Famous surnames (intentional) in my Russian historicals, continued

Tvardovskiy, Lyuba and Ivan’s friend Aleksey. In America, he changes the spelling to Tvardovsky. His surname was originally Trotskiy, which really only has one association. I don’t see it as a bad association, but it’s not one of those famous names (e.g., Lennon, Jackson) that feels believable on a non-famous person.

The replacement not only has a similar sound, but was also the surname of literary magazine Noviy Mir‘s chief editor, Aleksandr Trofimovich (1910–71). Under his tutelage, the magazine published a lot of things butting up against the Party line.

Teglyov, Lyuba and Ivan’s friend Pavel, who saves their daughter Tatyana’s life when villain Misha Godunov throws her in the Skhodnya River as a baby. This is a character in Turgenev’s story “Knock, Knock, Knock.”

Premier Brezhnev (1906–82) in 1943

Brezhneva, curmudgeonly orphanage mother in Kyiv. Mrs. Brezhneva is so fun to write, because she’s so predictable, while also demonstrating slow but steady emotional growth. As loath as she is to admit it, she grows to deeply care for co-director and former orphanage girl Inna, as well as Inna’s children and the children of the other now-adult orphanage girls who also defected to Iran. Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev was Soviet Premier from 1964–82.

Andropov, a boardinghouse manager who appears in the first book. Yuriy Vladimirovich Andropov was Soviet Premier from November 1982–February 1984.

Yavlinskiy, a doctor who treats Ivan’s broken arm in the first book, and lets Lyuba, Ivan, Ginny, and Tatyana hide in his clinic for two weeks. Grigoriy Alekseyevich Yavlinskiy founded social-liberal party Yabloko (Apple), and came in fourth in the 1996 presidential election.

Grigoriy A. Yavlinskiy (born 1952), Copyright Бахтиёр Абдуллаев (Bakhtiyor Abdullayev)

Kerenskaya, orphanage girl Olga, who’s later adopted by Inessa’s Dyadya (Uncle) Dima and marries Inessa’s cousin Rustam. She’s eight months pregnant when she wades across the creek-like River Bug to Poland in 1937. Shortly after her arrival in America, she gives birth to her first child. In 1945, her family and Inessa’s family move to Staten Island.

Aleksandr Fyodorovich Kerenskiy (1881–1970) was a prominent politician during the short-lived Provisional Government of 1917, and the leader of Russia from July–November 1917. He narrowly escaped after the Bolshevik takeover, and settled in France. After the Nazi invasion, he immigrated to the U.S.

Aleksandr F. Kerenskiy

Kuchma, Ukrainian orphanage girl Valentina, another of the girls adopted by Dyadya Dima. She becomes very close to Inessa after they’re mistakenly sent to another orphanage, which influences Inessa to beg Dyadya Dima to adopt a little girl too. It means so much to Valentina to have a family again, and that Dyadya Dima respects her origins so much he tells her to never change her name, forget her native language, or call him Tata.

Leonid Danylovych Kuchma (born 1938) was Ukraine’s second president, 1994–2005.

Kwasniewska, Polish-born orphanage girl Zofia, also adopted by Dyadya Dima. She moves home to Poland as an adult, and ends up at the same rocket-making forced labour factory as Darya and Oliivia in the third book. Zofia survives Mauthausen with them too. She’s reunited with her three children after the war, and they’re given permission to join their family in America. Aleksander Kwaśniewski (born 1954) was President of Poland from 1995–2005.

Iosif Brodskiy (Joseph Brodsky)

Brodskaya, orphanage girl Irina, who appears in the first two books. Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodskiy (1940–1996) was persecuted, twice put in a mental hospital, put on trial, and sentenced to five years of hard labour (of which he served 18 months) for his “anti-Soviet” poetry. In 1972, he was forced into exile, and in 1987, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Rutskoy, a false name Boris gives Aleksey and Eliisabet when deserting Bolshevik soldiers pay a housecall in autumn 1917. Aleksandr Vladimirovich Rutskoy (born 1947) was Russia’s only Vice President, 1991–93. During the violent constitutional crisis of ’93, he was proclaimed Acting President. He remains active in politics.

Andrey A. Voznesenskiy, 1933–2010, Kremlin.ru

Voznesenskaya, a deranged, sadistic orphanage warden in Petrograd, who gets her just desserts near the end of Part I of the first book. Andrey Andreyevich Voznesenskiy (whose surname means “ascension”) was an amazing poet I highly recommend.

To be continued.

WeWriWa—Svetlana and Kroshka


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I decided to continue the story of young widower Mr. Lebedev reuniting with his missing daughters, from my first Russian historical, You Cannot Kill a Swan.

It’s now May 1922, in America, and female protagonist Lyuba has fallen unconscious from a very high fever after giving birth to her first child with male protagonist Ivan, about a month premature. A young nursing student and new immigrant, Svetlana, has been coming over to help with the baby, and Kroshka always barks like crazy when she’s there.

Ivan is rocking Fedya at 5:30 when Kroshka comes running into the apartment, right to Svetlana, stirring a pot of beef stew at the coal-burning stove.  This can only mean Mr. Lebedev forget to lock the door when he and his daughters left this morning, and forgot to close the door all the way.

“I’m really sorry for her behavior,” Ivan says as he gets up. “She’s normally so sweet and gentle.  Maybe it’s true that lapdogs have fantasies of being as mighty and powerful as big guard dogs, and this is her way of trying to do just that.  She must sense a stranger’s presence, and wants to protect her friends.”

Kroshka is now jumping at Svetlana’s feet, and won’t stop till Svetlana picks her up.  Once she’s in Svetlana’s arms, she frantically starts licking her face.

The reader has already been introduced to Svetlana, who was sent to Siberia with three of her sisters after the Revolution. In Part II, she was reunited with her cousin Nadezhda, who was captured in Ivan’s place.

Nadezhda told Svetlana her father and five of her sisters escaped to America in the spring of 1921. Nadezhda and her sweetheart Pavel were with them at the port of Tallinn, but weren’t able to get on that ship due to not having tickets. When their enemies found them, Pavel managed to get away on a raft and was picked up by another ship, but it was too late for Nadezhda.

Svetlana’s nursing skills earned her rather decent treatment and an eventual early release. She was unable to obtain Nadezhda’s release along with hers.

Horny Hump Day—Nadya and Pasha

Warning:  Not safe for work or appropriate for those under 18!

Welcome back to Horny Hump Day, a weekly hop where writers share three erotic sentences of a book or WIP. Last week I introduced one of my favorite couples from my Russian historicals, Pavel (Pasha) Teglyov and Nadezhda (Nadya) Lebedeva. They’ve been in love since they were teenagers, but theirs was no ordinary relationship.

The orphaned Nadya turned to prostitution after her uncle was taken away, figuring it wouldn’t be a big deal since her virginity had already been stolen from her. She became the top prostitute at the brothel run by Pasha’s sleazy benefactors, but eventually she and Pasha ran away. While Pasha was able to escape on the Estonian coast and go to America, Nadya was apprehended by her repugnant ex-boss and spent the next 12 years in Siberia.

Finally, in June 1933, at the age of thirty-one, they’ve gotten married. Nadya is looking forward to getting to know what it’s like to experience a loving sexual act for the first time in her life, and has just teased her new husband by asking if he’s just going to look at her all night.


He removes his suit as fast as he can without tearing it, deposits it on a chair, heads for the bed, and lustily takes his bride in his arms.  Nadézhda feels a sensation she’s never felt before as he touches her body for the first time, and as she gets acquainted with his body in return.  Now that she’s finally touching and being touched by the man she loves, the sensation is pleasant, exciting, electrical, arousing.

Horny Hump Day—Nadya and Pasha

My What’s Up Wednesday post is here.

Warning:  Not safe for work or appropriate for those under 18!

Welcome back to Horny Hump Day, a weekly hop where writers share three erotic sentences of a book or WIP. This week I’m introducing one of my favorite couples, whom I created when I was all of 16 years old and starting the second major phase of my first Russian historical. Nadezhda Lebedeva and Pavel Teglyov have been in love since they met as teenagers, and Pavel never cared that his girlfriend was the head prostitute in his benefactors’ brothel, nor that her innocence was stolen by the Bolsheviks who murdered her parents when she was fifteen.

They finally ran away and made their way to Estonia, hoping to sail to America, but they ended up at the wrong place in the wrong time. Nadya was discovered in Lyuba and Ivan’s place, and wasn’t fast enough to get away with Pasha. She was given ten years in Siberia for being a work-shirker, and then had two more years pasted on when she let it be known she’d been a prostitute.

In March 1933, she was released, and made her way to America with an unexpected friend. She initially believed Pasha’s phony wedding ring was real, but soon understood it was only to deter suitors and that he still loved only her. They rekindled their long-ago romance, and now, in June 1933, are finally married at age thirty-one. Like Lyuba and Ivan, it’s a pairing of a virginal man with a far from virginal woman, but he’s the only man she’s been with out of love.


Nadézhda wastes no time and immediately slips off her wedding dress, grateful she chose a loose-fitting style she didn’t need to be laced, hooked, corseted, or buttoned up into by several people.  When Pável walks into their new shared bedroom and sees her in just a slip, silk stockings, and a camisole, he turns into a giant smile.

“Are you just going to look all night?” she teases him.

Sweet Saturday Samples—Tenement Thanksgiving

This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples is from Chapter 6 of The Twelfth Time, “Lena’s Prayer Is Answered.” 1924 is drawing to a close, and while Lyuba and Ivan have been having a number of problems over the last few months, by and large they’re still fairly happy. Their marriage hasn’t yet started on the disastrous downward spiral it heads towards later on. Their friend Pavel, who lives downstairs from them, saved Tatyana’s life when she was a baby. (This has been slightly edited for length and so it’s all “sweet.”)


Lyuba feels like a princess as she reads the paper and listens to the gramophone while Iván prepares a full-course meal on Thanksgiving.  It feels like such a welcome relief to finally be able to sit down and just relax, instead of having to attend to every single household duty.  She knows they’d never have been able to afford the nice meal they’re going to enjoy, nor the trip to Toronto, without their savings, but it’s not like they went out and spent a thousand dollars on these things.

By the standards of the old Imperial Court, the meal isn’t anything that lavish or fancy—turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, roasted vegetables, cranberry sauce, cornbread, applesauce, carrot, tomato, and cabbage salad, blinchiki with blackberries, sugar, and cream, and chocolate cinnamon bread.  Lyuba feels glad at least the cornbread, dessert bread, applesauce, and cranberry sauce came from the store, so Iván won’t have to spend any extra time preparing an already large meal.

“Are you ever going to have a baby for us to play with, Dyadya Pávlik?” Tatyana asks. “If you get much older, you’ll be like Tädi Katrin’s friend Anastásiya.  Is there a word for a man who’s old and doesn’t have a wife or kids?”

“It’s called a bachelor,” Lyuba says. “There isn’t really a word in any language I know of to describe a male version of a spinster or old maid.  It’s rather sexist, since it operates under the presumption it’s okay for a man to get older and not have a family, yet the worst thing in the world if a woman isn’t married off and having children by the time she’s twenty-one.”

“I’m only twenty-two.  That’s still pretty young,” Pável says. “And there’s always hope that my girlfriend will get out of Siberia early.  Your stepaunts Gálya, Mótya, Dína, and Svéta got out early.  Maybe Nádya will escape, or she’ll get her punishment shortened.  She didn’t even do anything that deserved twelve years in Siberia besides get that old bully Mísha mad and tell her new bosses what she used to do for a living.”

“I don’t think I remember Tyotya Nádya.  The only thing I remember about Russia is when Papa jumped off an icy roof holding me and Mátushka so he could take us to safety in Estonia.”

“I’m sure Nádya remembers you.  We lived together one winter, in Nádya’s old house.  We had a lot of good times, in spite of the cold weather and the Civil War.  Nádya loved you very much.  Neither of us have any other relatives left, so it’s very important we have little children of our own when we’re finally together again.”

“Nádya has a family.  Dédushka Ilyushka is her uncle, and all of Mátushka’s stepsisters are her cousins.  She’s going to be so happy when she joins us in America and sees she finally has a boy cousin and a new aunt!”

“It’s not the same as having parents and siblings, or children of your own.”

“Isn’t Fédya the cutest little boy ever?” Iván brags to Pável. “You can tell he’s my boy, since he looks exactly like me.  I bet he’s going to grow up to be over six feet tall too, and as strong as ten men.”

Lyuba wonders what’s going through Pável’s mind as he plays with her older children and holds Dárya while they’re waiting for supper.  Perhaps he doesn’t look jealous or unhappy now, after only a few years, but if Nadézhda really is in Siberia for another eight and a half years, it’ll be a lot harder to bear.  People are expected to be married and have children by Pável’s age, and there’s only so long he’ll be able to get away with it on the sexist assumption that it’s okay for men to be single longer than women.

If it weren’t for those rotten Godunov cousins, particularly Mísha, Nadézhda would’ve been safe in America with the rest of them.  She and Pável would’ve been married and the parents of at least one darling child, a playmate for Lyuba’s children.  Nadézhda must be lonely out in Siberia too, longing for the loving embraces of a belovèd husband and the precious smiles of darling children.

“Is it too much imposition if I sleep on your davenport tonight?” Pável asks as they sit down to supper. “Since we’re going to be leaving early in the morning for the depot, it might be easier if we all leave together.”

“Of course.  You’re honorary family, and you would’ve been my stepcousin-in-law by now if Nádya hadn’t been arrested,” Lyuba says.

Iván makes a cross over himself and says Grace. “Christ our Lord, bless us your servants, our home, and the food and drink before us, for you are the source of all blessings, now and forever and ever.  And thank you also for blessing me with the beautiful neighbor girl as my loving wife, the three precious children whose care you have entrusted to us, our safety in America, and all the love we have even though we don’t have as much money as we’d like.  Amen.”