Posted in 1940s, Couples, Historical fiction, holidays, Third Russian novel, Writing

WeWriWa—Patya’s Christmas present

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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, when Patya Siyanchuk began opening a special Christmas present from his wife Vladlena.

Their 7-year-old daughter Karina complained he was taking too long to open it, and asked if she could tell him what it was. Vladlena told her that’d ruin the surprise.

This has been slightly edited to fit 10 lines.

Patya finally discovers a hook hand attached to a halter and turns to smile at Vladlena. “Is this really what I think it is?”

“Of course it is!  I’ve wanted to give you your very own hook for so long, but you always insisted on doing things yourself and not needing extra help like some charity case.  Just imagine how much easier this’ll make your life, darling; you can open packages, peel oranges, open two cabinet doors at once, drive without so much assistance, pick things up with your right arm, and so much more.” Vladlena pulls off his right sleeve, which he hasn’t bothered to double up and around as usual, pulls his stump sock out of his pocket, and puts the sock and hook on his arm. “If the halter’s too loose or tight, you can adjust it yourself.”

“Is this really all mine forever?”

“Of course, it’s yours to keep forever!  When you go back to school, all your professors and classmates will be so impressed at your fancy new hand.”

P.S.: Today, the fifth day of Chanukah, is my Hebrew birthday. Since it’s said we have the power to bless others on our Hebrew birthday, I’d like to bless everyone with a happy, peaceful, joyful holiday season and new year full of only good things and answered prayers/wishes.

Posted in 1940s, Couples, Historical fiction, holidays, Third Russian novel, Writing

WeWriWa—Patya’s Christmas present

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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, when young couple Patya Siyanchuk and Vladlena Zyuganova headed out to their Christmas tree at the urging of their children.

Vladlena has just directed 7-year-old Karina to a present for Patya, and Karina has put it in her father’s lap. Patya, a former Marine with a below-elbow amputation, wishes Dyed Moroz (Grandfather Frost) had left him a new arm under the tree.

“Mama found this with a lot of help from some very special people.  We hope it’s your best Christmas present ever.”

Patya eyes a thin, rectangular box. “It looks like someone got me the new pastel colors I asked for.  Couldn’t I please open those first?”

“You don’t know anything I got you, you naughty boy,” Vladlena chides. “Just open this first, and then see if it’s not your best Christmas present ever.”

Patya holds it in place with his right arm while he pulls off the paper and bow with his left hand.  Three and a half years after his below-elbow amputation, he’s gotten significantly better at navigating these sorts of tasks, but he still struggles to do them as quickly as other people.  When he reaches the cardboard box, he lifts the untaped flaps and pulls out a bulky parcel wrapped in orange tissue paper.

Patya has become an artist since his amputation, particularly with pastels, the present he wanted most. His priest’s granddaughter Violetta, whom some of you may remember, visited him in hospital and let him borrow some of her pastels.

Drawing was what helped her to develop greater strength and dexterity in her left arm and hand after her right side was damaged by polio, so it was natural to suggest this to Patya. He’s now an art student in a master’s program at Queens College, hoping to become an art teacher.

Posted in 1940s, Couples, Historical fiction, holidays, Third Russian novel, Writing

WeWriWa—Patya’s Christmas present

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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 from Part IV of Journey Through a Dark Forest, my third Russian historical, which spans 1933–48, three continents, and about 15 countries.

It’s now Russian Orthodox Christmas 1948, which falls on 7 January. Patya Siyanchuk and Vladlena Zyuganova moved from the Upper West Side to Queens Village in 1945, and are now expecting their third child.

Patya, as some of you might remember, is a former Marine who lost part of his right arm by the Battle of Saipan in June 1944. He was convinced Vladlena would leave him and couldn’t possibly still love him, but he came to realize Vladlena still sincerely loved him and didn’t care about the missing arm.

Vladlena pulls on her cherry-colored robe and steps into matching slippers while Patya maneuvers into a robe matching his dress blues.  As usual, it takes Patya longer to dress than Vladlena.  By the time he’s put on his dark blue slippers, Karina and Bruno are calling them downstairs.

“Somehow I doubt Dyed Moroz left me a new arm under the tree,” he says as they go downstairs.

“Come now.  You’re too old to believe in Dyed Moroz.  But I hope my first gift will be just as good.”

Once they’re in the living room, Vladlena sinks onto the overstuffed red davenport and directs Karina to a Prussian blue present with a bright red bow.  Karina obediently fetches it and puts it on Patya’s lap.

Dyed Moroz, Grandfather Frost, is the Russian Santa Claus.

Posted in 1940s, Food, Fourth Russian novel, Historical fiction, holidays, Writing

WeWriWa—Twelve-dish Christmas supper

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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. To mark the recent Russian Orthodox Christmas, this snippet comes from my fourth Russian novel, in a scene featuring the traditional twelve-dish supper of Christmas Eve (6 January). This is the beginning of 1949.

NYU freshmen and Irish twins Igor and Ilya are living with their great-aunt Valeriya and her second husband, Grigoriy Golitsyn (a prince by birth). Their guests are Valeriya and Mr. Golitsyn’s oldest child together, Vasya; his wife Dusya; and their children, 6-year-old Stella and 2-year-old Nora. Also present is Valeriya and Mr. Golitsyn’s daughter Vasilisa, who’s seriously dating another prince by birth.

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After the Troparion, Mr. Golitsyn takes out a blue and white bowl of honey and makes the sign of the cross on each person’s forehead in turn, starting with Valeriya and ending with Nora.

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, may you all have sweetness and many good things in life and in the new year,” he pronounces after Nora has been anointed.

Valeriya lights a large yellow candle in the center of the table, contained in a red and white porcelain dish, symbolizing the star of Bethlehem.  Then Stella stands up on her chair and reads the Nativity story from the Gospel of Matthew.  The youngest child is traditionally supposed to read it, but Nora doesn’t know how to read anything yet.  Finally, Mr. Golitsyn asks for God’s blessings on the wine, bread, and food, breaks the round, twisted kalach bread, and distributes it to the other eight people.

The first proper meal of the supper is kutya, cooked barley kasha sweetened with chopped walnuts, honey, dried cranberries, and poppy seeds.  Also around the table are caviar, mushroom soup, fish soup with dumplings, cabbage soup, pickled mushrooms, pirozhki, stuffed carp, baked trout, draniki, pickled cabbage, boiled potatoes with dill from Vasya and Dusya, raspberry tea, wine, blueberry vareniki, walnut pudding, and assorted dried fruits.

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Draniki are potato pancakes; pirozhki are baked or fried buns stuffed with things like mushrooms and beef; and vareniki are kind of like blintzes or crêpes, dough pockets stuffed with either savory or sweet foods. The Troparion is a one-stanza hymn, with many different forms.

Posted in 1940s, Historical fiction, holidays, Writing

WeWriWa—Wolfram’s stocking

Happy Christmas, and Happy Chanukah!

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes a number of pages after last week’s, when Wolfram invited his friends to join him for some Christmas baking. Now, Christmas morning, they’ve come across the hall so he’ll have some company on his holiday.

Glühwein is heated, spiced wine; gedeckter apfelkuchen is a cross between apple pie and apple cake; kranzkuchen is braided, wreath-shaped bread; lebkuchen is gingerbread; eierpunsch is eggnog; and vanillekipferl are small crescent cookies made of ground hazelnuts or almonds and heavily dusted with vanilla sugar.

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The breakfast which presently appeared on the table consisted of Stollen, glühwein, hard-boiled eggs, rolls with strawberry and raspberry jam, quark, kranzkuchen stuffed with chocolate marzipan and glazed with apricot jam, gedeckter apfelkuchen with cranberries in place of the usual raisins, lebkuchen, eierpunsch, vanillekipferl, chocolate muffins, chocolate croissants, hot chocolate, a platter of mixed cheeses, and pain au chocolat.  Marie eagerly piled her plate with everything.

After every crumb had been devoured, they went back to the living room.  Of the sixteen gifts under the tree, the biggest by far was from Marie.  A few of Wolfram’s new co-workers, and Marie’s friends, had gotten some little trinkets, and his new boss had given him an envelope of money.

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Wolfram first went through the contents of the stocking Marie had put together—chocolates, jellybeans, gumdrops, nonpareils, caramels, a dark green yo-yo, a silver bookmark with embossed swirls and the letter W, a small bottle of Fougère Royale men’s perfume, a pocket-sized copy of The Little Prince, a kaleidoscope, a Chinese puzzle box, a miniature telescope, Nénette and Rintintin good luck dolls, an angel figurine, and an orange.  Marie had individually wrapped everything except for the orange at the bottom, and put the candy in colored gauze drawstring bags.

“You’re such a sweet girl, Mitzi,” Wolfram said as he set the now-empty stocking on the side table. “You didn’t need to get me another present besides all these little things.  If people like me were able to have children, I’d want a daughter just like you.”

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Nénette and Rintintin are little yarn dolls originating in 1913. They began as children’s toys, but during WWI, they became very popular good luck charms for soldiers. Parisian civilians also wore them as protection against air raids. Many were made in white, blue, and red, like the French flag.