Thomas Calabrese – Tanya Cash was destined to have an unusual life. Her father, Sean was half English and half Italian and served in the United Kingdom Special Forces before becoming an agent with the covert agency MI6. Her mother, Ariel was of Israeli and Czechoslovakian descent and served as an officer in Israel’s legendary Caracal Battalion, in which women comprise 70 percent of the troop strength. After leaving the military, Ariel joined Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel. Sean and Ariel met while working on a joint mission to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
Tanya’s older brother, William was a fighter pilot with the 69th Squadron, one of Israel’s most prestigious air force units. He flew the F-15 Eagle, sometimes called the Ra’am, Israeli for Thunder and was an ace. While growing up in London, Prague and Tel Aviv, Tanya was a natural athlete and became an internationally ranked junior tennis player and sometimes practiced with Novak Djokovic at his academy in Belgrade, Serbia. As the years passed, Tanya grew into a statuesque and beautiful woman who was also extremely photogenic. As famous photographer, Randall Krebs once said, ‘The only way to take a bad photo of Tanya is to leave the lens cap on.’ Tanya was in high demand and had numerous endorsement contracts. Rolex, Ferrari, Ritz Carlton, Louis Vuitton, Versace and Gulfstream private jets were among them.
One of the most watched programs on the Discovery Channel was called ‘Tanya’s Travels’. Tanya would travel around the world doing various adventures from rock climbing in Yosemite, wingsuit flying in the Alps, cliff diving in Lake Vouliagmeni, Greece and cage diving with the Great White Sharks in Isla Guadalupe. Legendary filmmaker, Bill Ridgefield, a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer and his elite team of professional cameramen and support staff documented and edited Tanya death defying experiences.
While competing in the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia, Tanya’s motorcycle flipped when the front wheel struck a rock. Even though she was wearing a helmet and sustained a concussion, Tanya still managed to finish the race. Afterwards, the lingering effects of her traumatic brain injury cause several symptoms, the most unusual being that Tanya began to have premonitions about future events.
Tanya returned to her spacious villa on the Italian Rivera just outside the town of Portofino to begin preparation for a tennis tournament. On the grounds of her estate were three tennis courts, grass, clay and hardcourt. Although Tanya’s preferred surface was grass, she still liked to compete on the clay court circuit. She was scheduled to compete in the Barcelona Ladies Open, but if her headaches continued, she might be forced to withdraw.
While sleeping that night, Tanya had a dream about her cousin, Giorgio Gattini. She had not spoken to him in almost six months so it was kind of a weird coincidence that he called the next morning.
“Buon Giorno, Bella,” Giorgio said.
“Ciao,” Tanya said.
“Have you ever heard of the Amber Room?” Giorgio asked.
Tanya drew upon her extensive memory of the mysterious treasure and gave a brief description, “The Amber Room’ was a chamber decorated in amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors and located in the Catherine Palace of Tsarskoye Selo near Saint Petersburg. It was constructed in 18th century Prussia and was dismantled and disappeared during World War II. Before its loss, it was considered an ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. The Amber Room was looted during World War II by the Army Group North of Nazi Germany, and taken to Königsberg for reconstruction and display. Sometime in early 1944, with Allied forces closing in on Germany, the room was disassembled and crated for storage. Konigsberg was later destroyed by allied bombers in August 1944 and documentation of the room location ends there. Its eventual fate and current whereabouts remain a great mystery. Because of its unique features and singular beauty, the original Amber Room is estimated to be worth between 500 million and several billion dollars, but many consider it priceless.”
“Our family recently bought a house with some land outside of Prague. There is a man in his late nineties who was a young boy during World War II. He currently lives in Mala Strana, not far from the Prague Castle. He told me that he vividly remembered German soldiers bringing in crates of treasure and swears it was the Amber Room,” Giorgio said.
“So you think it’s on the property?” Tanya asked.
Giorgio responded, “I definitely think it’s worth investigating.”
“Keep me posted,” Tanya said.
That night, Tanya had a vivid dream of treasure hunting and when she awakened the next morning, she called her cousin Giorgio and asked, “Do you have any photos of the property?”
“Just a hunch,” Tanya responded.
“I’m going there today with my friend, Nicki, he’s a builder from Spain,” Giorgio said.
“Make sure to take photos of the interior and the grounds,” Tanya reminded her cousin, “I’d like to see them.”
Later that night, Tanya received a dozen photos on her phone from her cousin and they were exactly what she had dreamed about. This was too much of a coincidence to ignore so she quickly called Giorgio and said, “I’m on my way to Prague…I’ll call you when I arrive.”
After hanging up, Tanya called Dennis Driessen, a Dutch adventurer and avid archeologist and said, “I have something that you might be interested in.”
For decades, Russia has been trying to locate the legendary ‘Amber Room’ and when infamous Russian KGB agent, Igor Danko heard about the sale of the house and the rumors associated with it, he ordered two of his subordinates to keep the estate under surveillance.
Tanya met with Dennis in Prague and the Dutchman said, “I brought the equipment.”
Dennis answered, “I’ve got the newest version of the Garrett Ace 300. It is one of the best metal detectors for archeology. It’s got all the bells and whistles.”
Tanya and Dennis drove to the house and met with Giorgio. A few minutes later, an elderly man arrived and Giorgio introduced him, “This is my Uncle Bruno, he’s a retired two star general from the Italian Army. He know some techniques about locating artifacts.”
Uncle Bruno said, “We can talk later, have you eaten?”
“Not in a while,” Tanya answered.
Giorgio proudly announced, “Uncle Bruno is a chef extraordinaire.”
While eating dinner, Tanya began to have vivid hallucinations of German soldiers carrying crates. When everyone had finished eating, she turned to Bruno, “Eccellente,” then added, “I need to be alone for a while, please excuse me.”
At first, Tanya walked around the exterior of the property and when she touched a large tree, she began to channel some powerful energy from the surroundings. Little did she know that she was being watched by the two Russian agents.
For the next few days, Dennis used his machine in a valiant effort to locate the hidden treasure, but could not make an accurate determination. They opened several walls, but found nothing. The energy was undeniable and Tanya was convinced that something was on the property. She wanted to stay longer, but she had made a commitment to play in the Barcelona Open and needed to get more practice time in before the tournament. She promised Giorgio, “I’ll be back.”
The two Russian agents reported back to Igor Danko. One of them said, “The woman has left, but the others are still on the property.”
Igor asked, “What are they doing?”
The second agent responded, “They are still searching.”
Igor thought for a moment, “I know General Bruno Badalucco and his reputation. If anyone knows what’s going on, it’s him. Pick him up.”
Bruno was walking with his companion, Nicki Civella near Wenceslas Square when the two Russian agents came up behind them and put the barrels of their weapons against their backs and led them to a waiting van.
At the same time, Tanya had a premonition that something was going on, but could not determine exactly what it was. In her mind it was like a blurred video. She made it to the semifinals of the Barcelona tournament, but was eliminated in a third set tiebreaker when she lost focus for a few crucial seconds.
Igor Danko was using brutal interrogation techniques perfected in the Gulags of Russia to extract information from Bruno and Nicki, but was having little success since his two captives didn’t know much. Nicki was being shocked by a powerful cattle prod and he screamed defiantly, “Putintane is my name, ask me again and I’ll tell you the same!”
Igor became more angry and frustrated with each passing moment. When Bruno and Nicki passed out from the agony of their ordeal they were dragged into a cell and left on the floor.
“One of the Russians asked, “What do we do now?”
“You go back and watch the house, I want to be notified of any changes!” Igor ordered.
When Tanya returned from Barcelona, she immediately sensed the tension and asked, “What’s going on?”
“We haven’t heard from my Uncle Bruno and Nicki,” Giorgio responded, “Both of their phones are going straight to voicemail.”
Tanya had a feeling that the search for the ‘Amber Room’ and the disappearance of Bruno Badalucco and Nicki Civella were connected. Since it was only a hunch, she kept her concerns to herself.
Dennis had not found anything of value so he told Tanya, “I’m going to return to Eindhoven.”
“I’d appreciate it if you stayed a little longer,” Tanya said.
“I’ve been over this house at least a dozen times, I don’t think staying longer is going to make any difference,” Dennis said.
“Humor me, I’ll make it worth your time.”
“If that’s important to you, then I’ll stay,” Dennis said.
Later that night, Giorgio got restless so he decided to take a walk. He saw the two Russians sitting in their car on the street outside the house and approached the man sitting in the passenger seat, “Do you need something?”
In less than a second, the man pulled out his pistol and shot Giorgio in the upper chest. Tanya woke up and immediately went to where Giorgio was lying motionless. She immediately rendered first aid and slowed the bleeding until an ambulance could arrive. Giorgio was rushed into surgery and his vital signs were stabilized.
Things were escalating and Tanya sensed that things were going to get more dangerous. She could have called her parents or brother for their advice, but she didn’t want them to worry. Instead, she contacted Bill Ridgefield. Tanya knew of Bill’s connections with the military and she told him of what was going on in Prague.
Bill was intuitive as well as loyal and he surmised, “Either someone is trying to stop you from finding something or thinks that you’ve already found it, but like you said ,you’re in danger. I have a few associates that don’t mind working on short notice. I’ll see you soon.”
“You’re sure that you don’t mind?” Tanya asked.
Bill replied, “Your safety and welfare is important to me. Besides I’m always looking for a good story.”
Bill and five civilian contractors arrived in Prague the next evening. Tanya introduced them to Dennis and they sat down to develop a plan of action. Bill asked, “How do you want to do this?”
“First order of business is find Bruno and Nicki,” Tanya said.
The two Russian agents were a lot more discreet after the shooting of Giorgio, but not discreet enough as the civilian contractors found them watching the house with binoculars from a hill. They were disarmed and their cellphones were taken and they were brought inside. It was obvious that they were not going to answer any questions or cooperate in any manner.
“One of the contractors asked, “Unlock your phone?”
The Russian remained silent so Tanya walked over and hit him across the side of his head with a frying pan and grabbed his hand and placed his thumb on the screen. The print unlocked the phone and Tanya said, “There you are.”
One of the contractors hooked up the phone to his laptop and accessed the information with a special program. After a few minutes, he responded, “Got it.”
The team began checking their weapons and Tanya picked up a pistol and looked at it. Bill said, “You’re not going with us…it’s too dangerous!”
“Seriously, is that your best argument? C’mon Bill, I live for dangerous situations, besides I have an extensive knowledge of weapons, my parents made sure of that.”
Bill shrugged, “What was going through my mind? I must have had a temporary brain freeze thinking that you couldn’t handle something.”
Tanya gave Bill a hug, “I appreciate your concern. Let’s roll!”
Tanya and her team arrived at the warehouse in an area of Prague called the Industrial Zone. There were a dozen Russian operatives guarding the building. The civilian contractors eliminated them and the team breached the building. Once inside, Tanya got a premonition on which way to go and said, “Follow me.”
They eliminated three more Russians as they made a turn in the hallway. There was a metal door and one of the contractors used shape charges to blow it off its hinges. They received hostile fire and one of the contractors threw a flashbang grenade in to disorient the defenders. Once inside the room, Tanya called out, “Give it up, it’s over!”
Igor Danko refused to heed the warning and reached for his weapon and Tanya shot him in the shoulder, but it only slightly deterred him from trying to return fire. This time, Tanya took no chances and emptied her entire clip into him. She continued moving down the hall and found Giorgio and Nicki. One of the contractors administered emergency first aid.
Three days later, Bruno and Nicki were still experiencing pain from their injuries and it was going to take some time to fully recover, but they were grateful to be alive. Giorgio was released from the hospital with specific medical instructions to take it easy for at least a month. With the help of two of the contractors, Bruno supervised the preparation of a culinary feast for all to enjoy to celebrate that everyone was still breathing and were together again.
Giorgio raised his glass of wine with his good arm and proposed a toast, “Even though we didn’t find any treasure, things could have been a lot worse. Alla salute.”
Suddenly, Tanya had a vision and said, “Follow me,” and rushed off.
Everyone followed Tanya into the cellar. She stood in front of a wall and said, “Right here.”
Dennis protested, “I scanned this area several times.”
Tanya walked over to a workbench, picked up a screwdriver and started removing the cement grout behind the stones. She loosened it enough to remove one block and looked inside, “There’s something behind the wall.”
Everyone helped to dismantle the block walls then stood in disbelief. Bill found a flashlight and shined it in the direction of where everyone was looking in the darkness. It was the Amber Room, meticulously reconstructed down to the most minor detail.
Bill examined the room and noticed something, “The room is lined with lead, that’s why we didn’t pick up anything. It makes sense now.”
The ‘Amber Room’ was too valuable and had too much historical significance to sell to a private party for any price so the team agreed to donate it to the National Museum. At the time, they did not know that the Czech government had offered a 10 million euros reward for the historical artifact. Tanya declined her share, but used the positive energy from this experience to win the Paris Open Clay Court Championship. Bill Ridgefield was inspired to create a documentary about the ‘Amber Room’ treasure that received worldwide acclaim and numerous awards.
It could be said that Tanya was part Czech and all Cash, but she was a priceless treasure as well. Like the legendary Amber Room, this unique woman wasn’t meant to be possessed. For those who failed to comprehend this fact, they eventually came to realize that Tanya could also be a lethal beauty when the situation warranted.