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  • Andrew Andersen

Cannibal by Professional Duty

Canada / December 2, 2023

I met Mikhalych in the spring of 2010 when I found myself in Barcelona for a couple of days. Shortly before arriving in this city, which was interesting and unusual in many ways, I got in touch with Boris D., who had settled there for some time – a somewhat shady businessman with whom we had been involved in a couple of quite successful projects in the early nineties. It was decided to meet, chat, have a drink or two, reminisce about the old days, exchange news... Just like it usually happens when meeting old acquaintances who haven’t seen each other for many years. I also thought that Boris might show me something interesting in Barcelona, something that isn’t in tourist guides and can only be shown by a local. It sort of turned out that way: although he didn't show me anything interesting in the city itself, he did introduce me to Mikhalych. However, I'm not entirely certain about Boris's intentions: did he want to show me Mikhalych, or maybe he wanted to show me to Mikhalych? Although I can't fathom what could be so interesting about me to Mihalych.

Anyway, we agreed to meet in the evening at the popular bar 'El Paradiso.' Entering the bar a couple of minutes before the appointed time, I noticed Boris already waiting for me, seated at a small table in a semi-private corner of that cozy and very stylish establishment. To my surprise, he wasn't alone; he was in the company of an elegant, gray-haired Russian-speaking gentleman in his mid-sixties, with a physique reminiscent of an athlete or soldier and sporting a 'typically Western European appearance.'

Interestingly, I never heard the name or surname of that man, as Boris introduced him to me solely by his patronymic 'Mikhalych,' adding a brief but pretentious characterization: 'a distinguished veteran of Soviet and Russian special services.'

Of course, anyone can call himself a 'veteran of special services'—whether Russian, American, or even Uruguayan (if, of course, there are special services in Uruguay). Moreover, real veterans of such organizations typically do not discuss their experiences, so this portrayal sparked a skeptical and ironic reaction from me, which, self-explanatory, I tried to conceal. Nevertheless, Mikhalych somehow sensed it, as during our conversation, he subtly hinted several times that he was indeed a serious, experienced, and well-informed individual.

Right at the beginning of our easygoing conversation, Mikhalych casually mentioned that he owned a 'modest proletarian villa' (that was his expression) in a small but fairly well-known settlement on the Catalan coast. it was also of common knowledge that a significant part of the villas there had long been bought up by Russian and Ukrainian criminal bosses, as well as by actual veterans of the KGB, FSB, and GRU. Then, in passing once again, he referenced certain events from my challenging life, events not widely known, and mentioned the names of some of my German, Canadian, Lithuanian, and American friends and acquaintances. He even casually alluded to some of our political conversations which were not supposed to be heard by anyone except us. Through this, Mikhalych showcased his access to exclusive information sources and hinted at having prepared for our meeting in advance. Perhaps his aim was to unsettle me with his unexpected knowledge about my humble self, but I must admit, that attempt didn’t quite succeed. There are scarcely any secrets in my life, partly because, in my belief, one can't hide an elephant in a sack—sooner or later, all secrets come to light. Moreover, from my personal experience, revealed secrets often cause much more damage than if they hadn't been secrets in the first place. Nonetheless, Mikhalych certainly made an impression.

Then, the conversation smoothly transitioned to certain events in Mikhalych's own life. In particular, he shared that, being a 'specialist of broad profile' (that was also his expression), he had worked extensively in Africa: initially in South Africa and Namibia, and later in some areas further north and closer to the equator. Specifically, in one of the former French colonies, where he once delivered a shipment of surface-to-air missiles to one of the 'friendly' tribes. During this account, Mikhalych stated, 'You might think that people like me vehemently hate the West and NATO, but that's not the case at all! I won't hide it; I've had a few skirmishes with NATO troops, but in certain situations, I sometimes befriended them, shared drinks, conversed, and once, imagine this... took part in devouring a NATO serviceman!'

"Can you elaborate more on that?" I asked quite bluntly, and Mikhalych willingly shared the story, which happened to him precisely during his 'business trip' to the lands of the aforementioned African tribe.

The tribe lived almost in the Stone Age, but its members were "curious and inquisitive" (another expression by Mikhalych), and teaching them to shoot the missiles they were given by Moscow didn't pose much difficulty. Displaying not just curiosity but also a penchant for practical experiments, the tribe's leadership - namely its chief and shaman decided to immediately test their acquired wonder of technology in practice. Without much thought, they fired one of the missiles at one of the French military aircrafts passing over their village. They managed to bring down the plane, which crashed and exploded in the nearby jungle. A group of warriors from the mentioned tribe, armed with spears, bows, and Kalashnikov rifles, headed to the crash site and found the charred body of the French pilot among the debris. The warriors brought the corpse back to their village, where a grand feast was held in celebration of the successful trial of the anti-aircraft missiles. Various local delicacies were served at the feast, including roasted meat of the dead French pilot cooked over charcoal. As an esteemed and respected guest, Mikhalych was accorded special honor: he was offered to taste the first portion of cooked human flesh. Naturally, Mikhalych had to abide by diplomatic etiquette and couldn't refuse such an honor, nor would he dare to.

"Well, how was it? Did you enjoy it?" I asked, no longer concealing a cynical smirk.

"I don't even know what to tell you," Mikhalych replied, "I didn't quite get to taste it properly. The piece was very small and heavily seasoned with salt, pepper, and various local spices. Besides, I, pardon me, didn't ask for any extras."

Meanwhile, time flew by unnoticed during our conversation, and soon we noticed that it had already well passed midnight, signaling it was time to bid farewell and go our separate ways. So, the three of us politely bowed and parted ways.

Since then, I've never crossed paths with Mikhalych or even heard about him. He never attempted to contact me either (which, I hope, was unnecessary for both of us, especially since we didn't exchange business cards towards the end of our meeting). Nevertheless, I remembered him, much like I remembered the story I just recounted to you. That story led me to the conclusion that cannibalism "by professional duty" is not always limited to just eating “enemy” carrion, but often goes much further. In a figurative sense, of course.

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