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Feather's Miscellany: A Tale Of Divorce

Vladislav Pletnov was of medium height, dapper and good looking, and very much a lady’s man. He had the politician’s smile, the smile of a con-man which flashed on and off with about as much feeling behind it as a light bulb. And like all politicians he was adaptable, bending which ever way served him best. So, when Communism collapsed, with the ease that came with practice he switched sides and became a successful Capitalist. He was also a womaniser...

John Waddington-Feather tells of a spurned wife who served up an abundant “plateful’’ of revenge.

Vladislav Pletnov had always had an eye for the main chance. Under the Communists, he’d risen quickly in the Party ranks by boot-licking and back-biting. By the time Communism fell apart in the 1990s he was a leading party official in the Ukrainian Communist Party and looked set to get to the very top.

He was of medium height, dapper and good looking, and very much a lady’s man. He had the politician’s smile, the smile of a con-man which flashed on and off with about as much feeling behind it as a light bulb. And like all politicians he was adaptable, bending which ever way served him best. So, when Communism collapsed, with the ease that came with practice he switched sides and became a successful Capitalist; where, if the truth were known, he was more at home. Great and many though the opportunities were to cheat and swindle under Communism, there were even more in the new Capitalist system which took over and Pletnov set up a land and property development business in the 1990s with its headquarters in Moscow.

He’d been born and raised in Kiev in1950, so though he experienced the austerity of post-war Ukraine, the rationing and food shortages, he never went without. Neither had he suffered the traumas of Nazi invasion and Russian occupation under Stalin. As a highly placed Party official austerity passed him by.

It only required initiative and cunning, which he was never short of, for Pletnov to make good his business and before long he was building cheap housing all over the place making vast profits. He became a millionaire in no time, like so many former Communist leaders. Like locusts they gobbled up the assets of the old USSR and gorged themselves: oil, land, food production and manufacturing. Also, labour was cheap and they exploited their former comrades to the full.

Now through all his years in the Party and afterwards, Pletnov had been loyally supported by his wife, Katrina; indeed, he probably wouldn’t have got where he was without her for she was an intelligent woman. She was shrewd and worldly wise like any good wife and she put into their marriage the one thing her husband didn’t have – love. She fell for him in a big way and he’d conned her into marriage. He’d been quickly attracted when they met for she was very beautiful, but he didn’t love her in the way marriage demands; moreover he’d several clandestine affairs after their marriage, but Katrina knew nothing of those. He made sure he played out well away from home.

They’d been married twenty years when he became besotted with his personal secretary in Moscow. The woman was much younger than he; a full-blooded, full-bosomed, full-bottomed typist, whom he lusted after like an old dog on heat. When his lecherous eye fell on her he promoted her to his personal secretary - and mistress.

Came the time when she insisted he wed her if he wanted to keep her. She had her future to think of and youth doesn’t last for ever – as Katrina had found out. Poor Katrina in her forties was wearing thin when he arranged their divorce.

Shortly before his affair, he’d built himself a mansion set in fifty hectares of land near Konotop in Ukraine, where there was a direct rail link to Moscow and his head office, and to Odessa on the coast, where he had a secluded, luxury villa. He spent a fortune furnishing his new mansion designed like one of the classical houses in Kiev. Its interior alone cost him a million roubles and Katrina fell in love with the place, the reward it seemed for a lifetime’s marriage; a place she could settle and grow old in. Alas, it was not be it seemed.

Within a few weeks of their moving in and right out of the blue Pletnov began divorce proceedings against her and she had to leave. It almost broke her heart. All those years of loyalty and the hours of work she’d put in making her husband’s career tick counted for nothing. Like all spurned wives she was bitter and planned revenge.

The day came when she sat alone in the mansion – his mansion. She’d spent the previous day packing her belongings ready to be moved out into the apartment she’d rented in Kiev, and as she packed she thought bitterly about the past. For years she’d wanted a family but none had appeared. Her husband had been all the family she had to look after, and now he’d betrayed her for a cheap dolly bird.

Katrina sat alone the night before she left dining on shrimps and caviare by candlelight at a beautiful dining room table. She looked lost in the vast room as she wandered round it for the last time. She put on some soft music as she ate – and wept. But it was as she ate that an idea came to her, and revenge loomed large.

When she’d eaten she took all the eggs and shrimps and some dried fish from the larder and mixed them into a large bucket of sticky paste. Then she went round the house into every room packing the paste tight into the hollow, brass curtain rods which supported full-length curtains at French windows; that done, she packed her belongings and left.

Her ex-husband and his new wife moved in the following day and life was bliss for them the first week or so. Then gradually the whole place began to smell – and I mean smell! Every single room. As the stench grew more disgusting they tried everything to get rid of it, but to no avail and in time the place became uninhabitable.

But that wasn’t Pletnov’s only worry. Ukraine split from Russia and he had to choose between taking either Russian or Ukrainian citizenship. Never a patriot and since the vast bulk of his assets were in Russia where his head office was, he opted to go there, which meant he had to sell his mansion and villa.

The villa sold easily enough but the mansion….He had it cleaned from top to bottom, but still the vile stench remained. All the vents were checked for dead birds or rats and all the carpets were steam-cleaned. Air-fresheners were placed in every room and the place fumigated, but to no effect.

In the end no one could live there and early on his guests stopped visiting as the place was shunned. Finally, Pletnov and his dolly bird moved to a lavish home in Moscow, but none of the skeleton staff he employed to look after the mansion would live on the premises and lodged in a nearby village.

The months rolled by and soon there were no takers at all for the mansion. Its price fell and fell, first halving then dropping lower. The local authority threatened to demolish it if he couldn’t sell, because they feared the water supply might be contaminated and that pushed the price down even further.

All the while, Katrina sat quietly monitoring the situation through an agent, till the time when Pletnov was given an ultimatum to sell the place or have it requisitioned, then she made her move. She sent her lawyer to her ex-husband and said she’d be willing to reduce her divorce settlement in exchange for the mansion.

In desperation Pletnov took the offer. He thought Katrina knew nothing about the stench and, con-man to the end, was only too pleased to land her with an unsellable house. It maddened him greatly that he received only a fraction of the price it was worth originally, but it was better than nothing. And he was so mean he decided to strip the house completely of all its fittings. He left it bare – even taking away the curtain rods, every single one for his new home.

John Waddington-Feather ©

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