Posted in 1920s, Historical fiction, Lyuba, Russian novel sequel, Secondary characters, Writing

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.”

Posted in 1920s, Historical fiction, Karla, Russian novel sequel, Secondary characters, Writing

Georgiya Writes to Ginny

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 hop. It differs slightly from the published version in The Twelfth Time. E.g., I no longer pedantically use accent marks, and Ginny’s surname was changed from Herzen to Kharzin.

***

While Naina and Katya are preparing for their reunion with Sonya and move to Toronto in early September 1927, back in the Soviet Union, 20-year-old Georgiya is writing a letter to her long-distance sweetheart, Lyuba’s cousin Ginny (real name Mikhail, called Grigoriy by Georgiya). She’s letting him know about Karla, and this news is eventually going to reach Sonya.

***

Leoníd glares over Geórgiya’s shoulder. “What, are you still writing to that Herzen kid? He’s an enemy of the people, and so is his entire family! When are you going to give up that stupid daydream about him defecting and coming home? You need to find a suitable boyfriend at your teaching college, not some boy you haven’t seen in four years.”

“I’m telling Grigóriy all about the wonderful end of our Yalta vacation.” Geórgiya hits the return bar on the typewriter. “He’s kept me updated on his own summer vacation in America. He’s going into his final year of high school soon. I wish I could go there for his long-delayed graduation.”

“Would you bring Ínga and finally let him know he made you an unwed mother the last time he saw you? Boy, I can’t imagine how humiliating that must be for him, twenty years old now and going into his final year of high school. All his classmates must think he’s the stupidest thing ever.”

“He missed four years of school because of the Revolution and Civil War, and tested a few years behind when he immigrated. I’d probably be in the same boat if I’d been the one expelled from school and then unable to go to school until I went to another country.”

“I see you’re letting him know about Kárla, while once again omitting any mention of your illegitimate daughter. The kid’s three years old now. If you’re going to continue being his penpal, you can’t hide that mistake’s existence forever.”

“You adopted a child, however hastily and stupidly. I had a child out of wedlock. Society accepts your form of unmarried parenthood, but not mine. And he might get in a lot of trouble with his parents. They used to be missionaries.”

“You shouldn’t be in love with an enemy of the people, even long distance,” Kárla says as she has a tea party with Nélya and Ínga. “You haven’t seen him in a long time. Sometimes I miss Kátya and Naína, but not when I think about how they’re enemies of the people who wanted to take me away from my destiny. At least he gave you a cute little girl.”

“You see?” Leoníd smirks. “Even a child a month away from her tenth birthday knows you’re delusional and stupid.”

“Geórgiya isn’t stupid. I understand why she’s loved him so long, since he was her only boyfriend, but she should focus on better things now.”

“Exactly right. She’s going to do what’s good for her and stop her incessant daydreaming about her bastard daughter’s father before she gets any older. That includes no longer being in contact with an enemy of the people.”

“He believes in Communism same as we do. They just do it differently in North America.” Geórgiya pulls a full sheet out of the typewriter and rolls a blank sheet in.

“I’m not going to give up on you. Kárla used to miss her cousin and their friend, but we both got her to see sense eventually. You probably just need a little bit more time before reality finally wears you down.”

“And you clearly underestimate the power of love.”

Posted in 1920s, Historical fiction, Karla, Russian novel sequel, Secondary characters, Writing

Bittersweet Discovery

This was originally one of a batch of twenty posts I put together on 24 June 2012, as future installments for the now-discontinued Sweet Saturday Samples hop. It differs slightly from the published version in The Twelfth Time. E.g., I no longer pedantically use accent marks, and Karla’s adoptive family’s name changed from Stalin to Savvin after I realised only THE Stalin had that name.

***

While Naina and Katya are preparing to take off on their first real vacation and loving American life, back in the Soviet Union, Karla is also starting her first real vacation. When her adoptive family gets to their hotel, they discover that Naina and Katya were in the area only a few months ago, looking for Karla. By this point, Leonid is so attached to his adoptive daughter that he won’t even consider relinquishing her to so-called enemies of the people.

***

Following the end of Kárla’s third grade year at the state-run school, Nélya’s kindergarten graduation, and the conclusion of the spring semester at Geórgiya’s teaching college, the Stálins decided to take a trip down to Yalta for the summer. Kárla has never had a real vacation before, and is thrilled at the chance to spend a few months at a seaside resort with her adoptive family. Even Geórgiya and Leoníd’s constant bickering on the train from Moskvá to the Crimea didn’t put a damper on her excitement.

“Look at this,” Geórgiya says as they’re waiting to check in at the hotel. “Those girls you told us about must’ve been in this area looking for you.”

Her parents, Leoníd, Kárla, and Nélya gather around the hotel bulletin board to read a missing persons notice put together by Kátya and Naína and dated this February. Kárla doesn’t know whether to cry or be glad she wasn’t found.

“Pardon me,” Leoníd says to the clerk. “My adoptive daughter happens to be the girl described in that missing persons notice. I have no intention of surrendering her to the enemies of the people who were planning to take her out of the Soviet Union, but do you happen to know if they’re still guests at this hotel or somewhere in the city? I’d hate to lose such a charming child to people who don’t have her best interests at heart.”

“Oh, that notice. It’s been up for awhile, with no luck. The girls who got permission to put it up were never guests here. They said they were staying in Yalta for the winter and were going on a cruise to Bulgaria in April. If they come back here after their cruise, shouldn’t you do the right thing and relinquish her?”

“Of course not! And she’s told me and my entire family how her cousin and their friend were planning to go to North America! I’m sure that so-called cruise was just a pretense for defecting abroad and then getting someone to let them go to the land of our enemies! Well, good riddance, I say. We don’t need any enemies of the people weakening our glorious Soviet state. Now the girl is being raised properly, in a devout Communist home. She’ll have no reason to want to defect and find them when she’s of age.”

“How did you even find this girl? I seem to remember the young ladies saying she disappeared on a train. Did you kidnap her?”

“I found her lying unconscious in the snow last January, with a broken leg. I brought her to my family’s home, where she was nursed back to health and enrolled in a state-run school. She’d been an orphanage child prior. I’ve since adopted her, and she’s now well-ensconced in our household. My younger sisters are like her own sisters, and my bastard niece is like her niece. And just recently she started calling me Papa Lyonya, after a long time of only calling me Lyonya. If I ever marry, my wife will be her mother. I wouldn’t dream of surrendering my adoptive child to anyone.”

“Comrade, I don’t doubt your sincerity of feelings for the child, or her feelings of attachment to you and your family, but did you make no moves towards locating her real family when you found her? Didn’t you think her real friends and family must be frantic?”

“She had an orphanage ID around her neck. I never thought she had anyone looking for her. When she came to, she said she was with a cousin and their friend, and we learnt the whole story over time. Those girls are enemies of the people, and I couldn’t be happier they left our country of their own free will before we had to throw them out. At least she already had a reverential attitude towards our dearly departed Comrade Lénin when we found her. She said the other girls didn’t share her feelings. Thank God she was only born in late 1917 and can’t remember what they can, a time before the glorious Revolution.”

The clerk rolls his eyes. “Well, whatever happened or whatever their leanings are, it’s obviously too late now to reunite her with her cousin and friend. It would be like looking for a needle in a haystack at this point, and even if you wanted to, you’d still have to find someone willing to travel with her and then get permission for both of them to leave the country. If I found a missing, injured child, I’d try to search for anyone who might claim her before taking matters into my own hands and adopting her on the presumption she was abandoned or completely orphaned.”

“She’s my child now. My parents consider her their own granddaughter. I saved her from the horrible fate of leaving our motherland and being brought up on hideous lies about Socialism and our glorious heroes of the Revolution. My family has become her family.” Leoníd looks over his shoulder at Kárla interacting with three-year-old Ínga, both of them playing with dolls. “Yes, it’s without question for the better that she remain with us. Even if I were insane enough to want to turn her over to be raised by enemies of the people, it would be too traumatic for her to leave the only home she’s known for a year and a half and go back to people who must be like strangers by now.”

Posted in 1920s, Historical fiction, Karla, Russian novel sequel, Secondary characters, Writing

Karla’s Indoctrination Gets Underway

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.”

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Posted in 1920s, Historical fiction, Karla, Russian novel sequel, Secondary characters, Writing

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.”

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