WeWriWa—Fedya’s Christmas presents

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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. To mark Russian Orthodox Christmas (7 January), this week’s snippet comes from Chapter 66, “Somber Christmas,” of my third Russian historical, Journey Through a Dark Forest.

Nineteen-year-old Fedya Konev recently married his sweetheart Novomira. Getting married before enlisting in the army was so urgent, he got special permission to marry during the Nativity Fast. Orthodox weddings are normally forbidden during fasts.

The newlyweds are home with their families in Minnesota for the holidays. Fedya’s youngest brother Ilya has insisted he open his presents first, since he’s leaving that night.

Fedya tries to keep a straight face as he accepts package after package—cards, razors, shaving brushes, cologne, candy, and crossword books from Igor and Ilya; homemade socks and a blanket with little ikons sewn on from his mother; stationary and a picturefold of chronological family photos from his father; a picture from Sonyechka; embroidered handkerchiefs from Katya; a purple homemade scarf from Irina; a pocket-sized prayerbook with an embroidered cover from Tatyana; a pocket watch from Nikolay; and a sketchpad, colored pencils, a fancy comb and mirror, and a bracelet with an elephant charm from Novomira.

He already knows there are more presents waiting for him at his in-laws,’ the Vishinskies,’ and back in New York.  It’ll be a wonder if he’s able to take all this with him when he goes to basic training, in addition to his necessary, regular possessions.

“We got you a couples’ present too,” Ivan announces, handing over a pink parcel. “I read about this idea in a magazine recently, and thought it’d be really nice to have before your separation.”

Fedya unwraps a blue glass bauble with an English-language inscription in gold ink, “7 January 1942, Fyodor I. Konev and Novomira A. Kutuzova-Koneva, First Christmas Together.” The inscription is ringed by a wreath, with doves and hearts on the other side.

“I’ll put this on Vera and Seva’s tree every year until the war’s over,” Novomira proclaims. “I hope it’ll be over by next Christmas, but you never can tell.”

Fedya squeezes her hand, too embarrassed to do anything more personal in front of his entire family.

As it turns out, Fedya is given 21 days at home with Novomira after enlisting, instead of taken straight to boot camp as he imagined. Had he known there’d be a mandated break between induction and reporting, he wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of getting special permission to marry during a fast season. The wedding could’ve taken place after Orthodox Christmas.

Novomira’s birth surname was Kutuzova-Tvardovskaya, but she took a page from the Spanish naming customs by keeping her mother’s surname and adding Fedya’s. When Tatyana, Fedya’s older sister, married Novomira’s older brother Nikolay, she went from Koneva to Tvardovskaya-Koneva.

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WeWriWa—Unwrapping more presents

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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 arm amputee Patya found a brand new hook hand from his wife Vladlena.

Seven-year-old Karina said she’d tell all her friends her papa has a brand new hand, and Patya reassured her she’s got a somewhat normal father again, in spite of how a little girl next door thinks he’s a monster.

Karina says she doesn’t think he’s a monster, since he’s her brave, special papa, and a great war hero.

Patya points out the suspected pastels to Bruno, who smiles and toddles over to fetch the yellow box.  As soon as Bruno hands it to him, he tears through the wrapping paper with the hook and finds exactly what he thought, a fine wooden box of the twenty Sennelier colors he requested.

“Which do you like more?” Vladlena asks. “I think you’ll spend more time playing with the hook than drawing today.”

“I think I will!” Patya goes over to the tree and picks up a very large present by putting his hook under the ribbon. “I believe this is yours, for being the best wife ever.”

While Vladlena unwraps her first present, Karina unhooks Bruno’s stocking and then gets her own stocking.  Vladlena periodically looks up to smile as her children squeal over the contents of their stockings.

WeWriWa—Patya’s Christmas present

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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 Patya Siyanchuk began opening a special Christmas present from his wife Vladlena.

Their 7-year-old daughter Karina complained he was taking too long to open it, and asked if she could tell him what it was. Vladlena told her that’d ruin the surprise.

This has been slightly edited to fit 10 lines.

Patya finally discovers a hook hand attached to a halter and turns to smile at Vladlena. “Is this really what I think it is?”

“Of course it is!  I’ve wanted to give you your very own hook for so long, but you always insisted on doing things yourself and not needing extra help like some charity case.  Just imagine how much easier this’ll make your life, darling; you can open packages, peel oranges, open two cabinet doors at once, drive without so much assistance, pick things up with your right arm, and so much more.” Vladlena pulls off his right sleeve, which he hasn’t bothered to double up and around as usual, pulls his stump sock out of his pocket, and puts the sock and hook on his arm. “If the halter’s too loose or tight, you can adjust it yourself.”

“Is this really all mine forever?”

“Of course, it’s yours to keep forever!  When you go back to school, all your professors and classmates will be so impressed at your fancy new hand.”

P.S.: Today, the fifth day of Chanukah, is my Hebrew birthday. Since it’s said we have the power to bless others on our Hebrew birthday, I’d like to bless everyone with a happy, peaceful, joyful holiday season and new year full of only good things and answered prayers/wishes.

WeWriWa—Patya’s Christmas present

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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 young couple Patya Siyanchuk and Vladlena Zyuganova headed out to their Christmas tree at the urging of their children.

Vladlena has just directed 7-year-old Karina to a present for Patya, and Karina has put it in her father’s lap. Patya, a former Marine with a below-elbow amputation, wishes Dyed Moroz (Grandfather Frost) had left him a new arm under the tree.

“Mama found this with a lot of help from some very special people.  We hope it’s your best Christmas present ever.”

Patya eyes a thin, rectangular box. “It looks like someone got me the new pastel colors I asked for.  Couldn’t I please open those first?”

“You don’t know anything I got you, you naughty boy,” Vladlena chides. “Just open this first, and then see if it’s not your best Christmas present ever.”

Patya holds it in place with his right arm while he pulls off the paper and bow with his left hand.  Three and a half years after his below-elbow amputation, he’s gotten significantly better at navigating these sorts of tasks, but he still struggles to do them as quickly as other people.  When he reaches the cardboard box, he lifts the untaped flaps and pulls out a bulky parcel wrapped in orange tissue paper.

Patya has become an artist since his amputation, particularly with pastels, the present he wanted most. His priest’s granddaughter Violetta, whom some of you may remember, visited him in hospital and let him borrow some of her pastels.

Drawing was what helped her to develop greater strength and dexterity in her left arm and hand after her right side was damaged by polio, so it was natural to suggest this to Patya. He’s now an art student in a master’s program at Queens College, hoping to become an art teacher.

WeWriWa—Patya’s Christmas present

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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 from Part IV of Journey Through a Dark Forest, my third Russian historical, which spans 1933–48, three continents, and about 15 countries.

It’s now Russian Orthodox Christmas 1948, which falls on 7 January. Patya Siyanchuk and Vladlena Zyuganova moved from the Upper West Side to Queens Village in 1945, and are now expecting their third child.

Patya, as some of you might remember, is a former Marine who lost part of his right arm by the Battle of Saipan in June 1944. He was convinced Vladlena would leave him and couldn’t possibly still love him, but he came to realize Vladlena still sincerely loved him and didn’t care about the missing arm.

Vladlena pulls on her cherry-colored robe and steps into matching slippers while Patya maneuvers into a robe matching his dress blues.  As usual, it takes Patya longer to dress than Vladlena.  By the time he’s put on his dark blue slippers, Karina and Bruno are calling them downstairs.

“Somehow I doubt Dyed Moroz left me a new arm under the tree,” he says as they go downstairs.

“Come now.  You’re too old to believe in Dyed Moroz.  But I hope my first gift will be just as good.”

Once they’re in the living room, Vladlena sinks onto the overstuffed red davenport and directs Karina to a Prussian blue present with a bright red bow.  Karina obediently fetches it and puts it on Patya’s lap.

Dyed Moroz, Grandfather Frost, is the Russian Santa Claus.