Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet starts the second section of Chapter 73, “Inga in America,” of my third Russian historical, Journey Through a Dark Forest.
In August 1942, 18-year-old Inga Savvina comes to New York City to meet the father who has no idea she exists. Her mother was arrested in 1937 and sentenced to twenty years in Siberia, for refusing to teach Stalin’s phony version of Russian history.
Inga and her family were evacuated to Irkutsk to escape the invading Germans in 1941, which, combined with the more relaxed mood in the USSR, made it easier for her grandparents to send her to safety. A graduation trip to Vladivostok turned into a defection to Shanghai, where she was put in touch with authorities who arranged her passage to San Francisco.
The train finally stops on Sunday, not quite the end of the line, but the end of the line for Inga. She gathers her luggage and steps from the train into the bright Manhattan sunlight. This city already looks so crowded and fast-paced, not like the French Concession, Irkutsk, or Vladivostok.
She’s afraid to approach anyone to ask, in her elementary French, directions to the contact she was given, or where a large Russian neighborhood might be. She just keeps moving with the crowd, making sure to push her luggage ahead of her so it won’t get stolen. If she loses her luggage, she’ll be left with nothing.
After about thirty minutes of walking with no purpose or direction, the top of Inga’s right shoe catches in a crack in the pavement. The next thing she knows, she’s on the ground, her right knee ripped open and bleeding, her luggage tumbled out of the rack. Her knee smarts too much to try standing up, and she has no first aide in any of her bags. Even the mere motion of gently bending her knee sends waves of pain up and down her leg.
Inga’s father is Lyuba Koneva’s cousin Mikhail Kharzin, nicknamed Ginny, after his childish mispronunciation of the nickname Genie. Her mother, Georgiya, visited New York for Lyuba and Ivan’s wedding in 1923. During the reception, she and Ginny, then sixteen years old, snuck off to the former priests’ quarters and slept together for the first time. Ginny also visited her hotel during the ensuing days.
Though Georgiya never mentioned Inga’s existence in any of the letters she wrote to Ginny, Inga is her father’s spitting image, and she has all Ginny’s letters as additional proof.