Sonya Reacts

This is the final of the twenty posts I originally put together on 24 June 2012 (plus a few posts from the same story arc done at later dates) for future installments of the now-defunct Sweet Saturday Samples hop. It differs slightly from the published version; e.g., I no longer pedantically use accent marks, and Mrs. Herzena is now Mrs. Kharzina.


In Chapter 32 of The Twelfth Time, “The Exodus Begins,” Sonya has finally discovered what happened to her surviving daughter. During Alla and Karmov’s wedding celebration, Ginny’s mother begins pressing, for not the first time, for a potential marriage match between him and Kittey. Ginny insists, as always, that he still loves Georgiya in the Soviet Union. Ginny and Georgiya will eventually be reunited, but not for many, many, many years. Ginny will meet his daughter Inga long before he sees his one true love again.


“Speaking of Kittey.” Mrs. Herzena takes a large piece of smoked fish from the serving platter. “Have you given any further thought to marrying her, Ginny? It’s not good for people of your age to be unmarried. I’m not suggesting having children immediately, since I didn’t, but at least have your own adult household. People will start to talk about you if you’re not married soon.”

“Not on your life,” Kittey says. “I’d never leave my brother and his family. I’m going to Minnesota with them. Perhaps when I’m a bit older, I’ll go to the University of Minnesota. But in the meantime, I have to help Kat and Kólya with running their planned general store. And my nieces and nephews adore me. How could I even think of deserting them?”

“Don’t take Tyotya Kittey away from us!” Anzhelíka begs.

“She loves us more than our mother!” Andréy says.

“I already have a woman I love,” Ginny says. “Kittey is too much like a sister to me to even think about in that way.”

“That girl is never going to defect,” Mrs. Herzena says. “She loves the Soviet Union too much. Unless that new Stálin fellow makes life as unbearable for her as that lunatic Lénin made it for us, she’s staying exactly where she is for the rest of her life. And you’re certainly not going home. Stop wasting your time dreaming about someone you’ll never see again. I’m sure she’ll move onto an attainable man soon.”

“Even if this Geórgiya does meet and marry a nearby man, I want you to stay in contact with her as long as possible,” Sónya says. “She’s the only person who can provide information on my daughter. I know parents are allowed to bring children to Canada and bypass immigration regulations, but I’m sure that man would fight such an order. I still can’t get over how he just took my Kárlochka eight hours away from where he found her and adopted her. Decent people don’t assume a lost child is unwanted or that no one’s looking for her!”

“He was always an annoying pain in the neck,” Ginny says. “I’m not surprised he’s still unmarried. But if Kárla loves him and calls him Papa Lyonya, it would probably be very traumatic for her to be taken away from him. No offense, Sónya, but you’re a stranger to her. She hasn’t seen you in almost nine years. She was far too young to remember when she was taken away.”

“I hope to God he suffers the same way we did when the Tsar was overthrown,” Naína says. “I’m not the only one who’s suspicious about how some relative nobody was able to rise all the way to the top, instead of one of Lénin’s top confidantes. Usually people are up to no good when they rise so high so quickly, and get rid of better-qualified competition in the process. I only hope our Kárlochka stays safe if bad things happen over there.”

“You can still have another baby to replace Kárla, Tyotya Sónya,” Tatyana says. “You’re Tyotya Gálya’s age, so I know you’re not too old yet to have more babies.”

“And you can find a younger man,” Nikoláy says. “Tyotya Mótya, Tyotya Gálya, and Válya Yeltsina married younger men. Maybe you can have a little boy with your new husband.”

“There’s no proof my Maksím is dead. I’m sure no priest would allow me to marry again if the status of my first husband is unknown.”

Tyotya Állochka just got married again, and she found out her first husband was dead,” Novomira says. “A nice priest will understand your first husband is probably gone, but there’s no way to find proof.”

“You’d be blameless,” Kittey says. “At least think about it. I’m too young to think about marriage, contrary to what Ginny’s mother thinks, but you’re too old to not think about remarriage and more kids while you’re still fertile.”

The News Trickles Down

This was originally one of twenty posts put together on 24 June 2012 for future installments of the now-defunct Sweet Saturday Samples hop. It differs slightly from the published version; e.g., I no longer pedantically use accent marks, the Herzens are now the Kharzins, there’s less passive voice, and Mrs. Kharzina refers to her husband as Tatyana’s Dyadya (Uncle) Mishenka, not her Dvoyurodniy Dédushka (Great-Uncle). The former is much simpler, even if it’s not their official relationship.


During Chapter 31 of The Twelfth Time, “Ivan Loses His Accent,” Lyuba’s cousin Ginny gets Georgiya’s latest letter, which breaks the news about Karla. Now the only thing that remains to be done is to tell Sonya what’s happened to her daughter.


Sunday after church, the Konevs are invited to the Herzen house for lunch. While Tatyana and Dárya hold hands and skip ahead of their parents and other siblings, Fédya drags his feet the entire way there and constantly snaps and complains about everything. Lyuba feels wounded every time he raises his voice to her or utters unkind words, and Iván now knows why some parents hit their kids in the heat of the moment. He struggles to honor the promise he made to himself long ago to never raise his voice or his hands against any of his children.

“Ginny got a letter from that girl he thinks you should forward to Sónya,” Mrs. Herzena says as they’re waiting for lunch to be done. “He says his eyes almost fell out of his head when he realized what exactly that girl was saying.”

“She has a name, Mátushka. Her name is Geórgiya.” Ginny opens the nearest candy jar and pops some gumdrops down his throat.

“That’s snack food for between meals. You’ll spoil your appetite if you fill up on them before lunch. Surely you’re a big enough boy to know that by now.”

“I’m twenty years old. That’s a man, not a boy.”

“As long as you live in our house, you’re a boy, not a real grownup.”

Ginny rolls his eyes. “Thank God I’m finally graduating in June. I can’t get out on my own soon enough.”

“And who will you marry once you’re an independent adult? Every man needs a woman of the house. I don’t know how your cousin’s friend Pável does it, living all alone for so long now. At least he could hire a housekeeper and a cook, if he’s going to insist on waiting for his girlfriend to be released from Siberia and make her way here. From what I hear, he’s making more than enough money to afford a few servants.”

“What exactly is in this letter?” Lyuba asks. “How does this concern our friend Sónya?”

Ginny gets up to fetch the latest letter he’s received from Geórgiya and points to one section in the middle. “Right there. It’ll tell you everything you need to know about what really happened to Sónya’s surviving daughter.”

Lyuba scans the five paragraphs Geórgiya has written about Kárla, not sure whether she should feel relieved or horrorstruck. On the one hand, Naína, Kátya, and Sónya will have their minds set at rest as to whether Kárla is alive and in good hands. But on the other hand, this means she’s still in the Soviet Union, being raised by people whose belief system is the antithesis of her shrunken family’s. And Leoníd made no efforts to try to find her guardians or even to tell the police he’d found a missing child. Silently she gives thanks Tatyana was never taken away to an orphanage either of the short times they were separated back home.

“Is there anything that poor woman can do to get her child back?” Iván asks as he takes a turn reading it. “She’s now a Canadian citizen, and her only surviving child is being kept in a hostile country, raised with odious beliefs, with a potential dictator as the new leader. They must be filling that poor kid’s head with lies about how her real family is so horrible for being anti-Bolshevik. She might not even want anything to do with them if anyone succeeds in taking her out of there.”

“With what authority?” Mrs. Herzena asks in resignation. “Leoníd, even if he is as stuck-up and annoying as you all say, has legally adopted her, and she’s been living in that house for almost two years now. She must be attached to her new family. Any child who was raised in orphanages must feel it’s a dream come true to be adopted by a man who lives in a mansion, has servants, and makes enough money to take her on vacations, buy her fancy presents, and enroll her in a private state-run school.”

“I don’t think he’d want to turn her over, even if Sónya had enough money, connections, and determination to get a Supreme Court or Kremlin petition to have Kárla given back to her,” Ginny agrees. “Leaving the only real home she’s known and being forced to move to Canada would probably be very traumatic for her. I don’t even think Leoníd would respond to the letter if Sónya sent one begging for the return of her child.”

“But that’s not fair,” Tatyana protests. “Sónya’s thirty-seven now and getting old. She should get her little girl back while she’s still young enough to be a normal-aged mother. It’s not nice to keep a mother away from her own child.”

“I’m forty-four!” Mrs. Herzena says. “I’m seven years older than Sónya, and I don’t think I’m decrepit just yet. I could even have another baby if I wanted to.”

“Do you want to give Ginny a baby brother or sister? I love my little brother and sisters, even if my little brother has been really rude and mean to us lately.”

“Oh, no, I’m quite happy with only having one child. Your Dvoyurodniy Dédushka Míshenka and I deliberately chose to have just one. There are no problems we know of, but we just prefer having a small, quiet house.”

“I’m glad you’re only having me,” Ginny says. “That would be too awkward if you did have another baby when I was this old.”

“Wouldn’t a judge or government man step in and make Geórgiya’s brother return Kárla to her mother?” Tatyana asks. “You shouldn’t raise a child away from her mother if you know she’s alive and wants her child back. Bad guys took both her kids away from her, and one of them went to be with God early. Now she only has one left, and she’d be very happy if she got her back.”

“She’s not getting her back, unless Kárla takes it into her head to run away and finds a way to come to North America without being deported,” Mrs. Herzena says. “But perhaps someday they’ll be reunited in this lifetime.”

WeWriWa—Inga’s new room


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I’m skipping ahead quite a few pages from last week, after 18-year-old Inga Savvina got settled into a room at the boarding house.

After the initial shock, her paternal grandparents warmly welcomed her into the family and got her father a 3–A draft deferment (for men whose deployment would cause hardship upon dependents). Her father, Ginny (real name Mikhail), knows she’s undeniably his child, but needed more time to process this unexpected news.

Yuriy, meanwhile, hasn’t missed a chance to be around her. Inga’s new friends understand he’s got a crush on her, but Inga innocently believes Yuriy only has friendship in mind.

Inga now arrives at her new home, her father’s Greenwich Village townhouse.

Inga follows him up to the second floor and into a room overlooking a small courtyard.  The bed has an indigo and white patchwork quilt with indigo linens.  A simple green dresser with four drawers is on the other side of the room, with a plain lace dust runner topped by a silver brush, comb, and mirror.  A larger mirror hangs above it, and a side table topped by a simple white cloth has a yellow lamp and red alarm clock. 

Near the table is a red bookcase with six shelves, on which Ginny has already put some Russian books and a few elementary English books.  A professional black desk with a real leather chair has been set up near the door, with a small woven cup filled with writing instruments and rulers.  Best of all, there’s a brand-new blue Remington portable Envoy. 

Inga also finds a blue and white marbled fountain pen, an inkwell, and stationary with her name and address.  The closet is filled with sandalwood hangers, and the wall nearest the door is hung with framed pictures of Georgiya, Inga’s grandparents, Nelya, Leonid, Marx, Engels, Trotskiy, and Lenin.  Mrs. Kharzina hangs her head in her hands at the sight of the Communists.

Flashback Blog Hop—Lyuba Gets Drunk


Fel Wetzig of The Peasants Revolt is hosting a bloghop in honor of her first blogoversary. Participants will share something they wrote in January 2012—blog posts, poetry, writing, etc. Everyone who participates will be eligible to win a giveaway for a $20 Amazon gift card.

Last January, I was between projects, having put Justine Grown Up on hiatus for the first time to do some more edits on my Russian novel and Little Ragdoll. From looking back at blog posts, I know last January was when I completely redid the scene in Chapter 6, “Ginny’s Reign of Terror,” where Lyuba gets drunk.

The original scene was written in 1993, by some ignorant 13-year-old who’d never been drunk and was going off of stereotypical depictions of drunkenness. At 32, I knew no one would immediately become falling-down drunk after one glass of vodka!

This is August 1919, and they’re at one of many boarding houses they stay at as they try to stay one step ahead of the Bolsheviks.


Lyuba makes a violent face as she drinks. “Ványa, does your water taste funny too?”

Iván takes a sip and blanches too. “It does taste funny.  Maybe the water supply is rank today.”

“Well, I’m thirsty.  I guess we can’t be too picky about where anything comes from these days, since we’re lucky to still be alive.” Lyuba drinks her glass to the bottom and smiles an odd smile when she finishes. “Ginny, may I have more water?”

Ginny obediently ducks back into the room and refills her glass. “What’s wrong, Konev, not thirsty?”

“No, the water tastes funny.  I’m not as thirsty as Lyuba.”

Lyuba starts drinking the second glass and feels the room starting to spin.  The glass slips out of her hand as her head crashes down onto the table.  The contents of the glass spill all over.  Iván stares at her in horror as she slumps out of her chair.  Lyuba tries to get up, but quickly topples over and starts giggling.

Iván picks his glass up and takes another sip, physically recoiling.  With a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, he gets up to try to help Lyuba up.  He isn’t prepared for her to began screaming hysterically and clawing at his face.

“Don’t touch me!  By God’s cross, I’ll never let you violate me again!  Get your dirty hands off me, Father!” She begins breathing in frantic, ragged gulps, blood rushing and pounding through her ears, as she continues flailing her limbs hysterically.

When Iván gets a whiff of her breath, he immediately realizes Ginny poured them vodka instead of water.  Being a teetotaler, he hadn’t recognized the taste, but now he recognizes the smell as clear as day.  Fighting back nightmarish images of his own father, he lays next to her and begins whispering in her ear, thankful everyone but Ginny and Kittey is out.

“Lyubashka, it’s me, Ványa.  Calm down.  We’re safe now.  That mudak is away at war, and my father is dead.  They haven’t touched you in over two years.  I’ve been protecting you ever since we left home.  Your evil cousin gave you vodka and tricked you into thinking it was water.  He’s damn lucky you didn’t drink enough for alcohol poisoning.  I’m going to stay with you till it gets out of your system, and take care of you while you’re sick.  You’re just reliving bad memories in your head, but you’ve survived them and they’re only memories.”

Lyuba looks over at him through her fuzzy vision, still frantically gulping for breath.  As his words start sinking in, she reaches out for him and gently strokes his face.

“That’s right, I’m your best friend, the one man in the world who’d never do anything to hurt you.” He pulls her into a sitting position, in which she promptly slumps forward, and gently rubs her back, patiently telling her to breathe in and out till her breathing finally returns to normal after what seems an eternity.

Iván looks up when he hears footsteps.  Instead of Eliisabet and Alekséy returning from the market, Kat and Nikolás returning from their walk, or even Anastásiya and Katrin returning from sunbathing, it’s the source of all Lyuba’s trouble returning to the scene of his crime.  Upon seeing Ginny starting to unlatch Tatyana’s highchair, Iván leaps up and starts menacingly towards him.  In terror, Ginny starts for the stairwell.

ROW80 Update (and farewell to Kroshka)


I’m probably nearing the end of Chapter 8 of my third Russian novel, and am up to a bit over 51,000 words. If my guesstimate going in is correct, that means I’ve got about 400,000 words left to go!

You know you’re a gigantic sap when you actually cry over the death of a fictional dog. Little Kroshka is a Pomeranian born in 1908 and owned by Lyuba’s several-months-older stepsister Svetlana. That’s the name I’ve long wanted to use if I ever have my own Pom (my favorite breed). Kroshka is Russian for “crumb,” because Svetlana thought she was as tiny as a little crumb when she was a puppy.

Kroshka passes away in late April 1933, at the ripe old age of 25. She held out for so long because she wanted to welcome the remaining surviving members of her family home. In 1929, she gives a very enthusiastic welcome to the ninth of the ten Lebedeva sisters to come to America, Lyolya (Yelena), and now, in 1933, she’s just welcomed home Nadezhda, Mr. Lebedev’s niece, his murdered brother’s only surviving child.

She dies in Svetlana’s arms, knowing her mission is accomplished. No one else is going to come home. She lived long enough to see Lyolya and Nadezhda again, just as Argos held out long enough to greet Odysseus when he finally came home.

Kroshka will be buried in the historic Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, which is very close to New York City. I’m going to give Svetlana a new Pom shortly after this, a pure white Pom whom she finds as a stray and names Snezhinka, Snowflake. Svetlana is now 33 and still unmarried, so this is like her baby. She’d be giving up her beloved career as a respected infant nurse if she got married, in an era when women usually weren’t allowed to keep working after marriage.

As far as I can think of, Kroshka is one of only two animal characters’ POV I’ve done in any scenes or segments. The other one is my Jakob’s Kooikerhondje Bernhard, nicknamed Ben. It’s not going to be easy when I get back to Jakob’s family saga and have to let Ben die of old age!

A little sampling of Kroshka mentions and moments, from the time I first created her in late ’96 or early ’97:

“Your dog is very attached to Tatyana,” Ginny observes. “She might be crumb-sized, but she’s as protective as a huge breed.  Will you take her with you when you go to America?”

“What’s wrong, don’t you recognize me after five years apart?  Króshka recognized me.  She was ecstatic to see me again.  She recognized me right away and jumped at my feet, and the second I picked her up, she wouldn’t stop licking my face.  I see you kept her brush and dishes.  I fed her some meat I cooked this afternoon, and then I gave her a bath, dried her, and brushed her.”

“We let little Króshka give Ósyenka doggy kisses when he was only a few days old,” Mrs. Lebedeva says. “I’m sure they would’ve had a fit in a hospital.”

“Recently turned nineteen, but who’s counting?” Svetlána asks. “I think she’s putting her all into living so she can see my two missing sisters and cousin again.”

In the living room, twenty-one-year-old Króshka starts barking hysterically and leaps off of Svetlána’s lap, running into the entryway.  She jumps at Lyolya’s feet and continues barking and panting until Lyolya picks her up.  Once she’s in her arms, she starts licking Lyolya’s face.

“This is a miracle,” she whispers. “She’s got to be twenty-five years old now.  This has to be the outermost limit even a toy dog can live.  Do you think she was keeping herself alive all this extra time because she somehow sensed I was alive out there somewhere, and she was waiting to see me again before she went to the other world?”