WeWriWa—Velira’s Birthday Wish

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, where participants share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m returning to my current WIP, Journey Through a Dark Forest, this week. For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing from Chapter 39, “Velira’s Birthday Wish,” one of the chapters set entirely in Persia. (The country had been officially renamed Iran by that point, but the older characters still call it Persia out of force of habit.)

It’s September 1937, and there’s a special birthday being celebrated at the orphanage that was partially relocated by stealth from Kyiv, Ukraine a few months earlier. Vitya, the man who saved Inessa’s life at the River Bug in June, gave his daughter Velira to his sister Inna and their old orphanage mother Mrs. Brezhneva for safekeeping in April.

Siranoush is the 5-year-old daughter of Inna’s old orphanage friend Ohanna, who also defected to Persia. She and Velira have become good friends, in spite of not sharing a language yet. I’ve slightly edited this to fit 8 sentences.


The two cooks who were relocated with the orphanage are only versed in basic Russian and Ukrainian fare like pirogi, stuffed cabbage, dumpling soup, mushroom barley soup, and borshcht, so Ínna has enlisted Maral and their new neighbor Firuza’s cook to make something a little more exciting for Velira’s third birthday.  Though Velira doesn’t understand very well just what a birthday is, she understands that her age is changing, and that she’s going to get presents and fancy food.  She’s most excited by the idea of having a cake, a delicacy she never got at home.

Velira is propped up with several fat cushions on the special birthday chair, so she can reach the table and see everyone.  She delightedly takes in the feast Maral and Firuza made for her juvenile palette and small stomach—nan-e dushabi; a sampling of date, pomegranate, apricot, apple, and peach jams; baklava; date khoresh; rice with rosewater and orange peel; walnut-stuffed lamb; her new favorite soup, noodles with vegetables and chickpeas; and a covered cake off to the side, being saved for later.

“I made you a little book,” Siranoush says proudly, while Izabella translates. “My older friend Zavik lent me colored pencils, and gave me yarn to hold the pages together.  I drew pictures of us, and lots of cute little animals.”


Of interest to fellow name nerds: Velira isn’t a traditional Russian name, but one of the invented Soviet names most popular from about 1917-40. It’s an amalgamation of the phrase “great worker,” and one of the ones that sounds most like a real name.

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