I’m returning to moving out old posts indefinitely stored in my drafts folder. Originally one of a batch of 20 posts I put together and stored in my drafts folder for the now-long-defunct Sweet Saturday Samples bloghop on 24 June 2012, this comes from my first Russian historical and has been changed a fair bit. The published version doesn’t use the pedantic accent marks used here, for starts, and some things have been fleshed out while others (like the pointless roll-calling) have been removed. In the published version, sadistic Mrs. Zyuganova also pushes Klara into the snow, not the mud, seeing as it’s December in Minsk.
Possibly my favorite subplots in my Russian novels revolve around my orphanage girls. I’d read about how children of “enemies of the people” were treated in orphanages during the Civil War in Felice Holman’s The Wild Children, which I read shortly before beginning the first book in early 1993, but I wasn’t inspired to create a whole series of subplots set in orphanages and playing out over three books till my second major period of working on the first novel.
When I was introduced to what became my favoritest movie, The Inner Circle, in the summer of ’96, and then resumed work on the novel that November [actually September], I knew I had to have orphanage characters too. They include Vera, Natalya, and Fyodora, some of Lyuba’s future stepsisters, and Anya and Leontiy, the children of the couple who took Lyuba and her friends into hiding. Some of the other important orphanage girls include Belarusian Inessa and trio Katya, Naina, and Karla. Naina is the niece of Sonya Gorbachëva, an important secondary character.
Naina and Inessa have always been my favorite of the orphanage girls. Inessa is a very intelligent, headstrong young girl who’s only there because her parents were arrested for an honest, petty mistake, and Naina is as sharp as nails in spite of her young age. Naina first appears in December of 1919, and at barely eight years old is toting a gun.
“These three will stay in this bunk to make up for the three who departed.” Mrs. Zyuganova leads three new girls into the quarters. “Names, ages, and nationalities?”
“Naína Antónovna Yezhova, age eight, from Pétrograd.”
“Nice necklace. It’s mine now.” She grabs a citrine necklace hanging around Naína’s neck.
Naína slaps her hands away, reaches under her dress, and pulls a gun on Mrs. Zyuganova. “No it’s not. My mátushka gave it to me when I was four. Steal it and I shoot you. My papa gave me one of his handguns before I was taken away, and I’m not afraid to use it.”
Mrs. Zyuganova struggles to collect herself. “Next?”
“Yekaterína Kárlovna Chernomyrdina, age twelve, from L’viv.”
“L’vov,” Mrs. Zyuganova growls.
“No, it’s really L’viv!”
“Last name and patronymic?”
“I’m two and from Yaroslavl.”
“Last name and patronymic?”
“I don’t know!”
Mrs. Zyuganova picks Kárla up and throws her into a wall. Then she begins beating her.
“Stop beating her!” Naína bites Mrs. Zyuganova. “She’s only two years old! She is Kárla Maksímovna Gorbachëva. She’s my cousin, and if you hurt her again I will kill you. Remember, I’ve got a gun, and I know how to shoot. It’s not just for show.”
“Quiet that tiny one down!” Mrs. Zyuganova screams.
Naína takes Kárla into another room.
“No, you can’t leave the room you’re assigned to!”
“I am well accustomed to the rules of orphanages by now. I don’t like you. In fact, I don’t think we’ll be sticking around much longer. Just try to stop us. You know you can always get three fresh victims where you found us.”
Mrs. Zyuganova spits in disgust. “We’re ready to round people up to cars. Boys first. Leontiy Ryudolfovich Godimov, Andréy Samuelovich Bródskiy, Ósip Yuriyevich Khrushchëv, Iósif Vasíliyevich Klykachëv, Maksím…”
They go into the car obediently.
“Girls next. Natálya and Fyodora Ilyínichna Lebedeva, Yeléna Vasíliyevna Klykachëva, Svetlána Yuriyevna Khrushchëva, Valentína L’vóvna Kuchma, Irína Samuelovna Bródskaya, Ínna Aleksándrovna Zhirínovskaya, and Ólga Leonídovna Kérenskaya.”
“My brother is on that transport!” Klára howls.
“Tough luck. If you sneak on I’ll beat you. Oh. I would love to get rid of Inéssa my traitor niece. Off you go!”
“Fédya! Fédya!” Klára screams.
Mrs. Zyuganova pushes Klára into the mud. “Would anybody like to sell his or her place to little Klára Mikháylovna Nadleshina?”
“I would! I would!” Inéssa screams.
“Stay on that train, Inéssa! I want to get rid of you!”
Inéssa runs to the man approaching and flings herself into his arms. “Dyadya Díma! Take me away and adopt me! I’ve been in this orphanage since my parents got arrested, and Tyotya Dásha beats me sometimes! Adopt me!”
Mr. Zyuganov’s forehead is thrust forward, like a ram’s. He has red-brown hair and gray eyes. “Dásha, is this true?”
“Yes it’s true, now adopt me, Dyadya Díma!”
“Dásha, I saw him! The Leader! He’s promised to bring fair work conditions to the mines in Belarus! Soon you won’t have to work in this hospital anymore!”
“This isn’t a hospital! It’s a phony orphanage! Adopt me!”
“Of course, I’ll adopt my niece if her parents are jailed enemies of the people—”
Mrs. Zyuganova yanks Inéssa from her uncle’s arms and throws her into the girls’ cattlecar. “Goodbye, my traitor niece. I hope they treat you even worse at the new place.”
Klára runs with the train and boosts herself up into the window. Ánya, Véra, and Natálya run with her and boost themselves up next. They all tumble on top of the three newest arrivals.
“We hid under the baggage holds,” Naína says. “We’re very sneaky. After seeing how she treated Kárla, I had to say no and move onto another orphanage!”