WeWriWa—Kroshka comforts Fyodora

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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 comes right after last week’s, and concludes the scene where Mr. Lebedev reunites with his three youngest daughters in February 1921.

Littlest sister Fyodora has asked where her mother is, and Mr. Lebedev doesn’t have the heart to tell her the ugly truth. Instead he told her her mother went to a place where there’s no more suffering, a magical place with things like harps, golden water, and eternal youth. Eighth-born sister Vera tries to distract Fyodora by pointing out little Kroshka, the Pomeranian who belonged to sixth-born sister Svetlana.

Copyright José Reynaldo da Fonseca

“Look, Dora, here’s Kroshka,” Vera quickly jumps in. “Dogs are like elephants, they never forget.”

Mr. Lebedev carries Fyodora back to her mattress and tucks her in.  Almost as soon as she’s been tucked in, Fyodora starts violently coughing again.  Kroshka jumps onto the bed and snuggles against Fyodora, frantically wagging her tail and licking Fyodora’s face.  Though Fyodora is still racked by whooping cough spasms, she manages to put her little arms around Kroshka, and the severity of the coughing gradually subsides.

“She’s so young to have gone through this,” Mr. Lebedev muses. “God willing, her heart will start to heal and she’ll have a chance to enjoy a normal, happy childhood now.”

Copyright José Reynaldo da Fonseca

Kroshka means “crumb,” in reference to her tiny size. She lives until age 25, which is 120 in human years. I got really emotional writing Chapter 8, “A Modern-Day Argos,” in my third Russian historical, Journey Through a Dark Forest. Just like the loyal Argos, Kroshka too held out so long because she knew some of her people were still out there. When the last, Mr. Lebedev’s niece Nadezhda, came to America in 1933, Kroshka knew her mission was fulfilled.

Vintage soldier photos with a twist

Due to my move and the upcoming holiday of Shavuot, I’ll once again only be posting on Sunday and Monday of this week. To mark Memorial Day, here are some vintage photos of soldiers you may not have seen before.

A U.S. Army medic in WWII takes some time to help civilian children.

A U.S. Army medic (45th Infantry Division) and a captured Wehrmacht medic work together on a wounded Wehrmacht soldier, Anzio, Italy, 6 February 1944

U.S. Army medic treating a wounded Waffen SS soldier, 1944

1 July 1944, U.S. Army medics helping a wounded dog found in the rubble of Carentan, France

Some medics (like my character Yuriy Yeltsin-Tsvetkov of the Canadian Army) were trained as vets instead of people doctors, so why shouldn’t some human doctors sometimes switch their focus too?

1944, medics’ station

1943, wounded soldiers being evacuated sans ambulance

A Wehrmacht soldier with a soft spot for kittens

A cat hissing at a Wehrmacht soldier

A little boy saying goodbye to his father during WWII

WWI medics helping a wounded dog

He was caught and relieved of his post shortly afterwards, his ultimate fate unknown. It’s hard to believe the Berlin Wall really existed in my own lifetime and that there used to be two Germanys, since there’s been one unified Germany for 75% of my life so far!

Flemish Giant

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The Flemish Giant is one of the largest rabbit breeds, alongside breeds including the Checkered Giant and Beveren. Flemish Giants were used to create the British Giant breed in the 1940s. It originated in 16th century Flanders (the northern, Dutch-speaking region of Belgium). Some of its ancestors are said to be the Steenkonijn (Stone Rabbit) and now-extinct European Pantagonian (not to be confused with the still-existing Argentinean Pantagonian).

The first breed standards were written in 1893, around the time it was exported from Belgium and England to the U.S. to try to improve the size of meat rabbits. Around 1910, the breed began gaining real attention when it appeared at many small livestock shows around the U.S. In 1915, the National Federation of Flemish Giant Rabbit Breeders was created, and the breed has today grown to become one of the most popular rabbit breeds.

Flemish Giant next to a Shetland Sheepdog, Copyright Stamtisclan

Fully-grown, Flemish Giants weigh about 15 pounds, and can weigh up to 22 pounds. It takes about a year and a half for them to reach their full size. The longest Flemish Giant on record was about 32 inches long. They come in fawn, black, sandy, blue, white, light grey, and steel grey.

Flemish Giants are very docile and loving, though they need frequent handling and interaction with humans to do this. Just like all rabbits, improper handling or sudden noises and movements can scare them and lead to aggression.

Copyright Eponimm

My characters Eszter, Marie, and Caterina discover a Flemish Giant named Schatzi about four days after they escape into a large, well-stocked house near Hannover. Schatzi and a baby mouse (whom they name Nessa) were abandoned when the owners fled from the approaching Allies. At first, Eszter wants to kill Schatzi for food, but Marie says the rabbit wants to live as badly as they do, and even has a name in her cage.

Nessa and Schatzi come along with them and their friends on their travels through newly-liberated Europe, and help to heal these young survivors’ wounded hearts and souls. When they’re living on a strawberry farm in Béziers, France (run by Eclaireuses et Eclaireurs Israélites de France, a Jewish scouting organisation), Schatzi is accidentally bred with a Checkered Giant. Nessa is also accidentally bred.

Copyright 4028mdk09

In America, Eszter and her husband Jákob start a mousery and rabbitry based on these original litters, and are able to support themselves with this business. Schatzi dies in June 1959, and Nessa dies in late 1948, soon after their arrival in America. When Eszter’s family and friends flee to Morristown after the Newark Riots of July 1967, Nessa and Schatzi are disinterred and reburied in their new backyard.

P.S.: Since Easter is coming up, I urge all my readers to NOT buy their kids real rabbits, chicks, ducklings, or goslings! Click on the below buttons for more information on this very important message.

Meet some of my animal characters!

I though it would be nice to take a quick break from the more intense, research-heavy posts I usually do for something fun and lighthearted. As a lifelong animal lover, I never miss a chance to include some animals in my ensemble casts. A few of these animal characters are prominent enough to merit their names being bolded in my cast lists (because I’m that old-fashioned writer who still makes a list of characters for the frontal matter).

In no particular order, some of my animal characters and a little about them:

Kroshka (1908–27 April 1933), the little Pomeranian that could of my first three Russian novels. Kroshka’s person is Svetlana Lebedeva, who gave her the name Kroshka because it’s Russian for “crumb,” and really suited her tiny little size. All Kroshka’s people were eventually taken away, and Svetlana’s father was shocked to escape from prison and come home to find her still there. No one ever figures out just how she survived on her own, and if she had any help from people or other dogs.

It was really emotionally difficult to write her final chapter, “A Modern-Day Argos,” when she reunites with Svetlana’s cousin Nadezhda. Kroshka kept herself alive for 25 years because she knew some of her people were still out there, and once the last had come to America, she knew her time was up. She’s buried in the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, and Svetlana wears the key to Kroshka’s coffin on a chain around her neck forevermore.

Copyright José Reynaldo da Fonseca

Snezhinka (Russian for “snowflake”) is a snow-white Pomeranian whom Svetlana finds on 10 June 1933. While she and Nadezhda are taking a walk the morning before Nadezhda’s long-awaited wedding, a runty puppy Pomeranian begins following them. Svetlana, a nurse, instinctively understands she’s malnourished and must’ve been living on the streets for awhile. She wonders if Snezhinka might be the reincarnation of Kroshka, sent into her life to heal her heart.

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Andryusha is a Samoyed owned by little Kittey Vishinskaya and bought for her by dear friend Pyotr Litvinov in early 1921. Kittey had polio in January 1919, and went through a long, slow process of relearning to walk. Using a guide dog was her final stage before being able to walk unassisted again. Like Kroshka, Andryusha also comes to America. He’s named after Kittey’s murdered father Andrey.

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Branimir is a Kabardin horse, the last character I ever created on my first computer, the 152K Mac, in September or October 1993. For the longest time, he was unnamed. A few years ago, I finally gave him the same name I gave a little grizzly bear statuette my surviving uncle got me when I was recovering from my accident in 2003. Branimir is a Serbian, Bulgarian, Slovenian, and Croatian name meaning “peaceful protection” or “world protection.”

Lyuba and Ivan can’t bear to part from Branimir after they’ve gone through so much together, so they bring him to America and board him at a Long Island stable till they move to Minnesota in 1929. They also bring him with them when they move to Hastings (near the Twin Cities) for four years of university. I’m not looking forward to writing Branimir’s eventual death and funeral scenes!

Mängukaru (Estonian for “teddybear”) is a Great Dane adopted by Katrin Kalvik-Nikonova’s family in 1937, when he’s about three years old.

Chernika (Russian for “blueberry”) is a Pygmy goat who keeps Branimir company during those four years in Hastings. He’s named by Lyuba and Ivan’s youngest child, Tamara. Pygmy goats are excellent companions for solitary horses.

Copyright Jen Smith, Source Papillon Ears

Rakushka (Russian for “seashell”) is an orange and white Papillon whom Ivan gets Lyuba as a tenth anniversary present in September 1933, when she’s pregnant with their seventh child Irina. She’s still going strong now at 15 years old. Toy breeds tend to live longer than large, giant, and medium breeds. One of the three canine Titanic survivors was a Pomeranian who reportedly lived to 25.

Nessa (Hebrew for “miracle”) is an ivory satin mouse discovered by 14-year-old Eszter Kovács in the large abandoned house she and her friends Marie and Caterina escape into in late March 1945. They don’t immediately discover Nessa, and marvel at how she was able to survive for four days with barely any food and water. When all the characters are in Béziers, France, on a strawberry farm, Nessa is accidentally bred, and thus begins the mousery by which Eszter and her husband earn a living in Newark. Nessa lives about three and a half years, very old for a mouse, and dies soon after arriving in America.

Schatzi (German for “sweetie”) is a Flemish Giant rabbit whom the girls also find in the abandoned house. She’s also accidentally bred on the strawberry farm, and forms the basis of a rabbitry. Both Nessa and Schatzi are healing balm for these young survivors’ souls. Schatzi dies in June 1959.

When her people escape to Morristown after the Newark Riots in July 1967, both Nessa and Schatzi are disinterred and reburied in their new backyard.

Bernhard (called Ben and Bentje) is a Kooikerhondje puppy found by Jakob DeJonghe in the fall of 1943. His original name was Adolf, and he was owned by one of the cretins who hurt Jakob’s mother last year. Ben is named after Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands, and serves as a war dog in both The Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies. He comes to America with Jakob in 1946.

Copyright Pleple2000

George is a cat owned by Emeline Troy of my contemporary historical family saga. To no one’s shock, he’s named after George Harrison. Emeline frequently calls him Georgiekins. He’s a runt with beautiful smoky-blue eyes, off-white medium-length fur, and a few grey, black, and orange patches. Emeline adopts him in 1972.

Jitterbug is a black, white, and orange guinea pig owned by Granyechka Likachëva’s children. She’s a lot older than most guinea pigs now, at age eleven, and I’m not looking forward to her death either. Jitterbug is the first subject oldest surviving child Violetta draws after polio forces her to switch from her right to left hand. She figures it’s not difficult to draw a round oval with little feet, ears, and a face.

WeWriWa—Meet Jitterbug

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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 comes a bit after last week’s. Igor has pulled his chair up close to Violetta, but not too close to seem presumptuous and untoward, and begun making smalltalk with 11-year-old littlest sister Flora. He’s agreed to meet their geriatric guinea pig, who at eleven years old is extremely old for a cavy.

Flora behaves somewhat strangely when going into her room because there’s an iron lung inside. Though Violetta doesn’t need it anymore, she insists on sleeping in it every single night just in case.

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Copyright Jg4817

Flora pushes back her chair and skips off to her room.  She opens the door just enough to slip inside, then shuts the door quickly.  When she returns, she repeats this business with the door.  Igor wonders if perhaps she doesn’t want company to see a mess on the floor or unmade beds.

Flora sets a black, white, and orange guinea pig in Igor’s hands. “This is Jitterbug.  We’ve had her since I was just a baby.  I don’t want to lose her, but she’s a lot older than most guinea pigs ever get.  Guinea pigs are even cuter than cats or dogs.  I’d love to have a pet rabbit too, but my parents say we should only have one pet at a time.”

Morče

The longest-lived guinea pig on record was named Snowball, and lived to 14 years and 10.5 months. Snowball passed away in February 1979. That record is now contested (but not officially confirmed) by the owner of Sweetie, who was supposedly born in October 1996 and passed away 10 July 2014, at the ripe old age of seventeen.