Ch 49. The Oligarch
Eventually Jesus Josephovich found his way back to Volodomir’s apartment after his memorable marshrutka ride. He was hoping for some peace and quiet when he got home, but the moment he stepped inside everyone had a different message for him.
“Talia wanted you to call her as soon as you got back,” Elena said.
“I bought you a new cell phone,” Katya said as she handed him a sleek black device. “Don’t lose it this time,” she ordered with a playful wink.
“My teacher at school wants to know if you can heal her mother’s liver problem,” Leosha relayed.
Finally Volodomir walked into the room and put his hand on Jesus Josephovich’s shoulder. “All of that is going to have to wait. Someone important is on the phone.”
Volodomir brought Jesus Josephovich over to his desk and handed him the phone. Jesus Josephovich instantly recognized the voice. It was the politician whose son he had healed.
“I see you’re back in town,” the politician said. “We missed you. My son, especially. A lot has happened since you left. There’s someone important who wants to meet you. Someone who wants to change Ukraine for the better.”
“Who?” Jesus asked.
The politician paused. “He has many titles,” he said. “He is a very important man, and very wealthy. He is so wealthy in fact that some people call him an Oligarch.”
“When does he want to meet?” Jesus Josephovich asked.
“Tomorrow. I’ll pick you up.”
Jesus Josephovich agreed to the meeting and hung up the phone. The family gathered around him.
“Who was it?” Volodmir inquired.
“It was that politician. He wants me to meet with someone called the Oligarch.” Jesus Josephovich said.
The family froze and stared at Jesus Josephovich as if he had spoken the name of the boogeyman.
“Is that bad?” he wondered.
The family tried to explain what an Oligarch was to the foreigner. Apparently, it was a man with too much money, a man without limitations, a man who could do whatever he pleased whenever he pleased. It was one of the real rulers of the country, the man pulling the strings behind the scenes. A businessman who had become a king by virtue of his money alone.
Jesus Josephovich wasn’t impressed. In his opinion it all sounded similar to a Roman Governor. He had seen plenty of those come and go.
The next day the politician picked up Jesus Josephovich in a new black Bentley. They drove across the city to one of the most expensive areas, where apartments cost a minimum of a million dollars, if you couldn’t afford anything nicer. The car stopped in front of an old European style building. It was surrounded by black cars with heavily tinted windows and thick bodyguards and security professionals all dressed in black who passed the time staring at passersby and text messaging on their cell phones.
The doors opened for the foreigner and they were escorted into the building by a very large man in a new black suit wearing black sunglasses and short black hair. Jesus Josephovich looked around him at the comically colorless clothes and thought that perhaps black was the Oligarch’s favorite color.
Inside the building were even more security professionals, who were, if it was possible to be, even more grave and imposing than the bodyguards outside. They were taken to a large silver elevator, and unlike most elevators the foreigner had seen, this one didn’t shake or sputter and it didn’t smell like urine. This was state of the art.
The security guard inserted a special key into the elevator and the top button lit up. He pressed it and the elevator gently lifted them to the top floor.
“Why does he need a key to access that floor?” Jesus Josephovich asked. “Because his apartment is on that floor?”
The politician laughed. “His apartment isn’t just on the top floor. He owns the whole top floor of the building.”
The elevator doors opened into a massive open space. The floors were made of glossy wood, the walls were colorfully designed and decorated with elegant paintings and statues, and big bright windows covered the ceilings and walls.
“This is one apartment?” Jesus Josephovich asked. “Why does he need so much space?”
The politician laughed again. “You don’t like it?”
Jesus Josephovich shrugged his shoulders. “It’s beautiful, but I couldn’t live in a place like this by myself. I would have to share it with fifty other people.”
The Oligarch walked into the room and politely greeted them. He was an average man wearing a comfortable-looking Italian suit and leather shoes. He was not a handsome man, but he was confident and his presence demanded respect.
He shook their hands assertively, but Jesus Josephovich noticed a bit of fear in the Oligarch’s eyes. He seemed cautious and distrustful of others, perhaps even slightly paranoid, like a cat with a new toy that was afraid someone else might try to steal it from him.
“Jesus Josephovich,” the Oligarch exclaimed. “I have heard so much about you. You’re the most popular man in Kiev.”
“I wasn’t trying to be. I probably shouldn’t have healed his son in public,” Jesus Josephovich admitted. “Now it’s more difficult to do what I came here to do.”
“And what are you trying to do?” the Oligarch asked seriously.
“I came to Ukraine to help people be more like God.”
“You’re not from Ukraine?” the Oligarch asked with surprise.
“No. I’m originally from the Middle East.”
“Then why do they call you Jesus Josephovich?”
“I try to live like the people here live and practice their traditions so I can understand them as much as possible. So I can help them better,” Jesus stated.
The Oligarch scratched his chin thoughtfully. “Okay. But don’t tell anyone that you are a foreigner. If necessary, my people can make you some documents that will say that you were born in Ukraine.”
“Just look at me,” Jesus Josephovich said. “Everyone knows I’m a foreigner. I don’t look Ukrainian at all.”
“That doesn’t matter,” the Oligarch said casually. “We’ll say your parents are Crimean Tatars. Or maybe your mother is Ukrainian and your father is Turkish.”
“I won’t lie,” Jesus Josephovich said.
The Oligarch winked. “You won’t have to. My people can take care of everything. Nothing can prevent you from becoming Mayor if I’m on your side. Don’t worry about those little political parties or their rules. I run this country. What I want to happen, happens.”
“I know that a lot of people want me to be Mayor, but that’s not why I am here,” Jesus said.
“Of course not,” the Oligarch replied. “You have bigger plans. So do I.”
He put his arm around Jesus Josephovich and walked with him through the apartment showing him his most beautiful possessions. He pointed to a small table made of ivory.
“That table is handmade from elephant tusks,” he said. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
Jesus Josephovich nodded his head unenthusiastically. “It’s very nice,” he said politely.
“Are you not impressed?” the Oligarch asked.
“Did you build this table?” Jesus Josephovich questioned.
“No,” the Oligarch said, half-laughing. “I bought it in India.”
“Why would I be impressed that you bought a table?” Jesus wondered. “If you had made it, certainly, I would be impressed by your skill. But I still don’t understand what it is that you actually do.”
The politician froze at the challenge, but the Oligarch laughed loudly. “I like the way you think. You are a serous man with a practical mind. That’s good. I see why the people like you. You are a good man. An honest man. That is exactly what I need.”
“You have all of this and you are still in need of something?” Jesus Josephovich asked.
The Oligarch walked with him to a large window that overlooked the city. It was a perfect view that presented the entire city under his feet. From this perspective the cars looked like toys, and the people looked like dolls or puppets.
“I’m powerful, but I’m not popular,” the Oligarch admitted. “When people hear my name, they think of terrible things like corruption and decadence. I’m not a bad guy, but the people don’t trust me. People never trust the rich.”
“Maybe they understand that wealth does not equal goodness or happiness,” Jesus Josephovich suggested.
“Maybe, but that doesn’t matter,” the Oligarch continued. “I need someone like you, someone the people trust, who can help me change Ukraine for the better. You will be my face to the public. My voice, my image.”
He stretched out his arm over the city below them. “All this can be yours if you help me,” the Oligarch offered. “You can rule this whole city. You can start all the social programs and religious programs that you want to. You will have unlimited funding and unlimited power.”
“But that is not how you change people,” Jesus Josephovich replied. “Not if you want to change them forever. You have to change them from the inside-out.”
“Do you understand who I am?” the Oligarch said impatiently. “I can give you everything you want.”
“I already have everything that I need,” Jesus Josephovich said. “It is you who needs something.”
The Oligarch stared at the fearless foreigner. His eyes were peaceful and calm, like lakes of glassy water. The Oligarch laughed boisterously.
“He’s a man of the people and a tough negotiator!” He put his arm around Jesus Josephovich again with even greater affection. “You’re going to go far, Jesus Josephovich. All the way to the top!”
Jesus Josephovich looked out of the window at the city below. Then he glanced up into the sky beyond the clouds. “Already been there,” he said.