International Atomic Energy Agency

The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), commonly simply referred to as The Agency, took up headquarters in Vienna in 1957 in the splendid 19th century building of the Grand Hotel on Kärntnerring. The Grand Hotel had been vacated in 1955 by the occupying Russian troops leaving it in bad disrepair. The Agency remained in the refurbished building until 1979 in which year - to the chagrin of most senior members of the Agency's governing body (the "Secretariat") - it was moved far away from the city to the suburban flatlands east of the Danube.

The Agency held annual General Conferences as well as other intermediate conferences at the Vienna Hofburg. For these events there was always a need for extra temporary staff, particularly for its Languages Division. This is how, upon application, I was hired by the Translation Section of the Agency, headed by Luis Mr Meana and his personal assistant Tilde Silbermayr. Tilde was a school friend of my sister Liselotte who had also worked for the Agency on occasion. Both had graduated from BEA Gmunden, the girls' equivalent of my boarding school, BEA Liebenau in Graz.

My task was to help with proofreading and the collection of documents from the translators and their distribution to the pertinent typing pools. This was actually quite fun since I had the chance to meet personally the French, English, Russian and Spanish translators (and the lovely typists in the "typing pools").

I was intrigued by their different linguistic preferences. The Spaniards spoke English with me, the Russians and the French would never speak English but only French, and the admirable English, in reverence for the Agency's host country, made an effort to speak with me in "Austrian" (after 1945 the Austrian Ministry of Education - within the context of Allied de-nazification of Austria - had ordered all schools to replace the German dictionary "Duden" with the "Austrian Dictionary"), hence we spoke "Austrian" and no longer "German" from thereon.

I was well liked since I spoke all of those languages save for Spanish. In the typing pools I was able to compare the chic French ladies, the English ladies in their pale dresses and the Russian ladies who wore terrible perfume. Strangely, the Spanish typing pool consisted only of men!

In the morning of St Nikolaus on December 6, we put a "Zwetschkenkrampus" on Mr Meana's desk. A typical Austrian custom, it is a figure made with dried prunes and figs of Krampus (the Devil) who arrives in the evening together with Nikolo (in Santa Claus outfit) in the neighbourhood's homes, thus creating a balance between rewards (in the form of gifts from Santa's bag) and punishment (in the form of painful whips delivered by Krampus). Mr Meana, a Spaniard, had no idea of what a Zwetschkenkrampus was or signified. He was utterly upset as he thought it was meant to be a portrait if him!

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