WeWriWa—Served by the Alberighis

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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 20-year-old Darya Koneva and her friends entered a diner run by Italian–Americans, the Alberighis.

One of the young waitresses smiled at Dmitriy and asked how he got five dates, wondering if there were one girl from each borough to see him on leave. He admitted four of them are his godsisters, and that Darya is his oldest godsister’s best friend.

Ema means “mother” in Estonian. Dmitriy calls his godmother Katrin “Ema Kati,” and calls his blood mother Anastasiya “Ema Stasya.” For the first few years of his life, he believed Katrin was his mother, since Anastasiya was almost completely uninvolved in his caretaking.

Darya slumps against Viivela and picks at the plate of fried potato wedges brought over with a bottle of ketchup.  When the entrées come, she longingly inhales the scents of tuna melt, grilled cheese, hamburger, clam chowder, and fried haddock.  She can hardly believe she’s not rushing to wolf down so much delicious food, and that there’d ever again come a time when she’d lose her appetite for any reason.  Three months ago, she didn’t need any prompting to swallow soup with broken glass, worms, and cloth; sawdust bread; raw potatoes and turnips; or vegetables with mold.

“I bet Ema Kati’s already writing a big article about this,” Dmitriy says as he sprinkles oyster crackers into his chowder. “I’ve always been surprised how she’s never been questioned or arrested for being so openly Socialist, particularly during wartime.  She’s written so many articles criticizing Japanese internment, racist anti-Japanese propaganda, the draft, the treatment of conscientious objectors and people performing alternative service, segregation in the military, the xenophobic immigration quotas keeping out people desperately trying to escape the Nazis, and the censorship and downplaying of reports of Nazi atrocities.”

One of the waitresses sets a bowl of minestrone and a glass of cherry Italian soda before Darya. “My grandfather insisted you have something.  You’re probably hungry, even if you don’t feel like eating now.”

 In my fourth Russian historical, A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University, Katrin’s Socialist activism and decades-long career with left-wing newspapers finally catches up with her. When she arrives home from a trip to Japan in 1950, to survey the bombs’ damage firsthand, she’s arrested and put on trial.

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WeWriWa—A new diner

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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 few paragraphs after last week’s, when 20-year-old Darya Koneva and her friends went in search of a new place to eat lunch.

Darya said she didn’t think she could walk all the way to Central Park to find a vendor, and asked for any other nearby place, so long as it wasn’t full of racists. Ilme then told her that while she was trapped in occupied Europe with oldest Kalvik sister Oliivia, the Japanese on the West Coast were put in internment camps.

The Kalviks’ radical mother Katrin wrote about twenty essays on the internment, which also happened to a lesser extent with German– and Italian–Americans, and to many Japanese in Canada and Latin America as well. Some of her colleagues went to the camps to report back, but Katrin stayed in New York to wait for any word of Oliivia and Darya.

Dmitriy finds a small diner five blocks down, without any other patrons, and the name Alberighi painted in yellow on the left window.  Figuring an Italian-run diner will be a safe, quiet place, he opens the door and helps Darya inside.

“You don’t talk politics here, do you?” he asks as he eases Darya onto a red plastic seat against the wall. “We just came from a place with some very ugly opinions.”

“No politics here,” the old man behind the counter says. “Just food and polite conversation.”

“I don’t have much of an appetite,” Darya says. “I’ll just nibble an appetizer.”

“Are you sure, Miss?  We have good food here, enough to bring your appetite back.”

I chose the name Alberighi in honor of the protagonist of the first Decameron story I ever heard, which the table of contents summarizes: “Federigo degli Alberighi, who loves but is not loved in return, spends all the money he has in courtship and is left with only a falcon, which, since he has nothing else to give her, he offers to his lady to eat when she visits his home; then she, learning of this, changes her mind, takes him for her husband, and makes him rich.”

The lady’s brothers mock her for wanting her second husband to be this poor man, and she responds, “I would rather marry a man in need of money than money in need of a man.” He manages his money much more wisely after their marriage.

WeWriWa—Silence leads to bad things

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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 Darya Koneva told off a racist soda jerk and showed the number on her arm as evidence of what happens when ugly racial prejudice gets out of control. Being an American Christian didn’t save her.

Darya, the four younger Kalvik sisters, and their godbrother Dmitriy (who’s also Darya’s future brother-in-law) are now trying to find another place to eat. Viivela is the youngest of the sisters.

Darya is shaking as they walk back down the street, and has to be supported by Dmitriy and Ilme.  She can only imagine the full extent of this bombing will be covered deep in the back pages, in tiny stories, just as the reports of Nazi atrocities were.

“I haven’t seen you that gutsy since you came home,” Viivela says. “I’m glad you stood up to that racist bitch.  Bad things happen when too many good people stay silent.  At least this time you won’t be arrested for disagreeing with the party line.”

“Do you want a Central Park vendor, or would you prefer to try another diner and ice-cream parlor?” Dmitriy asks. “I don’t feel the same way about the Japanese as you do, but I don’t think it was right either to throw a bomb on so many women and children.  I’ve never called them Japs or Nips.  I guess you think I’m a coward for never correcting anyone using those words, particularly when one of my girls told me to kill lots of them when I’m in combat.”

Kengo Nikawa’s watch, forever stopped at 8:15 a.m. on 9 August 1945

Dmitriy recently completed the V-12 Navy College Training Program in Berkeley, which his godmother felt would buy him some time away from combat. A few days after this, he’s heading off to the U.S. Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Cornell for the V-7 program. By the time he completes the program and earns a commission as an ensign, the war is over.

Ilme, the fourth of the five Kalvik sisters, is only a few days older than Dmitriy, and his milk sister. Her mother nursed them together, because Dmitriy’s blood mother wanted nothing to do with raising a baby. Dmitriy considers his godparents his real parents, since they raised him while his mother was busy running her fashion business.

WeWriWa—All citizens of Planet Earth

Warning: Contains a few racial epithets, though this time they’re used to speak against racism. I don’t like writing or reading certain words (the K-word in particular), but sometimes they have to be used for the sake of being true to a certain character or historical era.


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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 two of Darya Koneva’s friends expressed some very unpopular opinions about the humanity of the Japanese civilians killed in Hiroshima.

The soda jerk responded with more racist comments, and said all the Japanese needed exterminated before they produced more “vermin.” This strikes a very raw note with Darya, after her experiences in occupied Europe.

“That’s exactly how the Nazis described Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs,” Darya says, her voice shaking. “And by the way, they’re called Japanese, not Japs.  That word is as ugly as nigger, kike, or Papist.  We’re all children of God and citizens of Planet Earth, even if we don’t all look, speak, or believe the same way.”

“You should be arrested and executed for treason,” the soda jerk calls as Dmitriy turns to leave and holds the door open for his dates.

Darya rolls up her left sleeve as the Kalviks are filtering out. “I already have been arrested and tortured for supposed treason.  This is what happens when ugly racial prejudice gets out of control.  My American citizenship and Christian identity didn’t save me.  I suffered alongside many good people whose only crime was to be born Jewish or Gypsy in a land controlled by people convinced of their sub-human status.”

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Darya and her best friend Oliivia, the oldest of the five Kalvik sisters, were supposed to only spend a year abroad at a lycée in Paris, but they were trapped by the Nazi invasion and occupation, and ended up finishing their secondary education in France. Upon graduation, they were accepted to the Sorbonne, but Fate intervened again and kept them away from university degrees.

Darya and Oliivia were arrested for participating in an anti-Nazi protest in October 1942 and taken to the holding camp Drancy. They volunteered for transport to the mythical Pitchipoi as soon as they could, little realizing the journey of horrors that awaited them. Several days after they were deported, one of their friends in the French Resistance came to Drancy to try to secure their release.

More than a few American (and British) citizens ended up in concentration-camps, not just Jewish POWs. Their stories aren’t well-known, in large part because the powers that be were loath to publicly admit they’d failed to rescue their own citizens.

WeWriWa—Mireena speaks up

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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 little bit after last week’s, when 20-year-old Darya, who just returned to America after the end of the war in Europe, said there must’ve been a lot of civilian casualties when Hiroshima was bombed.

The soda jerk and a girl nursing a banana split responded with some very ugly, racist comments about the Japanese, such as calling them sub-humans without feelings. The first one in Darya’s party emboldened to voice an extremely unpopular opinion is 20-year-old Mireena.

Out of all five of the Kalvik sisters, Mireena is the one most created in the image of their radical mother Katrin. Even Mireena’s identical twin Milena isn’t so bold.

Darya tugs on Dmitriy’s arm. “Can we please go right to the zoo?  I’ve lost my appetite.”

“It’ll make us look odd if we leave so suddenly,” he whispers back. “Don’t tell anyone what you might really be thinking.  They might spit in your food.”

“You shouldn’t be rejoicing over the deaths of God knows how many innocent people who just happened to live in Japan,” Mireena says loudly. “Civilians aren’t military or government.  They had nothing to do with this war, and if they supported it, it just means they were misled by lots of propaganda.  Don’t you think the Japanese are sub-humans simply because so many cartoons, movies, newsreels, posters, and news stories have told you to feel that way, over and over again, for so many years?”

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Things start going from bad to worse for Darya’s party after this comment.