This was originally one of a batch of twenty posts I put together for the now long-discontinued Sweet Saturday Samples hop, and kept in my drafts folder for years. It differs slightly from the published version in The Twelfth Time, such as in its pedantic use of accent marks and the surname Stalin. I changed it to Savvin after realising only THE Stalin would’ve had that name.
Leonid Savvin found 8-year-old Karla Gorbachëva injured and unconscious near railroad tracks during the end of his holiday in Bila Tserkva, and decided to adopt her. She was still unconscious when he brought her to his family’s large house.
The next thing Kárla knows, she’s lying in a bed across from another little girl in a bed, the walls festooned with pictures of Comrade Lénin, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and all the important Party leaders. She feels a pain in her leg, and when she reaches out to massage it, finds a cast around it.
“Where am I?” she calls. “I came here with my cousin and our best friend.”
Geórgiya ducks into the room. “I’m sorry to have to tell you, my big brother brought you here alone. He says he found you near train tracks in Bila Tserkva. As much as my brother annoys me, and as much as his plan to adopt you and raise you here stuns all of us, I have to admit he did save your life. You were unconscious when he found you.”
“Where are my cousin and our friend?”
“As far as we knew, you were alone. How did you come to be by the train tracks? Or did you hit your head too hard to remember?”
“My cousin Naína and my mama’s best friend’s daughter Kátya, our own best friend, were going to Cherkasi with me. We were going to go to Odessa after we got on another train. We just got permission from our orphanage warden to leave. In Odessa, we were going to ask for permission to move to North America. Naína thinks my mama might have survived the Civil War and escaped. I used to have an older sister, but some mean orphanage warden beat her to death before I could remember.”
“Oh, for the love of the Revolution. They must be frantic by now, and there’s probably no way for you to trace each other even several days later. Did you fall off the train?”
“I was walking on the roofs of the train cars, and I slipped on some ice and fell off. When I tried to stand back up, my leg hurt too bad to stand or walk. Then I fell down, and just now woke up.”
“Well, even if you’ve lost your only remaining family, you’ll be nice and safe here. We’ve got a lot of money, and we can take care of you. The other little girl in the other bed is my four-year-old baby sister Nélya, and my name is Geórgiya Yuriyevna Stálina.Your apparent adoptive father, my big brother, is Leoníd.”
“But I was looking forward to moving to North America. I don’t remember life before orphanages.”
“I agree my brother was very foolish for not turning you over to the correct authorities so your people could find you, but what’s done is done. I’m sure you’ll have a happy life here, and you’re getting some unofficial sisters or cousins, whatever you want to consider them. I’m sure Nélya would love to have a big kid to help her and play with her. And that little girl toddling in is my eighteen-month-old daughter Ínga Grigóriyevna. Her father lives in North America and doesn’t know about her. Nothing good would come of my telling him we have a daughter, since we both live in different places. I talk about other things in my letters.”
“You have a baby? Can I play with her?”
Geórgiya lifts Ínga onto Kárla’s bed. “You sure can. I know nothing can ever replace your cousin and your friend, but think of this as a second chance to be part of a real family. You’ll have grandparents, a father, an aunt, and some unofficial sisters. Your cousin and friend wanted to leave because they had no future here, but now you do have a future here. Just think, your life is about to assume a much different trajectory than theirs. You’ll grow up in the triumphant Soviet Union and be part of history, while they’ll move to North America and miss out on the glorious reality of the Soviet dream. A whole new life is just beginning for you, and you have fate to thank for bringing you to us and keeping you in your homeland.”