Font: News Gothic

Year created: 1908

Chapter: “Naina and Katya in North America”

Book: The Twelfth Time: Lyuba and Ivan on the Rocks

Written: 3-11 September 2011

Computer created on: 2008 15-inch MacBook Pro

File format: Word 2004

This is Chapter 29 of my second Russian historical novel, starring two of my favorite secondary characters. Since their introduction in December 1919, Yekaterina Karlovna Chernomyrdina and Naina Antonovna Yezhova have been among the principal orphanage girls. Now their particular story finally links up with the characters in New York. They got permission to leave the Soviet Union in late 1926, but decided to wait out the winter in Yalta. Sadly, they became separated from Naina’s younger cousin Karla on their train away from the orphanage.

In April 1927, they went to Bulgaria on the pretext of taking an approved cruise, and met up with a man who arranged for their passage to America with a dance troupe. At Ellis Island in June, they met Katrin’s husband Sandros, one of the immigration workers, and he took pity on them and sponsored them. At the time, he didn’t realize these were old friends of Lyuba’s youngest stepsisters. Over the summer, they vacationed with Lyuba’s friends and family on Coney Island and Long Island, till early September. Naina’s aunt Sonya was then contacted, and the girls began a new life in Toronto.

Some highlights:

They stand and gape when they see a woman with blonde hair cut as short as a man’s.  They’ve known bobbed hair is in fashion for women, but not that women in North America are allowed to get away with cutting it even shorter.  The second thing they notice is the woman with dark brown skin.  Neither of them has ever seen anyone with such dark skin before, except in pictures.  Naína represses the urge to wonder out loud if she and Kátya might be suffering from consumption, since their skin is so pale in comparison to the servant’s healthy dark skin.

“I can’t believe you have a real butler!” Naína says. “Just like in all the old British books!”

“The only other language we know is Ukrainian,” Kátya says. “But we’re not stupid.  We’ll work very hard to learn English.  Does your maid ever speak her African language?”

“You’re allowed to be sterilized in this country without a medical emergency?” Kátya asks. “This is like a science fiction story come to life!”

Naína and Kátya get up to gather shells with the children.  Lyuba doesn’t know whether to find it more refreshing to see teenagers doing an activity with children or depressing to see girls so old reacting to everything as though they’re children themselves.  They’re not even attempting to hide their delight at collecting shells, going on rides, swimming in the ocean, or building sandcastles for the very first time.  As upset as she is at being stuck in the city for so long, at least her own children are having a somewhat normal childhood and aren’t being deprived of simple joys and bombarded with political propaganda in a state-run orphanage.

***

Kátya and Naína drop their suitcases as soon as they’re shown into the room, putting Kárla’s little suitcase into the closet.  After throwing their travel clothes on the floor and pulling on their new nightgowns Katrin bought to replace their ugly orphanage-regulation ones, they climb into bed and look up at the stars through their window.

“It’s been a long way from Russia to Toronto,” Kátya says. “Perhaps somewhere out there, our Kárlochka is looking up at the same stars and being looked after by decent people.”

“Perhaps.  We found Sónya and our old friends the Lebedevas after so many years.  I guess some miracles aren’t supposed to happen overnight, since we might not appreciate them as much.”

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