniformed policeman return from checking his fingerprints. They now knew he was wanted by Interpol.

The constable who had been questioning Paszkowski read the report and began to sweat. His face reddened to a point at which Paszkowski thought he would explode. He started swearing in French, tore up the few pages he had written, and left the room for half an hour. When he returned, he spoke in a different tone of voice.

"As you know, monsieur, you beat up those two badly. Very badly," he repeated. "No judge in France is going to believe you were attacked by those two miserable people. They are half your size." He giggled. "You'll be charged with aggravated assault or even attempted murder. You'll have to do at least five years, then be extradited to West Germany to serve the rest of your sentence there." He shook his jowled cheeks, "Vraiment, c'est domage, such a young man spending all this time in jail." He almost looked as if he felt genuinely sorry for Paszkowski.

"But, there is a chance for you. One chance, monsieur. The Foreign Legion. You can join our Foreign Legion and all your sins will be forgiven. It is like doing penance, you understand?"

* * * * *

"The Legion is our homeland," says the Foreign Legion motto in Latin. It immediately reminds recruits where a legionnaire's first loyalty must always be. It is a statement of reality. Every recruit knows when they enlist that they have signed away nationality, identity and their past for at least five years. The severity of the discipline and training - the trademark of the corps - is based upon a code that the `good' soldier is one who has been trained and conditioned to die if necessary without reservation. The second edict is that his first loyalty is to his regiment.

The army, composed of foreign mercenaries, was founded by King Louis-Philippe of France in 1831 to conquer Algeria and control French colonial possessions across Africa. During 163 years, the Legion has fought on almost every continent and major war from the Equator to the Arctic Circle, in Indo-China and Central America. Legionnaires have perished in such dramatic circumstances that their corps became a legend. It has been romanticized by novelists and film-makers, who picture it as a haven for criminals, forlorn lovers, and unhappy nobles serving under assumed names and presented as the embodiment of heroism.

The Legion experience starts at Aubagne near Marseilles on the southern coast of France. Each year thousands of volunteers show up to enlist. They come to change their lives; to enjoy adventures on foreign soil; for the promise of automatic French citizenship following five years of service; and for myriad other reasons. The Legion has volunteers from more than 100 countries among its 8,500 officers and men. In recent years, East Europeans have been the largest group of recruits. Americans are rare. The Legion picks only the most physically fit, those with high IQ scores, or those with special skills. Drug addicts fail the entry physical, which includes a 3 kilometre run in less than 12 minutes. Those wanted for murder are told they cannot hide, because Interpol films parades and grabs the fugitives. British soccer hooligans are welcomed for their toughness.

There are liars aplenty in the Legion - married men pretending to be single, criminals with aliases and many others. French nationals are legally barred from serving, except as officers, but in fact make up 40% of the force. Volunteers need not show any proof of identity. To promote equality, all newcomers are given a false name and nationality when they sign on. After five years, one can take back their real identity.

In the 1990s, the world's premier fighting force, with more than a century of iron discipline and excellence, is assuming a new role. It is in Bosnia and Somalia peacekeeping rather than killing rebels from Mexico to the Gulf of Tonkin. Their survival training allows legionnaires to breeze through jungle and desert conditions. During the Gulf War, its members marvelled at the portable flush toilets brought in by helicopter for American troops while they had only a shovel to dig holes in the sand. They also envied the sophisticated high-tech U.S. battle gear although, Legionnaires insist that when technology fails and supply planes can't land they are much better trained to survive under the most difficult circumstances.

* * * * *

That fat s.o.b. was so right. They could put me in jail for a long time and there would be no second chance to escape. If I joined the Legion though, I could skip out at the earliest opportunity. It shouldn't be too difficult.

"Okay, I'll join your Foreign Legion." The fat guy almost jumped with joy. He gave me a paper to sign saying I had `voluntarily' joined the force, and told me to wait. Someone brought me coffee and a cigarette.

An hour or so later, two soldiers from the Foreign Legion arrived. One of them picked up a computer print-out saying I was wanted by Interpol, tore it into pieces and threw it in the garbage. They told me to follow them and we left in a military jeep. We drove to the Foreign Legion base in east Paris. The base was located in an old fort surrounded by high protective walls and was tightly guarded.

Once inside, they took me for a bath. I stuck my money into my undershorts, which turned out to be a good idea as they took away all my things and gave me battle dress and boots. Next, I was given a really short haircut and a military doctor examined me. Then I was fed supper and finally shown to a bed.

The following morning, I was questioned by a German officer. I told him my life story in German - there were many Germans in the Legion - and he wrote everything down, asking further questions. He told me that any person that joined the Foreign Legion and is wanted by a law enforcement agency in any country, is given a false identity, a new name, which was to be used from then on. My real name would be a secret; even my immediate superior wouldn't know it. The name I was given, Adam Piotrowski, was typically Polish. A new chapter in my life started with this nice-sounding name. `Welcome to my life, Adam,' I thought to myself. The German officer again stressed that I was not to reveal my real name to anyone. I signed another document further `volunteering' to spend five years with the Foreign Legion and was sent on my way.

The Foreign Legion is truly international. There were Canadians, Americans, Belgians, West Germans, Austrians (even though Austria would put its nationals in jail for belonging to the Foreign Legion), Australians, Yugoslavs, Spaniards and many others. There were some from almost every country in the world. However, I never saw any people of colour or Arabs. Many Legionnaires had their criminal pasts written clearly on their faces.

Drills were done every day from morning to night. The corporal would shout commands in French, even though hardly anyone understood him. We just kept on marching, marching all the time. It seemed to me no other army marched so much as the Foreign Legion.

It also seemed no other army fed its soldiers so well as the Foreign Legion. The food was varied and delicious with wine or beer served at meal times.

Soon after I joined, they moved us from the base near Paris to Aubagne, south of France near Marseilles. The actual selection took place there and endless interviews were conducted by officers who called themselves the `Gestapo'. They were checking our physical condition. We were kept jogging all day, panting with our tongues hanging out, swimming, jumping and crawling. Exhausted by such a physically taxing routine, we were called by the `Gestapo' to answer another set of endless questions.

I remember one day I was questioned by a German in that language, by a Yugoslav in Russian and then by a Polish interviewer in Polish. We were also constantly checked by doctors and all kinds of medical tests were run.

As the selection process continued, every other day another recruit would disappear. Rumour had it in camp that anyone who failed any of the tests would get his own clothes back and a train ticket to any destination he wanted. They would drive him to the train station, give him some money and he could wave `Adieu' as his career in the Foreign Legion ended. Even if the recruit was wanted by Interpol and/or a police force in any country in the world, he was never handed over to them. If he was considered unfit to serve in the Legion, they would simply let him go free. I prayed that they would find cause to reject me too, but no such luck, I passed all their tests.

All too soon, they transferred us to a place called Castelnaudary, near Toulouse in southwest France. Those who reached there - a huge Foreign Legion base - automatically became full-fledged members of the Legion. We were given full military equipment, as well as a bed, locker and name tags to be sewn into our uniforms. My Belgian friend, who spoke French and German, translated for me.

Unfortunately, the gruelling exercises continued. Jogging, swimming and now target shooting as well. The workout continued from early morning till night. The training methods were sometimes brutal. If you couldn't swim, the corporal would make you stand beside a five-metre deep swimming pool, order you to turn around and with a powerful kick in the ass, launch you into the water. It was your problem to stay afloat. If it appeared you were really drowning, somebody would get you out and the whole exercise would start again. This continued until you learned how to swim.

If you were afraid to jump out of the plane during parachute training, another well-placed kick would make you fly like a bird. The Foreign Legion wasted no time getting its recruits whipped into shape. There were no invitations to participate, no gradual introductions. Inexperienced soldiers were immediately thrown into the most difficult of military training.

Words would have been useless anyway, as we hadn't been taught any French up to this point. Comments, orders and drills were memorized. When we heard a certain sound, we reacted accordingly. I learned to sing most of the hymn of the Foreign Legion without understanding a word of it. Apparently, French was taught at a later stage of training.

A typical day went something like this: an early morning wake up call; put on a sweat suit and sneakers; jog for six miles across town to the swimming pool; 30 minutes of swimming; jog back to the base. That would be the best time for me to escape. I was becoming desperate to leave the Legion as soon as possible because I had learned from a corporal that I was to be sent to a parachute unit stationed on Corsica. That meant I would most likely end up at Chad fighting Colonel Gadhafi's troops on an African desert. I didn't like that idea one bit!

A group of men shuffled briskly along the main street of the still sleepy little town. The morning sun increased the sweat the recruits wiped from their foreheads. The corporal shouted a command to sing; an anaemic chant followed, only to die out after a few moments. The men appeared exhausted and the group thinned out as they proceeded. Paszkowski, in the middle of the pack, watched for an opportunity to slip away. He touched the back of his boxer shorts to make sure his "treasure" was there - the money he had hidden when he joined the Legion. He always had his money on him, just in case. One Englishman seemed to be lagging behind the group and Paszkowski kept a close eye on the two corporals, one of which was at the front of the group, while the other brought up the rear.

The Englishman slowed down even more and appeared shaky. The corporal who was at the rear assisted him and they started to fall far behind. Paszkowski slowed his pace and let the others overtake him. For a period, he found himself jogging all alone, the main group far ahead of him and the ailing Englishman and corporal well behind him and now hidden around a corner. Without thinking twice, Paszkowski dashed into the entrance gate of a building and found his way through a maze of backyards. He jumped a six foot high wall right into the middle of some irritated chickens. Several fences later, he found himself on the outskirts of town where he hid in the bushes.

He spent the day hidden, reflecting on his short-lived career in the Foreign Legion. "Long enough to put on my resume," he chuckled to himself. Well concealed in the thick bushes, he could hear the sirens of the Police Militaire in the distance looking for him. All city exits had been blocked, streets were patrolled, and cars were stopped to check documents. The Legion wasn't going to let one of its prize catches escape easily.

As night fell, the sirens fell silent. Under cover of darkness, Paszkowski moved south through the fields, striking out for the city of Narbonne. He passed through a small village and paused there to take some clothes from a clothesline. He knew he must change out of his easily recognized military uniform.

At daybreak, he found himself on a highway and hitched a ride to Narbonne, where he caught a train to Marseilles. The charms of Cote d'Azur were so tempting that he decided he needed a rest, some sun and a change of clothes. He registered in a cheap hotel using a German name, bought a suitcase and some clothes, and hit the world famous beaches for a well-deserved break.

The late afternoon sun cast long, golden shadows on the blue waves. The breeze brought relief from the heat. Paszkowski sat in a cafe by the sea, sipping his beer lazily. His eyes rested far out on the horizon. A white sail was a romantic addition to a perfect moment in time. Beside the tranquil waters of the Mediterranean, framed by a sapphire sky and beaches bronzed by the sun, he for once let his guard down. He watched the flickering reflections on the water through heavily lidded eyes.

Suddenly, he felt a gaze fixed on him. Now on the alert, he cautiously looked around. In the half-empty cafe, there were a group of young people noisily discussing something, a couple who had eyes only for each other, an elderly lady with a young girl, and directly across from where he was sitting an attractive middle-aged woman, who watched him closely over her glass of white wine. Now that she had his attention, she sent him an invitation with a warm smile. "Not bad," Paszkowski thought to himself and slowly smiled back at her. She looked like a tourist. Paszkowski could see travel brochures on her table as well as a familiar brand of German cigarettes. Encouraged by two radiant smiles, he picked up his beer and walked over to her table.

"Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" he asked.

"Ja," the woman replied. Obviously very pleased she had met someone who spoke German, she soon burst into an erratic monologue, complaining about the food, the staff at her hotel being unable to speak German, the high price of everything, and so on. Finally getting a word in edgewise, Paszkowski introduced himself as a Belgian businessman on a short vacation. The woman was charmed with his stories about the French and their idiosyncrasies.

Instant companions, they left together to have dinner at her hotel. He spent the night in her room and the romance sizzled. He moved into her room at the hotel and they spent the following days swimming in the sea and sun-bathing on the crowded beaches of the Cote d'Azur.

Paszkowski brushed aside his nagging thoughts of what to do with his life, enjoying his vacation immensely. A week later, the German woman announced she was leaving for home. His fun was coming to an end. After an elaborate and passionate good-bye and promises to write, Paszkowski found himself literally on the beach. His finances had shrunk considerably and the free ride at his friend's hotel was over. It was time to make a move.

Greta was a nice woman, a bored tourist ready for a summer adventure. It was pleasant to stay at her hotel, but I couldn't go on living on the beach after she left. Now wanted by three different agencies: Polish Intelligence, German Interpol and the French Foreign Legion, I could no longer move freely in Western Europe. The best solution would be to move away from Europe completely, somewhere across the ocean. I would never go to Australia, too far and too hot. I wasn't keen on the USA either. Canada seemed like a good choice. I could still remember the stories I used to read as a child about the breath-taking beauty of maple leaf country. Immense distances and friendly people. Definitely, Canada would be a great place to go and make a straight living. One detail remained: how to get there?

Chapter 7

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