Posted in Fourth Russian novel, Names, Russian culture, Russian history, Russian literature, Russian novel, Russian novel sequel, Russophilia, Third Russian novel

Famous surnames (intentional) in my Russian historicals, conclusion

These days, I mostly find surnames from lists, and have moved past randomly choosing them from outdated encyclopedia and picking names in the news. It’s so much easier to do research now. However, I don’t regret giving some of my characters famous names, either intentionally or unintentionally.

It’s like an Easter egg; e.g., names like Chernomyrdina, Yeltsina, Zyuganov(a), and Yavlinskiy make it pretty obvious how immersed in Russian politics I was in the late Nineties.

I particularly don’t regret giving Lyuba’s stepfather’s family the name Lebedev(a), after Gen. Aleksandr Lebed (1950–2002), the candidate I supported in the 1996 presidential election. He had a very strong third-place finish, and was exactly the kind of leader Russia needs. The name means “swan,” which fits the title and symbolism of the first book.

Anna Akhmatova with her husband and son

Gumilyov, the false name Boris claims for himself, Lyuba, Ivan, and Ginny when deserting Bolshevik soldiers visit them in autumn 1917. Nikolay Stepanovich Gumilyov (1886–1921) was a prominent poet of Russia’s Silver Age, and the husband of poet Anna Akhmatova. He was arrested and murdered by the Cheka. His son, Lev (1912–92), was a historian, anthropologist, ethnologist, and Persian translator.

Rhodes, Katrin’s awesome butler. He’s so fun to write. I created him in 2001, and named him around 2012, after Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran.

Scholl, a radical Greenwich Village doctor with an underground clinic, and a lot of courage and compassion. He was named for Sophie and Hans Scholl of the anti-Nazi White Rose group.

Tolstaya, a gymnasium teacher. Obviously after the famous Tolstoy family, titled counts who’ve produced scores of notables over the centuries.

Baryshnikova, wily orphanage girl Klarisa, whom Lena Yeltsina names her first daughter after in gratitude. As an adult, she continues using her skill at forging and double-crossing to help people with defecting. Mikhail Nikolayevich Baryshnikov (born 1948) is one of the greatest danseurs in history.

Nureyev, an interrogator in Lubyanka, named after venerable danseur Rudolf Khametovich Nureyev (1938–93).

Grinkova, the midwife who serves the fictional Russian–American farming town of Firebird Fields, Minnesota, very near Duluth. Mrs. Grinkova delivers Lyuba’s sixth, seventh, and eighth children, as well as all of Tatyana’s children. She and Ivan frequently trade sharp barbs because of their very different views on Lyuba continuing to have children with her history of high-risk pregnancies and deliveries.

In the fourth book, Mrs. Grinkova removes the husband stitches given to Nikolas and Kat’s daughter Raisa against her will. She and Raisa’s future second husband Filaret will come to her rescue near the end of the book, after husband Gustav’s most monstrous act.

Sergey Mikhaylovich Grinkov (1967–95) was the 1988 and 1994 OGM in pairs skating with his wife, Yekaterina Gordeyeva, with whom he also had four World golds, three European golds, one European silver, one World silver, one World Junior gold, and several other assorted golds and silvers. I’ll write a review of the book My Sergei sometime this year.

Aleksandr V. Popov during the 2008 Olympics, Copyright KenChong 一洲

Popov, one of creepy Basil Beriya’s fellow inmates at The Marx Center for the Crazies. He’s convinced he’s Karl Marx. Aleksandr Vladimirovich Popov (born 1971) is widely considered the greatest sprinter in swimming history. He has four OGMs, and two World Championship golds.

Nemova, another fellow inmate, who screams out the Nicene Creed nonstop. Basil is chained to the wall between these people. Aleksey Yuriyevich Nemov (born 1976) is one of the greatest gymnasts of history, with twelve Olympic medals (four of them gold), thirteen World Championship medals (five of them gold), four European Championship medals (three of them gold), and two European Team Championship golds.

House of Zubov coat of arms

Zubov, a former count, WWII Red Army hero, and young widower who moves into the Minneapolis apartment of the unhappily married Raisa and her twin Lyudmila in 1950. Raisa is instantly smitten with the handsome, polite, kind-natured Filaret, and begins dreaming of having an affair.

Filaret treats her twins Diana and Pamela much better than their father Gustav, and his respectful treatment of Raisa is night and day next to the increasingly cruel way Gustav treats her. He and Mrs. Grinkova will come to their rescue towards the end of the fourth book.

Though Zubov is a real noble surname, I also chose this name because of Dr. Nikolay Ivanovich Zubov, the subject of Chapter One of Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn’s Invisible Allies. Dr. Zubov and his wife repeatedly risked their lives to hide his writings, and suffered a lot for their association, but remained loyal allies who refused to betray their friend.

Posted in Fourth Russian novel, Names, Russian culture, Russian history, Russian novel, Russian novel sequel, Russophilia, Third Russian novel

Famous surnames (intentional) in my Russian historicals, continued

Tvardovskiy, Lyuba and Ivan’s friend Aleksey. In America, he changes the spelling to Tvardovsky. His surname was originally Trotskiy, which really only has one association. I don’t see it as a bad association, but it’s not one of those famous names (e.g., Lennon, Jackson) that feels believable on a non-famous person.

The replacement not only has a similar sound, but was also the surname of literary magazine Noviy Mir‘s chief editor, Aleksandr Trofimovich (1910–71). Under his tutelage, the magazine published a lot of things butting up against the Party line.

Teglyov, Lyuba and Ivan’s friend Pavel, who saves their daughter Tatyana’s life when villain Misha Godunov throws her in the Skhodnya River as a baby. This is a character in Turgenev’s story “Knock, Knock, Knock.”

Premier Brezhnev (1906–82) in 1943

Brezhneva, curmudgeonly orphanage mother in Kyiv. Mrs. Brezhneva is so fun to write, because she’s so predictable, while also demonstrating slow but steady emotional growth. As loath as she is to admit it, she grows to deeply care for co-director and former orphanage girl Inna, as well as Inna’s children and the children of the other now-adult orphanage girls who also defected to Iran. Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev was Soviet Premier from 1964–82.

Andropov, a boardinghouse manager who appears in the first book. Yuriy Vladimirovich Andropov was Soviet Premier from November 1982–February 1984.

Yavlinskiy, a doctor who treats Ivan’s broken arm in the first book, and lets Lyuba, Ivan, Ginny, and Tatyana hide in his clinic for two weeks. Grigoriy Alekseyevich Yavlinskiy founded social-liberal party Yabloko (Apple), and came in fourth in the 1996 presidential election.

Grigoriy A. Yavlinskiy (born 1952), Copyright Бахтиёр Абдуллаев (Bakhtiyor Abdullayev)

Kerenskaya, orphanage girl Olga, who’s later adopted by Inessa’s Dyadya (Uncle) Dima and marries Inessa’s cousin Rustam. She’s eight months pregnant when she wades across the creek-like River Bug to Poland in 1937. Shortly after her arrival in America, she gives birth to her first child. In 1945, her family and Inessa’s family move to Staten Island.

Aleksandr Fyodorovich Kerenskiy (1881–1970) was a prominent politician during the short-lived Provisional Government of 1917, and the leader of Russia from July–November 1917. He narrowly escaped after the Bolshevik takeover, and settled in France. After the Nazi invasion, he immigrated to the U.S.

Aleksandr F. Kerenskiy

Kuchma, Ukrainian orphanage girl Valentina, another of the girls adopted by Dyadya Dima. She becomes very close to Inessa after they’re mistakenly sent to another orphanage, which influences Inessa to beg Dyadya Dima to adopt a little girl too. It means so much to Valentina to have a family again, and that Dyadya Dima respects her origins so much he tells her to never change her name, forget her native language, or call him Tata.

Leonid Danylovych Kuchma (born 1938) was Ukraine’s second president, 1994–2005.

Kwasniewska, Polish-born orphanage girl Zofia, also adopted by Dyadya Dima. She moves home to Poland as an adult, and ends up at the same rocket-making forced labour factory as Darya and Oliivia in the third book. Zofia survives Mauthausen with them too. She’s reunited with her three children after the war, and they’re given permission to join their family in America. Aleksander Kwaśniewski (born 1954) was President of Poland from 1995–2005.

Iosif Brodskiy (Joseph Brodsky)

Brodskaya, orphanage girl Irina, who appears in the first two books. Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodskiy (1940–1996) was persecuted, twice put in a mental hospital, put on trial, and sentenced to five years of hard labour (of which he served 18 months) for his “anti-Soviet” poetry. In 1972, he was forced into exile, and in 1987, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Rutskoy, a false name Boris gives Aleksey and Eliisabet when deserting Bolshevik soldiers pay a housecall in autumn 1917. Aleksandr Vladimirovich Rutskoy (born 1947) was Russia’s only Vice President, 1991–93. During the violent constitutional crisis of ’93, he was proclaimed Acting President. He remains active in politics.

Andrey A. Voznesenskiy, 1933–2010, Kremlin.ru

Voznesenskaya, a deranged, sadistic orphanage warden in Petrograd, who gets her just desserts near the end of Part I of the first book. Andrey Andreyevich Voznesenskiy (whose surname means “ascension”) was an amazing poet I highly recommend.

To be continued.

Posted in 1910s, Ivan, Left-Handedness, Russian novel, Writing

WeWriWa—A stubborn suitor

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP.  I’m now sharing from the opening of my first Russian historical, You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan (available for sale here). So I don’t give too much away, and since I’m eager to start sharing from my old/new WIP, I’m going to end my snippets here.

After gymnasium (i.e., high school) lets out, Ivan always goes over to his best friend and neighbor Lyuba’s house, along with their other best friend Boris (eventually to be their ex-best friend). This afternoon is particularly hard for Ivan, since he’s expected to pretend everything is normal and Lyuba didn’t just jilt him. When Lyuba’s mother and aunt come home, they discover gluttony, uncouth, clumsy Boris has broken a bowl. Lyuba’s mother demands money to pay for a new bowl, and Boris is only too happy to fork over the requested sum.

***

“Unlike Kónev, at least I have a ready supply of money.”

“Yes, money is a very important asset in a husband,” Mrs. Zhúkova nods, fixing Iván with a meaningful look. “My daughter needs a husband who can provide for her and any future children, not someone full of idealistic, romantic promises about sailing to America, farms in the Midwest, and love being the only thing a couple needs to get through tough times.”

Iván stalks over to his house next door, cursing himself for being such a passive excuse of a man he just rolled over and took no for an answer when he put his heart on the line and proposed.  Well, if Lyuba thinks he’s going to give up on her this easily, she’s got another think coming.  He’s the only left-handed student in the entire gymnasium because he always withstood the efforts of his teachers, ever since first grade, to try to make him write right-handed, even when they hit him on the hand with rulers and straps, thumped him on the head with heavy books, and threatened to beat him.  He believes God made him left-handed for a reason, the same way he believes he and Lyuba were destined to be husband and wife.  And if he could stay true to his left-handedness under such intense attempts to switch him, then he can be just as committed to staying the course until Lyuba gives into her heart.

***

For anyone wondering, Mrs. Zhukova is tagged as Mrs. Lebedeva in my metadata since that’s the name she appeared under when I shared excerpts with her during the old Sweet Saturday Samples hop. She’s been a Lebedeva far longer than she’s been a Zhukova.

Next week I’ll start sharing from my alternative history, which opens in 1918. It’s my way of giving a well-deserved happy ending and long life to a beautiful young man who was denied both of those things in real life.

Posted in 1920s, Anastasiya, Boris, Fonts, Russian novel, Writing

Who Will Stand, Who Will Fall? (Weekdays Roman Slant)

(Quick note: This is another font I downloaded, not one that came with the computer. The pre-existing Roman font, Wide Latin, was too big and bold, and hard to look at for extended periods.)

Font: Weekdays Roman Slant

Chapter: “Who Will Stand, Who Will Fall?”

Book: You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan

Written: August 2001

Computer created on: The ’99 Mac we had

File format: ClarisWorks

This is the 42nd and final chapter of my first Russian historical novel, barring the short Epilogue. It was one of the numerous chapters that didn’t have a name till I finally had access to the files again a decade after finishing the book. The title comes from a line in the George Harrison song “The Lord Loves the One (Who Loves the Lord),” the first song on Side Two of his incredible Living in the Material World.

It’s set over one long day in March 1924, the long-awaited court battle for paternal rights over Tatyana. Over the course of the seven years of the book, Boris has made an enemy of all his former friends, and picked up some new enemies along the way. The only people on his side are his priest, Father Spiridon, and Father Spiridon’s overly pious daughter Granyechka, his former fiancée. Even they admit he’s not exactly a moral paragon. And when Boris calls Anastasiya as a surprise witness, she makes a complete fool of herself and unintentionally delivers one of the final nails in his coffin.

The final nail is delivered by Tatyana herself, who has no idea until the eve of her 18th birthday in 1937 that Boris is really her blood father. Even though he’s the antagonist of the book and deserves everything he gets, as his creator, I felt pretty sorry for him in his final scene. He’s been an awful human being, but his love for his only child is the real deal. Those are not crocodile tears.

Some highlights:

“Why did Konev have to be the plaintiff?” Borís begins whining to his lawyer and Father Spiridon. “Now I look like the bad guy to the judge because I’m the defendant, when I’m the one who had the better case, wanting to take him to court to force him to give me back my daughter! Konev went and beat me to it, just like a spoilt child!”

“Even if you lose your case today, at least God will forgive you,” Grányechka whispers.

[The first character witness, 17-year-old Lena Yeltsina] “One hundred percent.  In my eyes that man is pure evil and has no business having children, not even adopted ones.  I hope he burns in Hell for having kidnapped my son.”

Iván looks away in horror when he sees Katrin breastfeeding Oliivia for the whole world to see.  She sits down in the witness stand, oblivious to the gasps of horror.

“You can answer affirmatively,” the judge announces. “I’m a very alcohol-friendly judge and despise Prohibition.”

Anastásiya reverts back to biting her nails after she’s sworn in.  She lowers her gaze from that of Borís’s lawyer, feeling he’s looking at the lower-than-usual neckline Katrin has finally persuaded her to start donning in place of her last-generation outfits revealing usually not a micrometer of flesh except for her face and hands.

Anastásiya turns bright purple in horror. “What do you take me for, some immodest little flapper who exposes her knees and elbows and goes around driving cars?  I have never engaged in any immoral behavior such as that!”

“I hope you take the fifth too when they start asking you the hard questions.” His lawyer rises. “The defense is going to call Borís Aleksándrovich Malenkov to the stand.”

“I despise you.  I would’ve trusted Mísha more to raise his son alone than I would ever trust you to raise any child.” Léna coldly turns away.

Borís, fearing being arrested if he doesn’t instantly comply, signs away all his paternal rights over Tatyana and stands off to the side as Iván and Lyuba sign the document.  When they’re back at their seats, Borís falls onto his knees and then down into the kowtowing position sobbing hysterically, like an infant.  Grányechka, Father Spiridon, and the lawyer all move away, slightly embarrassed.

“Look at that fat short man, crying like it’s the end of the world,” Katrin says haughtily. “Of course I don’t hold any grudge against his mother for comforting him, but he has to show some restraint when he knew damn well this was coming!”

Anastásiya, turning green in jealousy, runs out of the courtroom and hails a carriage going her way, longing for the moment when she can drown the day’s sorrows and humiliations by gazing at her pictures of Rudy and Dmítriy, men who may be unattainable but who at least won’t use her to make another woman jealous.

Posted in 1920s, Antagonists, Boris, Fonts, Lyuba, Russian novel sequel, Writing

Union with a Snake (Underwood Champion)

(Quick note: This post is coded with a font I downloaded, not a default that came with my Mac. It might not show up for everyone. But if you love typewriters and typewriter-esque fonts, I recommend you check it out yourself!)

Font: Underwood Champion

Chapter: “Union with a Snake”

Book: The Twelfth Time: Lyuba and Ivan on the Rocks

Written: 27-29 October 2011

Computer created on: 2008 15-inch MacBook Pro

File format: Word 2004

Chapter 41 of my Russian novel sequel is one of the things I’m proudest of having written. I wrote all 17,000 words of it over the course of just three days. After having kept so much of this book memorized in my head for over half my life, it finally was able to be committed to paper, and so much of it just came gushing out. This book wrote me more than I wrote it.

The day the Stock Market crashes, there’s a blackout in the tenement and Lyuba goes into labor with her fifth child. Just as she suspected, it’s a boy, named Igor, after Ivan’s murdered uncle. (This name actually sounds softer in Russian, though it was almost ruined for me by my ex-“fianc锑s Harpy mother constantly screeching at her husband: “EEEEEEE-gaaaarrrrrr! Eeeeee-GAAAARRRRR! Eeeeee-GAAAARRRRR! Eeeeee-GAAAARRRRR!”) Lyuba is supported in labor by several of her stepsisters, including Svetlana, an infant nurse, along with her longtime midwife Mrs. Kuzmitch and Katrin. When I first created Katrin (né Catherine) in 1993, I never dreamt she and Lyuba would ever become such dear friends that she’d one day hold Lyuba’s hand during a birth!

Lyuba once again has a very difficult birth and recovery. She’s so feverish and weak that Mrs. Kuzmitch has to use forceps. She’s so out of it, in fact, that when Boris comes by after hearing about her state, she mistakes him for her husband. Over the next few weeks, he regularly comes by at night to dope her up with morphine, mescaline, alcohol, and aphrodisiac teas. Boris even writes Ivan two letters bragging about this “affair,” one of which he signs Lyuba’s name to. Things do not end very well when Lyuba finally realizes, in a sober state, what’s been going on.

Some highlights, so to speak:

On the evening of Tuesday, October 29, while Lyuba is reeling from the shock of the Stock Market’s dramatic plummet over the last two days, all the lights go out in the building.  Then, to make matters worse, she feels her water breaking.  She’s felt mild contractions all day, but chose to ignore them.

Through her swimming vision, she can make out a male figure.  She has no idea how her husband could’ve come here or even found out about the birth so soon.  In her delirium, she doesn’t register that her male visitor is plump, on the short side for a man, and has black hair and eyes, instead of being over six feet tall and having dark brown hair and eyes.

“Ask and you shall receive.” Borís pulls out another syringe and quickly injects her, glad her eyes are shut and he can use his right hand this time.

“It’s a sad state when a new mother can’t even wake up to her baby’s cries,” the mohel agrees. “At least this was caught in time to be taken care of properly.  The baby will recover.” (Igor developed a severe case of balanitis on his 9th day of life and had to be circumcised, something totally foreign to Russian Christians.)

“I’m so glad you came back, my handsome stallion.” Lyuba wraps her arms around him, her vision still cloudy from all the morphine and delirium. “I can’t get over how plump you’ve gotten in Minnesota.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d almost think you were Borís.”

“Look at my pretty buttons.” Lyuba opens the tea crate. “We soak these in our tea every night, and they make me feel so happy and aware of the world.  It’s like walking through a dream when I’m awake.  Like right now, I feel like I’m looking at a moving stained glass window.”

“Can you get that brat to shut up?  I can’t concentrate on screwing you if he’s going to be interrupting us.  It’s time to pay attention to me, not him.  He has your attention all day.  Now it’s my turn.”

Lyuba screams even more hysterically.  In the midst of the commotion, her mother and stepfather, the Karmovs, the Kharzins, and Valériya come into the apartment.  Borís suddenly doesn’t feel as confident anymore.

“Borís doesn’t even know the meaning of shame anymore,” Mrs. Kharzina says. “He sinned once and kept running with it.  Once he got a taste for sin, it was too sweet to resist.  Now he’s completely degenerate.”

Lyuba sits on the davenport at her mother’s house, still in complete shell-shock over what she’s discovered.  This seems like a twisted, deranged nightmare that happened to someone else, not her.  In her mind, she keeps replaying everything that happened over the last month, unable to comprehend how she could’ve been so blind to the obvious.