Good News at Mrs. Brezhneva’s Orphanage

This is the second of 20 posts which were originally put together and put into the drafts folder on 24 June 2012, for future installments of the now-long-discontinued Sweet Saturday Samples bloghop. The published version is slightly different, most notably in being stripped of the pedantic accent marks.

Chapter 15 of The Twelfth Time, “Tales Out of Kiyev,” is one of several chapters focused around some of the letters exchanged between Vera and Natalya Lebedeva in New York, their old friend Inessa Zyuganova, who now lives in Minsk with her uncle Dima and several other girls he adopted, and their friend Inna Zhirinovskaya, who’s remained in Kiyev even after reaching age 18, to be an orphanage helper and to study at St. Vladimir University (now Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv).

During the course of the chapter, the sequel’s storyline involving Naina Yezhova, Katya Chernomyrdina, and Karla Gorbachëva starts unfolding. The girls have gotten permission to leave the orphanage in early January 1926, but it’s going to be awhile before they can go to North America, and there’s going to be quite a bump in the road along the way.


Mrs. Brézhneva surveys her dining hall in disgust. Some of the Jewish and Christian girls are praying over their food, the religious Jewish girls are complaining the food isn’t kosher, the Muslim girls are protesting they can’t eat pork either, several girls are claiming vegetarianism, and Alína is leading the Georgian girls in clamoring for Georgian food instead of only Russian and Ukrainian fare. Hoping to put their minds on something more productive, she raps on the table. After twenty raps, she finally gains everyone’s attention.

“We have a going-away party to prepare for. Three of our seasoned residents, Kátya Chernomyrdina, Naína Yezhova, and Kárla Gorbachëva, have received permission from both me and the appropriate authorities to leave our wondrous orphanage. They’re going to stay here in the Ukraine until they receive permission to immigrate to America. The going-away party is going to be tomorrow, so you’d all better start making them farewell cards, presents, and meals as soon as you’ve cleared the table.”

“How’d you manage to get the old ape’s permission to leave underage?” Alína asks, smirking triumphantly at Mrs. Brézhneva’s angered facial expression. “Maybe this opens up the door for me to go home to Georgia.”

“I’m eighteen now,” Kátya says. “No one has any legal right to hold me here any longer, and damned if I’m leaving without Naína and Kárla.”

“I guess we have no choice but to immigrate the legal way,” fourteen-year-old Naína says, sighing and rolling her eyes in a very exaggerated fashion. “We’ve always been masters of escape and guile, but we don’t want to start out such an important part of our lives on a lie or crime. If they catch us stowing away on a boat or train, there will be consequences. Even if it means waiting awhile, it’s better than remaining hostages here.”

“How does it feel to hear your inmates describing themselves as hostages, you old gorilla?” Ohanna sneers. “Wondrous orphanage’ my eye.”

“You’re describing me as the gorilla and ape?” Mrs. Brézhneva asks. “Maybe I’m not fit to sit at the Queen of England’s table, but at least I come from a civilized, modern culture, and my alphabet isn’t nightmare-inducing.”

“I believe both Alína and I were referring to your physical appearance and your terrible short haircut, which has always looked like an ape cut it. But since you brought up this subject, the Georgian and Armenian alphabets are beautiful works of art. Your alphabet is pretty damn boring, even if it’s not as bland as the Roman alphabet I’ve seen. And our respective cultures were here and thriving when Russia was still some backwoods trash heap. My people were the first to adopt Christianity, though perhaps in your mind it’s an honor to be part of the first people to abandon all religion.”

“I hope we find my mama in America,” Kárla says. “We don’t think any of our fathers or uncles are still around, but maybe my mother is still here. I don’t know what happened to Naína or Kátya’s mothers, but Naína thinks my mama has the best chance to still be alive and have escaped.”

“Just think, we’ll be going to a real school in America or Canada,” Naína says. “Don’t give me that look, Mrs. Brézhneva. You know full well the excuse of an education we’re getting here doesn’t even compare to an actual school, with trained teachers and real textbooks and homework.”

“I’m glad to wash my hands of you trouble-makers, but don’t fool yourselves into thinking you’ll pick up exactly where you left off before the state stepped in to feed, clothe, house, and educate you.  You only know Russian and Ukrainian. It takes years to get fluent enough in a much different language to keep up with instruction in that language. Although I suppose at least English isn’t as far from Russian as Chinese or Finnish.”

“We’re young. We’ll manage. And Kárla’s only eight. Before long we’ll be masters. But we’re not banking on getting the hell out of this blasted empire as fast as we got permission to beat it out of this hellhole. It takes awhile to get cleared to immigrate, particularly now.”

“I’m hoping they take pity on our sob story,” Kátya says. “And we’re young. Even if America has racist immigration quotas and the Soviet Union isn’t handing out escape passes like candy, I’m sure they’ll let us move up in the line faster because we’re all alone in this world and were raised in orphanages.”

Kutaisi, Georgia


River Rioni

By the banks of the River Rioni, image by А. Мухранов (A. Mukhranov) (


The Ukimerioni Fortress ruins, image by Rusudan Beridze (user: Serafita).

The Gelati Monastery, image by Ilan Molcho, uploaded by geagea (1661.jpg).

Kutaisi is Georgia’s next-largest city, at about 200,600 people, and the capital of the Imereti region. It’s nestled along both banks of the Rioni River, the Northern Imereti Foothills, the Samgurali Range, the Colchis Plain, and many deciduous forests. The city has a humid, subtropical climate, and because of all the nearby mountains, rain can be expected in any month. It’s also very windy, and snow can be wet and heavy.

Kutaisi was the home of many Georgian rulers throughout history. One of the city’s landmarks is the Bagrati Cathedral on Ukimerioni Hill. It was built during the early 11th century, during King Bagrat III’s reign. In 1692, it was blown up by the invading Ottomans. Only in the 21st century were the ruins finally restored.

Another landmark is the Gelati Monastery, which contains the Church of the Virgin, the Church of St. George, and the Church of St. Nicholas. Many ancient manuscripts and murals are preserved there, and it once had an Academy that was home to many of Georgia’s greatest writers, scientists, philosophers, and theologians.

Bagrati Cathedral restored, image by Brave Lemming (

Kutaisi is the setting for part of Chapter 26, “Trouble in Transcaucasia,” of my WIP, Journey Through a Dark Forest. Former orphanage girl Alina Petropashvili, now grown up, has been living in Kutaisi since she came home in April 1927, shortly before her 19th birthday. She loves living in such an ancient, historic city, but her unjustly imprisoned husband, Amiran Koridze, orders her to get out of there, go to her friends in Armenia, and escape to the Fereydan region of Iran, which has a lot of Georgians.

Amiran proposed to Alina by the ruins of the Bagrati Cathedral on Ukimerioni Hill in September 1927. Their apartment overlooks the Rioni River and the lush, green hills. Georgia feels like the most beautiful country in the world to Alina, because it’s hers. From the moment she stepped foot off the train home and breathed in the air, she’d known she was home and never wanted to leave ever again. It’s very painful for her to have to leave to save her life, and ensure a safe future for the child she’s just discovered she’s having after almost ten childless years of marriage.

Gorgeous River Rioni running through Kutaisi, image by Tamuna Kakauridze (

The ruins of Geguti Palace are another landmark beacon of Kutaisi. The city also contains Sataplia Cave, which has dinosaur footprints; the Meskhisvili Drama Theatre; three synagogues on Gaponov Street, part of the city’s historic Jewish neighborhood; Motsameta Church; and the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. It’s also believed that Kutaisi was home to the Golden Fleece stolen by Jason.

Kutaisi Shul

The main synagogue, the only Kutaisi shul still in use today, image by Dato Rostomashvili (Flickr).

Georgia has one of the most ancient Jewish communities outside of Israel, and Kutaisi was part of that community. The Jewish presence in Georgia can be traced to the Babylonian captivity, the 6th century BCE. (Contrary to the Ashkenazocentric myth, Eastern Europe was far from the only place in the Diaspora!). There were a number of shuls in the Jewish neighbourhood, though only one is used today. The majority of the community went to Israel from the 1970s onward. Prior to Soviet persecution, in March 1879, there was a blood libel trial in Kutaisi, though all ten accused were acquitted.


The ruins of the Bagrati Cathedral, pre-restoration, painted by Aleksandr Fyodorovich Peters (

Downtown Kutaisi, image by Kober.

More information:

WeWriWa—Bazaar Surprise


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, as Georgian immigrant Alina Petropashvili has finally realized the beaten-up beggar she found in the Fereydunshahr bazaar is her husband, Amiran Koridze.

She finally believed his story when he produced an ikon of St. Nino which she got from her mother before she was taken to an orphanage in Ukraine during the chaos of the Civil War in 1920. Alina was hesitant to hug him too hard, for fear of hurting him, but Amiran assured her that it couldn’t hurt worse than all the torture he survived.

This has been modified a bit to fit eight sentence.


Alína squeezes him as tightly as she knows how, sobbing even harder as Amiran hugs her back.  She doesn’t recoil when he kisses her, though the heavy beard feels a little funny.  Amiran may be disfigured on the outside, but he’s still the same on the inside.  Any man who came all this way on foot just for her has the kind of love that only comes along very rarely in life.

“I never named any names, provided any information, or let on I knew where you’d disappeared to,” he whispers. “I don’t betray my friends or my wife.  I must have hide like an elephant now, after all those daily beatings on almost every part of my body.  But don’t worry, they didn’t castrate me like they threatened; once I look normal again and have better health, you can start enjoying me as your husband again.”


A few weeks ago I asked my readers what they thought of my changing my pen name, since I’m releasing three books this year and have begun thinking my pseudonym doesn’t sound serious or professional enough for a historical writer. I’m now considering the possibility of using the name Ursula Hartlein (my middle name plus an old family name which means “brave/strong little one”) for my long, serious historicals, and keeping the pen name Carrie-Anne for my short, lightweight Atlantic City historicals.

Each name would suggest different things appropriate to the types of books these are; Ursula sounds more serious, while Carrie-Anne seems more fun. Also, after almost 21 years, I’m pretty attached to my original pen name, and I still love both the bands I got my existing pseudonym from.

WeWriWa—Bazaar Surprise


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. I’ve been sharing from Chapter 60 of my WIP, Journey Through a Dark Forest, in one of the chapters set entirely in Iran.

It’s the Summer of 1941, and Georgian immigrant Alina Petropashvili has taken pity on a horrific-looking beggar in the bazaar. Though she gave him water and walnuts, she began to get suspicious about his intentions when she saw how he was looking at her necklace and carrying bag.

He gave her the shock of her life when he called her by name and tried to tell her he’s her husband, Amiran Koridze, whom she never expected to see again in this life. To prove his story, he produces an ikon of Saint Nino, which he says she gave him the last time she saw him, when she snuck over to the prison and slipped some food in through the small cell window.

This has been slightly modified to fit eight sentences.


Alína takes the ikon and examines it closely.  Though it’s been four years since she’s seen this legacy from her parents, she recognizes every bit of it.  When she turns it over, she sees her mother’s name, Lamzira Mikeladze, and date of birth, 12 November 1895, engraved.  She looks up and takes a closer look at the man.  Through the scars, wounds, and thick beard, she now recognizes the shape of his face, the curves of his mouth, and the soft, gentle brown eyes of the proud Georgian nationalist who wouldn’t stop wooing her till she succumbed to his charms, the man who made her feel like a queen every day for almost ten years.  The huge lump in her throat breaks, and four years of repressed pain and weakness come gushing from her eyes.

“I told you I’d come to find you, no matter how long it took,” Amiran says as she gingerly hugs him. “You can hold me tighter than that; it can’t hurt worse than four years of Soviet torture.”

The inscription on the ikon, in my decidedly unrefined Georgian handwriting. Practice makes perfect. Georgian is the sixth alphabet I’ve learnt, and I’m not yet as fluent in reading and writing it as I am with Roman, Cyrillic, or Hebrew. Greek I can be a little slow with, given my infrequent usage, and I’ve had to reteach myself Armenian several times.

WeWriWa—Bazaar Surprise


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. I’ve been sharing from Chapter 60 of my WIP, Journey Through a Dark Forest, one of the chapters set entirely in Iran.

It’s the Summer of 1941, and Georgian refugee Alina has taken pity on a severely beaten-up-looking beggar at the bazaar. She was starting to wonder about his real story when he called her by name and tried to tell her that he’s her husband Amiran, whom she hasn’t seen in four years. He says her necklace and large felt bag were the last birthday gifts he gave her (actually bought and wrapped before he was arrested, and found while Alina was packing up to leave). Now he tries to prove his story with his own physical evidence.


“Please, please, you have to believe me.  I know you don’t recognize me with a beard and all these scars and wounds, but I really am Amiran Koridze.  You can’t leave me so soon after I finally found you again, after I traveled so far on foot, even over the mountains, just to reclaim my beautiful wife.  You still mean more to me than ten children and all the riches in the world.” He pulls an ikon of Saint Nino out of his pocket, still sobbing hysterically. “You gave me this the last time I saw you.  I’ve taken very good care of it ever since.  It was the only tangible thing I had to remind me of you.”

Saint Nino, the woman who brought Christianity to Georgia in the 4th century.