Naina and Katya Arrive in America

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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, such as in the pedantic use of accent marks and the name of Katrin’s husband. His name is now Sandro, not Sandros.

***

So begins Chapter 29 of The Twelfth Time, “Naina and Katya in North America,” and the linking-up of their story with the story arc of the main characters. Katrin’s husband Sandros, an Ellis Island worker, notices the girls as they’re unboarding, and is moved to helping them remain in the country by sponsoring them.

***

Sándros watches the people unboarding a ship from Varna, Bulgaria on Thursday, June 16. He knows how lucky these people are to be allowed entry to the United States, given the racist quotas limiting Eastern European immigration. At first he wondered why some of the people unboarding look more like tourists than immigrants, and was told by one of his superiors that the passengers include a young dance troupe who’ll be performing in the city and several other locales. At least the dancers will be easier to process than the people who are coming to stay, he thinks as his eyes are drawn to two young ladies who seem a bit out of place in the crowd.

“Do you speak Russian?” the younger one asks nervously.

“It’s my native language, though I’m actually Estonian. But aren’t you young ladies Bulgarian? Are you some of the White Russians who escaped to Bulgaria and are only now coming to the United States?”

“We’re coming from the Ukraine,” the older one says. “I was born there, though I’m an ethnic Russian. Both of us were living in Russia till sometime in late 1919, when we were shipped to an orphanage in Belarus and then to an orphanage in the Ukraine, where we remained till last January. We went to Bulgaria this April, on the pretense of taking a cruise, and were met by a man who put us up in a hotel until this ship was due to take off. We’re not really in the dance troupe. Our good man who arranged to put us on the ship to Bulgaria said we could declare political asylum once we got here.”

“We’re not going to be sent back, are we? My younger cousin disappeared on the train taking us from the orphanage to Cherkasi last January, and I hate to imagine what her fate might be if she’s still alive and well. For all I know she’s being taught we’re enemies of the people for wanting to get out of there. I was already concerned at how the orphanage teachers got her to adopt a quasi-worshipful attitude towards Lénin.”

“Do you girls have a place to stay, jobs, or any money?” Sándros asks. “I’m sure they’ll grant you political asylum, since this country hates the Soviet Union and Socialism in general, but customs have been known to send people back if they can’t produce any proof of waiting work, a place to stay, or people sponsoring them. For the last three years, the only people coming through here are war refugees and displaced people. The peak immigration days are over. In fact, this serves as more of a detention and deportation center than immigration station now.”

“But that’s not fair!” the older girl protests. “This is supposed to be the richest and best country in the world! Why are they turning away deserving people who’ve been through a lot to get here?”

“In 1924, a racist immigration act was passed, severely limiting immigrants from places that make the establishment uncomfortable. That includes Eastern and Southern Europe, as well as Asia. There’s a lot of hostility towards foreigners in this country, sadly, particularly if you’re not from Western Europe. Do you have anybody you know who’d come to get you?”

“I have a feeling my aunt is alive and escaped Russia,” the younger one says. “Though I have no idea where she is, or if she came to Canada instead of the United States. I did hear some things about how Canada was more welcoming to immigrants these days.”

Sándros looks around as the arrivals continue entering the building. “I may be Estonian, but I have connections to the Russian immigrant community because my wife is friends with a lot of Russians. She lived in Russia from April of 1917 to February 1921 and came here with a number of her Russian friends. We also know some Russians who settled in Toronto, Canada. One of our friends might be able to find some information for you. In the meantime, I’ll offer myself as your sponsor. When they ask you who’s sponsoring you or where you’re going to stay, you provide my name and address.” He writes it down on a notepad and rips the sheet out. “What are your names, by the way?”

“I’m Kátya Chernomyrdina and I’m nineteen, and that’s my best friend Naína Yezhova. She’s fifteen. Her aunt and my mother were best friends too. That’s how we met each other when we were tiny.” Kátya looks at the information he’s written down in Cyrillic. “Your name doesn’t look very Russian or Estonian to me.”

“Well, my surname had to come from somewhere, and not all Russians or Russified Balts have names reflecting that. I think my parents were trying to give me a Greek-sounding name, since we’re Eastern Orthodox. Anyway, I’ll come to get you either later today or tomorrow morning. My wife and I have to go to a wedding on Saturday, so you can get settled into our penthouse while we’re gone. My wife has a lot of money, and every summer she finances a trip for us and our friends to Coney Island and Long Island. There are a lot of other Russians in the hotel we stay at on Coney Island, and there are also a fair number of Russians at the place we stay at on Long Island.

“Would you like to come as our guests? It doesn’t sound like you really had a childhood, and it might be nice to enjoy amusement parks and beaches instead of spending your first months here worrying about making a living, finding housing, or tracking down friends and relatives. We can put you in a room adjoining one of our hotel rooms on Coney Island, and then let you have one of the floors of the house we rent on Long Island. There are five stories, and one of them has been free for the last couple of years. My wife’s friends had a falling-out with two women who were staying with us that first year.”

“You’re an angel!” Naína says. “What a nice way to come to North America!”

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.”

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Naina and Katya Get Permission to Leave

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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.”

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.”

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IWSG—September odds and sods

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InsecureWritersSupportGroup
The Insecure Writer’s Support Group virtually meets the first Wednesday of each month, and lets us share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears. This month’s question is:

If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

I’d love to have a little cottage in the Hebrides or Orkneys, with one window looking out at the sea and the other at a prehistoric monolith. Since discovering I have Scottish ancestry (both ordinary and from the Medieval kings and queens), I’ve become very proud of those branches of my family tree, and would love to visit the country. It’s an added bonus that there’s so much coastline, with so many islands.

When my finances allow it, I’m joining the Stewart Society, for those of us descended from the former ruling House of Stewart. One of the many perks of membership is a yearly gathering in September, in castles and other residences our ancestors lived in. With any luck, Scotland will finally have her independence back by my first visit.

Even better than a castle or cottage overlooking the sea would be an underwater house made of glass, with the beautiful, inspiring scenery of coral reefs and marine life. The sea calls to the very core of my soul, so much so I want to be buried at sea at the end of my days (hopefully not till 120).

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I’ve been working really hard on my contest entry for the next IWSG Anthology, and will have it ready for submission by Wednesday afternoon. It’s set in 737 Japan, during the Nara period. I’ve never written fantasy before, nor anything nearly that far back in history, but it’s good to stretch our creative muscles.

I’ve also been looking over The Twelfth Time before submitting it for hardcover copies, with another free title setup from IngramSpark. Since I changed the inside margins from 0.7″ to one inch, that means a lot of the kerning needs tightened.

I’ve found a handful of little errors, but 99% of what I’m doing is fixing kerning. Sometimes that entails rephrasing things or removing unnecessary words. I’ll also have to redo the table of contents to reflect the new page numbers.

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I’m also still grinding away on A Dream Deferred, and hoping to be finished by NaNo. A lot of things are coming together as the end finally approaches. It feels more and more right for the Konevs and their dearest friends to return to NY after so many years in Minnesota.

The more I think about it, their initial move was motivated by escapist daydreams, not a true calling to farming and small town life. They made a lot of poor decisions after immigrating, and instead of fixing the core problems soon after they became obvious, they felt locked into the situation and let it keep snowballing. Then their kids felt compelled to stay in farm country too, instead of building independent lives in another city.

Lyuba and Ivan, and their sons Fedya and Igor, will attend Columbia’s graduate school, while Eliisabet and Aleksey will pursue their own midlife bachelor’s degrees, and Tatyana’s family will move to the suburbanesque Queens Village, across the street from dear old friends. Ivan’s father will leave them quite a lot of money in his will near the end of the book, far more money than anyone ever suspected he had. He sinned horrifically against Ivan and Lyuba, and making sure his family will be taken care of financially is the only way left to show his love and try to make amends.

Plus, it also makes things much easier to have the majority of important characters in NYC instead of divided between two states, in addition to the characters in Toronto and Berkeley. All along, the story was pulling me towards this conclusion, but I couldn’t admit it till my own characters did.

Where would you like to write your next story? Have you ever discovered a longstanding aspect of a story was created for the wrong reasons? Have your characters ever started a fresh chapter of their lives in midlife?