Karla’s Indoctrination Gets Underway

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This was originally one of a batch of twenty posts I put together on 24 June 2012 for future installments of the now-defunct Sweet Saturday Samples bloghop. It differs slightly from the published version in The Twelfth Time. Karla’s adoptive family’s name is now Savvin, and I expunged the pedantic accent marks, in addition to a few other edits here and there. Ginny and his mother’s move back to Russia was also changed to 1914 from 1917, so Ginny was seven, not ten.

***

Since her unexpected arrival in January, Kárla has become well-ensconced in the Stálin household. Leoníd puts in as much time with her as he can in between work, politics, and going out with friends, but Kárla feels strange about starting to call any man Papa at her age. Leoníd has agreed it might not happen overnight, if it happens at all, and lets her call him by his nickname Lyonya. She’s taken much more easily to calling his parents Dédushka Yura and Bábushka Ínnushka.

Kárla is now nine years old, and in the third grade at a state-run school. Nélya, who just turned five years old, is in the nursery class in the school, and walks to and from school with Kárla every day. Kárla misses Naína and Kátya, but feels relatively placated by having an unofficial little sister to play with and take care of. She also loves helping and playing with two-and-a-half-year-old Ínga.

“She resembles her father so much,” Geórgiya comments as she works on a paper for one of her classes at her teaching college. “They have the same azure eyes and black hair.  He was on the tall side for his age, but not a giant. I wonder if she’ll be tall too.”

“How come her patronymic’s Grigóriyevna if you say her father’s real name is Mikhaíl?” Kárla asks as she helps Ínga build a tower with blocks. “Did you not want people to find out his real identity and get you in trouble?”

“No one ever called him Mikhaíl unless he were in trouble, or on official documents. I always called him Grigóriy. I know it’s strange for a Russian to have an actual middle name, not simply a patronymic, but he was born in East Prussia and lived there till he was ten years old. His parents were copying the locals in giving him a middle name. Everyone else calls him Ginny.”

“Zhénya? But that’s the nickname for Yevgéniy.”

“Ginny. It was his childish mispronunciation of the word ‘genie,’ which was his parents’ nickname for him. Now instead of having a more grownup nickname, he’s forever going to answer to a name gotten from a babyish mispronunciation. And I’m told Ginny is a woman’s name in the English-speaking world.”

“He’s lucky he got to reunite with his parents in America. I don’t know what happened to my parents, though I think my father must be dead, and my mother was in prison, my cousin told me. She thinks my mother got out of prison and went to North America, but that’s probably just what she wants to believe.”

“Do you really want to see your parents again, if either is alive? Sure some people were mistakenly put in prison, or went there for non-political reasons, but you’ve said your cousin and your friend told you your parents were anti-Lénin. They were enemies of the people. Ínga’s father is from an anti-Lénin family, but they weren’t so stupid they got in trouble for that. They weren’t actively protesting against him or doing outrageous things like using his picture as toilet rags.”

“I’m too young to understand politics. I only know what I was taught at the orphanage, that Comrade Lénin was a hero who brought the Russian Empire into the modern era. My parents were very mistaken for being opposed to him. Naína is the daughter of my mother’s sister, and their family was also anti-Lénin.”

“You were taught correctly. And I’m sure your families weren’t bad, evil people just because they had a different of political opinion. It’s just that they were severely wrong. I believe enemies of the people can be rehabilitated. Some of them genuinely didn’t know the truth and were under the influence of Tsarist propaganda. Did you know the Tsar had only point zero zero six percent of Russian blood in his traitorous body? We figured this out in a mathematics class I took some years back. I hope our new leader will be another proud Russian. Our homeland deserves to be ruled by our own people.”

“It’s taking so long for them to choose a permanent new leader. Comrade Lénin was taken away from us almost three years ago.”

“Oh, things will settle down soon. I’m annoyed at the delay in choosing a definitive supreme leader too, but these things happen when you’ve never had a change in power in a new empire before. So long as it’s not that stupid Georgian whom Comrade Lénin was said not to like, the one who adopted my family’s name when he got into politics. I don’t want to be ruled by a non-Russian again, and if Comrade Lénin disliked him, he must’ve had valid reasons for doing so. With any luck, it’ll be someone he liked and wanted to succeed him.”

“I wish your family could adopt Naína and Kátya too. They said they were planning to write to our friends at the orphanage while they were still in the country. If only I remembered the address of our old orphanage, I could write and ask where they are.”

“You don’t need them. If they’re trying to leave our glorious Soviet state, they’re enemies of the people. I’m sure they’re not aware of being enemies of the people, but their beliefs and actions aren’t in line with Soviet policy. It’s too bad they couldn’t be successfully retaught in the orphanage, the way you were.”

“I’m the one who’s going to share in the future glories of the Soviet Union,” Kárla says proudly. “Maybe it is their loss if they wanted to leave and not give our new government a chance. But I still miss them, and don’t understand how they could be enemies of the people.”

“There are degrees of enemies of the people, to be sure. They were more the garden variety type than belligerents who get sent to prison or Siberia. But make no mistake, you’re far better off here than you’d be abroad. Some force greater than yourself, what enemies of the people might call God, moved you to walk on top of that train and made you fall off and break your leg. It must be because you were meant to stay here, because your destiny lies in the modern Soviet Union and not the unenlightened West.”

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

Karla Wakes Up

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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.”

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

Leonid Brings Karla Home

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This was one of a batch of 20 posts I put together on 24 June 2012 as future installments for the now-shelved Sweet Saturday Samples bloghop. It differs slightly from the published version in The Twelfth Time, for reasons including the pedantic use of accent marks and Leonid’s family name being Stalin instead of Savvin.

While on holiday in Bila Tserkva, Ukraine, 31-year-old Leonid Savvin found 8-year-old Karla Gorbachëva unconscious in the snow and decided to adopt her. However, he hasn’t informed anyone else about his plans. Because the Savvins are local bigwigs and longtime Bolsheviks, they’ve been allowed to maintain their ancestral estate and wealthy lifestyle.

***

Leoníd stumbles through the doors of his family’s mansion the next night, carrying the still-unconscious Kárla while a shocked servant carries in Leoníd’s luggage. His parents, Geórgiya, and four-year-old Nélya stare at him in amazement, while eighteen-month-old Ínga stands back shyly and takes in the sight with her azure eyes.

“This is the first I’ve heard of bringing back a child as a souvenir from a trip out of the country,” eighteen-year-old Geórgiya gapes.

“Liar. What do you think Ínga is if not the ultimate souvenir from your trip abroad?”

“Where did this child come from?” Mr. Stálin asks. “Do you have permission to adopt her? Or are you keeping her while her parents are away?”

“I was going snowshoeing my last day of my trip, and I found her lying unconscious in the snow along some railroad tracks. She’s got an orphanage ID with her name, place of birth, and birthdate on it. None of the local orphanages could find her in their records, so it was safe to assume she came from somewhere else. It’s the perfect plan to win greater political acclaim, adopting a child and becoming a family man. My constituents will finally have an image of me as a father, not some overgrown bachelor who only cares about politics. Besides, we’ve got enough money to take care of her. She’ll lack for nothing growing up here. Her name’s Kárla Maksímovna Gorbachëva, and she turned eight years old in October. When she wakes up, she’ll find herself in a dream come true. Her leg’s broken and she’s temporarily unconscious after a concussion, but other than that she’s going to be fine. A doctor at my hotel set her break and put a splint on her, but he told me to have another doctor put a real cast on her once I got home.”

“But you’re at work most of the day, and you travel a lot for business, politics, and vacations,” Mrs. Stálina protests. “Now I’ll be the primary caregiver to three young girls at my age.”

“That’s your job, yes. And it would only be two if you and Father had put your feet down and not let Geórgiya bring Ínga in here.”

Geórgiya glares at him. “Ínga’s your blood, which is a hell of a lot more than you can say about this strange girl you found in an entirely different republic.”

“These things happen,” Mr. Stálin says in resignation. “Better your mother take the brunt of her caregiving initially than have our blood turned over to be raised by the state. And since you’ve made no moves towards marriage and fatherhood until this bizarre adoption idea just now, it’s nice to enjoy a grandchild while we’re still relatively young grandparents.”

“See? You are desperate for grandkids. She’s already eight years old, and I’m thirty-one. It’s not unreasonable for me to raise her as my own daughter. I’m going to adopt her, and before long it’ll be as though she was always a member of our happy little household. And Nélya can play with her.”

“I’m only four,” Nélya says. “She’s eight.”

“Before you know it, you’ll be best friends. Think of her as a new big sister for you, a sister who’s not a grownup like Geórgiya.”

His parents look at one another for awhile, then turn back to Leoníd looking defeated.

“Fine, we’ll put her up in our house and raise her as our grandchild,” Mr. Stálin says. “But since it was your crazy idea to adopt her, you’re going to do your fair share of raising her and acting like her father. Parenting, be it adoptive or natural, is serious business, not something you just take on to curry favor with constituents or for a publicity stunt.”

WeWriWa—Saying goodbye

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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 23-year-old departing soldier Yuriy suggested to his 18-year-old crush Inga that she might be a real American girl and have a returning soldier for a boyfriend by the time they meet again.

Inga said she only wanted her old family, and Yuriy tried to cheer her up by saying the pain of longing isn’t so bad as more time passes, and that after the war she could create her own family who’ll never leave her. He then holds out his hand for a farewell handshake.

“Can’t I hug you goodbye?  You deserve more than a handshake after you’ve been so nice to me.”

Yuriy smiles as he hugs her. “You’re such a sweet girl.  Just make sure not to be too sweet with the wrong kinds of people.  You have to be strong to survive in a new country.”

Inga stands at the door and watches him walking up the street, until she can’t see him anymore.  She was given a very nice friend, what some would call a guardian angel, bearing the same name as her belovèd dedushka, to get her started in America.  But he could only do so much, just as eventually a mother bird pushes a baby from the nest so it can fly.  Now it’s up to her to make good in America.

WeWriWa—Ice-cream parlor

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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 lines after last week’s, when 23-year-old Yuriy tended to his 18-year-old crush Inga’s injured knee one final time. They’re now on their way to get ice-cream before he has to get a train back to Canada.

This has been slightly edited to fit 10 lines.

Yuriy turns into the first ice-cream parlor that appears and finds a green corner booth that almost matches his uniform. He translates the menu for Inga, and she orders a sundae with chocolate ice-cream, hot fudge, cherries, and crushed candy bars, with an orange egg cream, while Yuriy orders a humbler strawberry ice-cream float.

“I’d ask you to kill some Nazis or Japs for me, but I can see you’re a medic,” the soda jerk says when she brings over the food. “Good luck with saving as many guys as you can.”

Inga lingers over her sundae and egg cream, not sure when she’ll next be able to splurge on a little luxury like this. Once they’re done, Yuriy leaves the money on the table and walks Inga home.

“You’ll be fine,” he reassures her. “You’ve got a new family who’s eager to take care of you, and some new friends. The language comes quicker than you think, if you’re constantly immersed in it. I bet you’ll be a real American girl by the time I come to visit again, and you might have a returning soldier for a boyfriend.”