Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. Since Russian Orthodox Christmas was 7 January, I’m sharing from one of the Christmas chapters of Journey Through a Dark Forest, the third volume with my Russian characters. Orthodox Christmas 1942 is very funereal, as Lyuba and Ivan’s oldest son Fedya has just enlisted, quickly married his sweetheart Novomira, and has to immediately go back to New York to await further orders.
In the middle of the somber atmosphere, 19-year-old Fedya gives his newborn sister Tamara some presents to remember him by while he’s gone, and in case the worst happens.
Fedya passes a green parcel to his mother. “This is for Tomochka. If the worst happens, I want her to have something to always remember me by, long after she’s a baby.”
Lyuba pulls off the paper with trembling fingers and opens the box lid to find a silver bracelet with a dolphin charm, a children’s book about the great Russian saints, some recent pictures Fedya painted of the Minnesota countryside and the Manhattan cityscape, a miniature clay rabbit, a honey-colored hinged wooden box for keepsakes or jewelry, and a blank greeting card Fedya decorated himself. On the front, he drew a Christmas tree and small animals in the snow, and on the inside, he glued one of the three copies of a picture of him holding Tamara at her recent baptism. The inscription, in both English and Russian, gives the date and the message “Happy Christmas to my precious baby sister Tamara, from your oldest brother Fyodor, who loves you so much. You’ll be a lot bigger and won’t even remember me by the time I see you again, so I wanted you to have these things while I’m still home. Be good and sweet for our parents while I’m away keeping you all safe. Never forget I’m giving up my todays for your tomorrows. Love, Fedya.”
Another lifetime ago, Lyuba told family friend Pavel her little boy was too cute to be cannon fodder, and hoped there’d never be another war. Fedya almost died at birth, and again at 15 months when he had viral meningitis. Now his parents have to sit by and watch as he voluntarily puts himself into harm’s way because he believes so much in doing the right thing, and because he’s determined to find his sister Darya in France and bring her safely back home.