WeWriWa—Plunged into darkness

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

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 now sharing from Chapter 45, “Imre’s Revenge,” of my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees. This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s.

After a violent fight with a former gendarme, Imre Goldmark is being smuggled out of Budapest and into Italy to join his girlfriend Csilla and their friends. Imre is afraid he killed the gendarme, and his mother doesn’t want to take any chance. Imre’s sister Júlia decided to leave Hungary too.

They’ve just climbed into a cattlewagon of an unguarded train with assistance from their smuggler.

Copyright zenobia_joy

They were plunged into darkness after the door slid shut and the locking mechanism closed. Júlia eased herself onto the straw on the floor, and Imre followed her lead after removing the heavy sack.

“So this is how Csicsi travelled,” he whispered. “Now I know a little bit how she felt. If this feels degrading, I can only imagine how much worse it must’ve been to be packed in with eighty other people in the heat of summer, and with a hostile gendarme hanging onto the outside of the car.”

“You really like her, don’t you?”

“I think I love her. She’s not the type of woman I would’ve considered myself interested in, but we seem well-matched so far. I wouldn’t have killed a man for any of my other ladies.”

Naina and Katya Get Permission to Leave

This is one of a batch of 20 posts I originally put together on 24 June 2012 for the now-shelved Sweet Saturday Samples bloghop. It differs slightly from the published version, for reasons including the pedantic accent marks.

***

Chapter 24 of The Twelfth Time, “More Tales Out of Kiyev,” continues the subplot of Naina, Karla, and Katya, and the separate trajectory their lives took after Karla became separated from her cousin and their best friend on their way towards freedom. Naina’s blood great-grandmother, who is alluded to here, has already been briefly introduced in an earlier chapter, but it won’t be till the third book that Naina and her aunt Sonya figure out that this woman is the birth mother of Sonya’s father.

***

Naína and Kátya know the immigration quotas to the United States have become dismally low, particularly for people from Eastern Europe, and that the Soviet Union isn’t exactly handing out exit visas like candy, but they’re bound and determined to find some way to leave legally. There are still limited openings, and they intend to find one of those openings while there’s still time. Paying a smuggler and having to fend off potential rapists and thieves aren’t things they’re willing to do to leave the country.

“I think they’ll be more lenient with us because we’re young,” Kátya says as they wait outside the latest agency on their list. “They might want to get rid of us before we become adults they’ll have to waste resources on sending to prison.”

“This time I want to try playing up the fact that my grandfather was half French. I know that doesn’t give me French citizenship, but it could give us a slight advantage. They could let us go to France, and then we can have an easier time going to America.”

“It could work. Even if your grandfather was adopted and sired by a rapist, you can’t change having French blood.”

“Where do you think we might get permission to go to? I know there are big White communities in Turkey and Bulgaria, which are very close by. And even if we get permission, I don’t want to travel in the winter. Do you mind waiting till the ocean isn’t so frozen? God willing, they won’t rescind our exit visas if we don’t leave immediately.”

“If we’re going to stay here for the winter, I want to stay in Yalta. The weather there is so nice, and there are so many things to see and do. If we’re going to be leaving, we might as well have our final memories of this place be happy ones. As happy as can be, anyway, without Kárla.”

They go into the office when the people ahead of them leave and the immigration officer calls their names.

“My name is Geórgiy Yakovlevich Dovzhenko, and I’m responsible for approving select trips abroad. I know and you know that most of these trips abroad turn into permanent stays, but the people above me don’t have to know that. Understood?”

“Yes, Comrade Dovzhenko,” Kátya nods. “I’m an ethnic Russian, but I was born in your country.  I’m from L’viv.”

He smiles at her. “Most of your compatriots don’t know the proper names of Ukrainian cities and force their Russianized spellings and pronunciations on them. Which one are you, Yekaterína or Naína?”

“I’m Kátya.  I’m nineteen, and she’s fifteen.”

“How long have you been living in the Ukraine, or did you just come here so you’d be closer to an exit port?”

“We arrived here in February of 1920, and until this January were at an orphanage run by a Comrade Brézhneva. After I turned eighteen, I received permission to leave and take Naína with me. We had another girl with us at the time, Naína’s younger cousin Kárla, but she disappeared while we were taking the train from Kiyev to Cherkasi. We haven’t found a trace of her since. We know Ukrainian very well because we were schooled in that orphanage for so long.”

“I appreciate that you can talk to me in my own language. A lot of the people coming through here only know Russian.”

“We think my Tyotya Sónya survived the Civil War and went to North American,” Naína says. “I’m not sure how hereditary citizenship works if you’re not born somewhere and you’re not the first generation, but my mother was a quarter French. Her father had French citizenship, even though he was born and lived his whole life here. He too was born in the Ukraine. Could you write us out an exit visa to France, and we can go to North America from there?”

“I think the authorities would find that a tenuous connection at best. Would you really prefer to go to France? That’s an awfully long trip, whereas a little trip abroad to a place like Bulgaria is much shorter, and puts you in a country also on the ocean. You might even find some ships sailing to North America on the Bulgarian coast, and you won’t have to make up any stories or grasp at straws there. There’s also a big Russian ex-patriot community there.”

“You’re sending us to Bulgaria?” Kátya asks. “But that’s still Eastern Europe. North America isn’t letting in too many Slavs anymore.”

“And we don’t want to travel in the winter,” Naína adds. “We’re going to stay in Yalta till the weather improves, maybe April. Is an exit visa good for that long?”

He consults some of the notebooks and papers on his desk. “There’s a little cruise departing from Yalta in April. It’s going to make a stop in Bulgaria. When the passengers are allowed a chance to get off and stroll, you simply don’t get back on the ship. Got that? I know a man who works in immigration in Varna, Branimir Mladenov Draganov. I’ll arrange to have him waiting for you at seven in the evening on the date you’re due to arrive there. He’ll take care of you from that point and put you in a hotel till the next ship leaves for North America. If anyone asks, you’re members of a young dance troupe going on tour in the United States. Once you’re on American soil, you’ll claim political asylum. Given how much the Americans hate the Soviets, I’m sure they’ll believe you and won’t send you back home.”

“You’re an angel!” Kátya proclaims. “I hope the authorities never catch you and you can go on getting people out of this cesspool while there are still opportunities!”

“I wish we could find Kárla before we have to leave,” Naína says. “What day does the ship leave?”

“April 8, 1927, Friday,” Mr. Dovzhenko says. “I expect it won’t be too long a wait in Varna for the next ship to America. I know it’s a longer sea voyage than if you were sailing straight from France, but at least you’ll be spared a long rail journey.”

“We’ll do anything to get out of here! And maybe we can still find Kárla before it’s time to leave. Then all three of us will be going to America together, and we can start forgetting we ever went through the half of what we did here.”

“We still have her little suitcase,” Kátya says. “It’s untouched, just waiting for her to come back and use the clothes and other things in there. We have to hope she’ll somehow turn up somewhere before it’s too late.”

WeWriWa—Leaving Budapest

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

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 now sharing from Chapter 45, “Imre’s Revenge,” of my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees. This week’s snippet comes about one page after last week’s.

After a violent fight with a former gendarme, Imre Goldmark is being smuggled out of Budapest and into Italy to join his girlfriend Csilla and their friends. Imre is afraid he killed the gendarme, and his mother doesn’t want to take any chance.

Imre’s sister Júlia announced she wants to escape too, and Mrs. Goldmark granted permission. Now they’re on their way to a train with their smuggler, with both their luggage and Csilla’s recovered valuables.

A Brihah train in Austria, 1945

The Brihah man pulled the sled down the stairs, and Imre and Júlia followed after him in the dark. Every step of the way, Imre prayed the pain wouldn’t decide to make a sudden reappearance. He could already feel people looking at them strangely, though people carting around a lot of luggage hadn’t yet become a completely foreign sight in these early postwar months.

The Brihah man led them around to an unguarded train standing still on the tracks. He first tried the coal cars, then began trying to open the cattlewagons. Near the end of the line, a door finally slid open, to the sight of several large cows and their calves. Without wasting a moment, he hoisted the luggage-laden sled inside, and then Júlia climbed inside with the skis, globe, and bag of food. Imre climbed in last, the weight of the postal sack heavier than before.

“Good luck,” the Brihah man said. “Remember what I said about kicking the cows if you absolutely need to make any noises.”

Karla Wakes Up

This was originally one of a batch of twenty posts I put together for the now long-discontinued Sweet Saturday Samples hop, and kept in my drafts folder for years. It differs slightly from the published version in The Twelfth Time, such as in its pedantic use of accent marks and the surname Stalin. I changed it to Savvin after realising only THE Stalin would’ve had that name.

Leonid Savvin found 8-year-old Karla Gorbachëva injured and unconscious near railroad tracks during the end of his holiday in Bila Tserkva, and decided to adopt her. She was still unconscious when he brought her to his family’s large house.

***

The next thing Kárla knows, she’s lying in a bed across from another little girl in a bed, the walls festooned with pictures of Comrade Lénin, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and all the important Party leaders. She feels a pain in her leg, and when she reaches out to massage it, finds a cast around it.

“Where am I?” she calls. “I came here with my cousin and our best friend.”

Geórgiya ducks into the room. “I’m sorry to have to tell you, my big brother brought you here alone. He says he found you near train tracks in Bila Tserkva. As much as my brother annoys me, and as much as his plan to adopt you and raise you here stuns all of us, I have to admit he did save your life. You were unconscious when he found you.”

“Where are my cousin and our friend?”

“As far as we knew, you were alone. How did you come to be by the train tracks? Or did you hit your head too hard to remember?”

“My cousin Naína and my mama’s best friend’s daughter Kátya, our own best friend, were going to Cherkasi with me. We were going to go to Odessa after we got on another train. We just got permission from our orphanage warden to leave. In Odessa, we were going to ask for permission to move to North America. Naína thinks my mama might have survived the Civil War and escaped. I used to have an older sister, but some mean orphanage warden beat her to death before I could remember.”

“Oh, for the love of the Revolution. They must be frantic by now, and there’s probably no way for you to trace each other even several days later. Did you fall off the train?”

“I was walking on the roofs of the train cars, and I slipped on some ice and fell off. When I tried to stand back up, my leg hurt too bad to stand or walk. Then I fell down, and just now woke up.”

“Well, even if you’ve lost your only remaining family, you’ll be nice and safe here. We’ve got a lot of money, and we can take care of you. The other little girl in the other bed is my four-year-old baby sister Nélya, and my name is Geórgiya Yuriyevna Stálina.Your apparent adoptive father, my big brother, is Leoníd.”

“But I was looking forward to moving to North America. I don’t remember life before orphanages.”

“I agree my brother was very foolish for not turning you over to the correct authorities so your people could find you, but what’s done is done. I’m sure you’ll have a happy life here, and you’re getting some unofficial sisters or cousins, whatever you want to consider them. I’m sure Nélya would love to have a big kid to help her and play with her. And that little girl toddling in is my eighteen-month-old daughter Ínga Grigóriyevna. Her father lives in North America and doesn’t know about her. Nothing good would come of my telling him we have a daughter, since we both live in different places. I talk about other things in my letters.”

“You have a baby? Can I play with her?”

Geórgiya lifts Ínga onto Kárla’s bed. “You sure can. I know nothing can ever replace your cousin and your friend, but think of this as a second chance to be part of a real family. You’ll have grandparents, a father, an aunt, and some unofficial sisters. Your cousin and friend wanted to leave because they had no future here, but now you do have a future here. Just think, your life is about to assume a much different trajectory than theirs. You’ll grow up in the triumphant Soviet Union and be part of history, while they’ll move to North America and miss out on the glorious reality of the Soviet dream. A whole new life is just beginning for you, and you have fate to thank for bringing you to us and keeping you in your homeland.”

***********************************************

WeWriWa—Determined to leave

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

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 now sharing from Chapter 45, “Imre’s Revenge,” of my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees. This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s.

After a violent fight with a former gendarme, Imre Goldmark is being smuggled out of Budapest and into Italy to join his girlfriend Csilla and their friends. Imre is afraid he killed the gendarme, and his mother doesn’t want to take any chance.

Imre’s sister Júlia announced she wants to escape too, and explains she’s terrified of all the occupying Soviet soldiers and feels a world apart from her classmates due to their disparate wartime experiences. After the smuggler asks Mrs. Goldmark if she gives permission for Júlia to leave, Júlia adds to her earlier plea.

Fasori Gimnázium, one of Budapest’s finest secondary schools
Copyright
Thaler Tamas

“I’ll attend a good lycée and keep out of trouble, though I’d prefer to go to a school with other survivors. No offense, Anyuka, but you seem to think the world is still mostly the same as it used to be. If there’d been no war and occupation, I would’ve been happy to attend a Hungarian gymnasium and get my matura, or to study abroad at a fancy Parisian lycée. We don’t live in that kind of world anymore. We belong with our own people, no matter how much more money we have than most other survivors. I’d probably be happiest in a city that wasn’t Paris.”

“If your mind is made up, I suppose I can’t deter you,” Mrs. Goldmark said. “You can pack after supper.”