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Oh, those Russians!

Our commander was given the task of photographing the American frigate on duty, so he was given a camera with a metre-long lens tube, and taught how to use it.

The commander called over the head of the RTS and taught him how to use it, so that he shouldn’t forget himself.

The head of RTS called over the sergeant-major of the crew and, to be sure that something should stick, he began to train him.

The sergeant-major of the crew called over a sailor and gave him a lesson in photography, to shore up his own newly learnt skills.

In a word, everything was ready: the people, the ship, the camera. And the frigate was somewhere nearby.

At some point during the day we surfaced… To the Mediterranean... In a sultry heat… The sun baking our necks… Circles in our eyes…

Then, suddenly, the American frigate – for God’s sake, here it is, the sonofabitch – takes it upon itself to make an approach. The commander yelled from the bridge: “Bring the camera up! Quick!”

The frigate was approaching amazingly quickly. We dragged the camera up.

“Now, we’ll get a picture of it alright,” said the com- mander and pressed himself to the camera. It was visible, of course, from where he was but it would be better from higher up.

“How’s the RDP, first mate?”

“All in order, as always, comrade commander.”

“I know your ‘all in order’. Bring it up. I’ll sit on the platform and you can hoist me up slowly. And tell your… these sons of the rising sun of yours that if they drop me, I’ll tear their heads off.”

RDP is our sliding telescopic device. It extends our range of possibilities, which are anyway colossal. It’s a large pipe. And on top of it, there’s a float large enough for a man to be hoisted on it.

The Mediterranean has never seen anything like it: our naked, stick-thin commander, with a scooped-out stomach and a metre-long lens around his neck, slowly floating upwards. “That’s enough,” shouted the commander and the ascension stopped.

The frigate was already right beside us, and so the commander pressed to the camera again.

“Now, down!” shouted the commander after a couple of minutes.

Something happened below. Something got stuck.

“It’s been lubricated, it was working yesterday,” the first mate all but wailed.

The frigate had hurtled off long ago and our half-naked commander was still sticking up high above the sea’s calm surface, waving his camera and howling at the top of his voice.

Next day, the Italian newspapers printed some huge photos. They showed our sub with the raised RDP and the commander with his scooped-out stomach rushing around, from his neck hung that miracle of technology – a camera with a metre-long lens. Separately, they’d printed a close-up of the commander’s wailing face. The caption underneath the picture read:

“Oh, those incompre hensible Russians!”

We didn’t have any luck with our own photos – in the heat of the moment, we’d forgotten to remove the cover from the lens tube.

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