Professor Skridlov

We left the settlement of the Afridis with the intention of proceeding towards Chitral. In the market of the next fairly large place I was accosted by an old man in native dress, who said to me softly in pure Greek: ‘Please do not be alarmed. I quite accidentally learned that you are a Greek. I do not want to know who you are or why you are here, but it would be very pleasant for me to talk with you and see how a fellow­ countryman breathes, for it is fifty years since I saw a man who was born in the land where I myself was born.’

By his voice and the expression of his eyes, this old man made such an impression on me that I was immediately filled with a perfect trust in him, as in my own father, and I answered him, also in Greek: ‘To talk here now is, I think, very awkward. We, at least I, may run great danger, so we must think where we can talk freely without fear of undesirable consequences; perhaps one of us can think of some way or find some suitable place, and meanwhile I can only say that I myself will be unspeakably glad of this opportunity, for I am utterly weary of having to deal for so many months with people of alien blood.’

Without replying, he went on his way, and the professor and I went about our business. The next day another man, this time in the habit of a certain monastic order well known in Central Asia, placed in my hand, instead of alms, a note.

I read this note when we arrived at the askhana where we had lunch. It was written in Greek and I learned from its contents that the old man of the day before was also one of the, as they were called, ‘self-freed’ monks of this order, and that we would be allowed to come to their monastery since, regardless of nationality, all men were respected there, who strove towards the One God, Creator of all nations and races without distinction.

The next day the professor and I went to this monastery, where we were received by several monks, among them the same old man. After the customary greetings he led us to a hill some distance from the monastery, and there we sat down on the steep bank of a small stream and began to eat the food he had brought with him.