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!”

Why I love mechanical and early electronic televisions

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(This is edited down and revised from a post I wrote for my old Angelfire website, probably around 2003. The non-public domain images are used to illustrate the subjects and are consistent with fair use doctrine.)

octagon

1928 General Electric television

To the untrained eye, antique TVs look like cabinets or radios with little glass screens. Thus, it’s suspected many more mechanical TVs exist than are accounted for in personal collections and museums. To date, there are at least 100.

About 7,000 early electronic televisions (1938–41) were made in the U.S.; 19,000 were made in Britain; and 1,600 were made in Germany. A handful were made in Italy, Russia, France, and The Netherlands. Altogether, there are about 200 verified, surviving American and British sets.

If you know what to look for, you might stumble across one of these beauties in an attic, a flea market, or an antiques shop.

first_picture

There were dozens of TV stations (all classified as experimental) from 1929–33, and again after broadcasting officially resumed on 30 April 1939. (However, the DuMont 180, the first electronic television, went on sale the year before). Most stations were in New York, Chicago, or New Jersey, with a few from states including Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Missouri.

Some stations were created by avid hobbyists and not credited as official experimental stations, but the frequency travelled for hundreds of miles. Thus, someone in the middle of nowhere could pick up signals from the nearest properly-equipped city.

Decades before TV Guide appeared, there were programming guides issued. Programming tended towards sports, music, variety, plays, and public speeches. Future President Herbert Clarke Hoover and Queen Mary of England also appeared on television in the late Twenties.

30line

Sample 1930 image

There were troubleshooting manuals, instructional guides, and how-to books for building one’s own television. In my second Russian historical, The Twelfth Time, Katrin’s husband Sandro assembles a television set during the annual summer-long vacation to a rented five-story cottage on Long Island in 1928. WRNY is the closest broadcasting station. The assembled viewers see a dancing puppet, followed by moving faces.

When the Konevs are quarantined on account of their children’s whooping cough some months later, Sandro sends over the materials for Ivan to assemble a television set for his own family. My Atlantic City characters, many of whom are rich, also have television sets during this era.

1931_Picture_goes_Blooey

The 1932 Jenkins Universal Receiver (which needed a TV set to go along with it) cost $79.50, and came with a set of eight matched DeForest tubes. It only provided “the sound and electrical signal to drive a separate R-400 display unit,” which “housed a motor-driven pinhole scanning disc and neon lamp.”

1932_Jenkins_Ad

A second universal television receiver from Jenkins was billed at $69.50 for the tubes and $13.45 for the tube equipment. Another 1932 television, from Hollis Baird, cost $39.50 for the entire get-up.

baird_ad

Early electronic televisions tended to be much more expensive, such as the $595 top-of-the-line model from Andrea. This beauty featured a phonograph and radio. Andrea’s cheapest sets started at $80.

andrea

DuMont models were $395 and $435. RCA went from $199.50–$600. Chicago’s Western Television Co.’s gorgeous 1929 model, with a 17-inch scanning disc (pictured below), cost $88.25 for the basic kit, another $20 for the actual cabinet, $85 for the companion receiver, and $20 for the consolette table. Also known as an echophone, between 250–300 were made, “probably more than any other mechanical set in the U.S.” At least 20 have been accounted for.

visionette-hd

Mechanical television ultimately failed because of the poor picture quality. Often the reception suffered from fading and ghosting, and only hobbyists and the rich had time for it. With early electronic TV, it was both the high price and the abrupt halt to the television industry caused by the war. However, injured GIs had TV in their hospitals.

rawls

Some other beautiful models I’d love to have:

dumont_180-hd

1939 DuMont 180. At least six are verified.

rca_60_line-hd

RCA 60-line, early Thirties. At least five are accounted for.

dumont_183-hd

1941, DuMont 183. At least five have been verified.

jenkins_jd30-hd

1932 Jenkins receiver kit. At least two have survived.

Baird_Televisior-hd

Model 26 Televisor, Baird receiver (1929–32, England). At least three have been accounted for.

Early Television Foundation and Museum
Television History
The Dawn of TV

Do you like antique TVs? Do you own any? Have you seen any in person? If you had one, would you attempt to restore it, or just use it for decoration?

RSW Tenth Update

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Behold, my gorgeous new rook piercing! Contrary to what the picture depicts, the gems are much bluer, and my third lobe is actually blue, not green. I handled my first-ever cartilage piercing like a boss.

Rook
RSW11

Ready. Set. Write! is a summer-long initiative hosted by Alison MillerKaty UppermanElodie NowodazkijJaime Morrow, and Erin Funk. Each week, participants post brief updates under five headings.

  • How I did on last week’s goal(s)

I took a detour and finished planning/plotting my fourth Russian historical. I began chapter-by-chapter notes in March, when I thought I’d be starting it for April Camp NaNo, but only planned nine chapters. I now have four and a half pages, 50 working chapters, and a stronger sense of the major storylines. For some reason, I completely forgot about the Korean War while plotting, even though three of my characters are in the Navy. Luckily, I found out there wasn’t a very big Naval role in the war anyway.

IMG_3807

I also began the cast of characters, table of contents, and glossary. For the glossary and cast list, it’s mostly copying and pasting from the Dark Forest file, though some character IDs change from book to book. For example, someone may now be a husband, not a mere love interest; someone may be introduced in a different capacity; or someone may have a different surname or nickname.

On my WIP, I did write about 2,000 words.

  • My goal(s) for this week

Go back to my WIP, now that I’ve done the bulk of preparing for my fourth Russian historical.

  • A favorite line from my story OR a word or phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised

This new character in the cast list, waiting patiently to be written into existence:

Dragomir Mechislavovich Obolenskiy, Vasilisa’s love interest and a prince by birth, born December 1919

Isn’t that just such a romantic Russian name? At first I only wanted to give Vasilisa (Ivan’s much-younger cousin, born January 1924) a husband with an older, less-common name like hers, but then I was moved to make him a real prince. Vasilisa’s father is a deposed prince himself, thus making Vasilisa a morganatic princess.

  • The biggest challenge I faced this week

Coming up with working titles for all 50 of the currently planned chapters. Some of them are just boring placeholders, like “Unchanged Situation” and “Another Strained School Year.” When I actually start writing it in November, I’ll be changing some of these dull working titles. Right now, not enough of them are inspired by song lyrics or literature, and don’t sound very serious or literary.

  • Something I love about my WIP

I do love some of the chapter titles I came up with, like “The Ivory Ceiling,” “The House of Kalvik Under Siege,” and “The Streets of the Future.” The lattermost title actually comes from the opening line in The Who’s “Why Did I Fall for That,” a song I rather dislike but thought would be appropriate inspiration given the era. The song prominently features the Doomsday Clock, which is at 3 minutes to midnight for most of the book.

Doomsday_Clock_graph.svg

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Since A Dream Deferred is set from 1948–52, and Katrin spends January–August 1950 in Japan, I’d like to use bomb-inspired titles for Parts I and II. I’m thinking Fission and Fallout, Hypocenter and Epicenter, Bright Light and Black Rain, or Pika (Flash) and Don (Boom). Any strong opinions on which are best? I think the Epilogue will be titled “Red Canna Flowers,” after the miraculous flowers which started blooming 10 days after Hiroshima was destroyed. These flowers represented hope and courage to the survivors, and helped them to heal and rebuild their lives.

Copyright Rexness from Melbourne, Australia; Source Cannas

I’ve also begun thinking I should change the name of Katrin’s husband from Sandros to Sandro, which thus means his real name would become Aleksander. (He’s Estonian, not Russian, so the name wouldn’t take the Russian spelling.) I think what happened when I created him in 1999 was that I subconsciously remembered Nicholas II’s brother-in-law Sandro, only I misremembered his name. Does Sandro or Sandros sound better to you? I can’t find any evidence of Sandros being used as a name or nickname outside of my own character, and I’m such a stickler for onomastic accuracy and outlier names being within the realm of plausibility.

Naina and Katya in North America (News Gothic)

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Font: News Gothic

Year created: 1908

Chapter: “Naina and Katya in North America”

Book: The Twelfth Time: Lyuba and Ivan on the Rocks

Written: 3-11 September 2011

Computer created on: 2008 15-inch MacBook Pro

File format: Word 2004

This is Chapter 29 of my second Russian historical novel, starring two of my favorite secondary characters. Since their introduction in December 1919, Yekaterina Karlovna Chernomyrdina and Naina Antonovna Yezhova have been among the principal orphanage girls. Now their particular story finally links up with the characters in New York. They got permission to leave the Soviet Union in late 1926, but decided to wait out the winter in Yalta. Sadly, they became separated from Naina’s younger cousin Karla on their train away from the orphanage.

In April 1927, they went to Bulgaria on the pretext of taking an approved cruise, and met up with a man who arranged for their passage to America with a dance troupe. At Ellis Island in June, they met Katrin’s husband Sandros, one of the immigration workers, and he took pity on them and sponsored them. At the time, he didn’t realize these were old friends of Lyuba’s youngest stepsisters. Over the summer, they vacationed with Lyuba’s friends and family on Coney Island and Long Island, till early September. Naina’s aunt Sonya was then contacted, and the girls began a new life in Toronto.

Some highlights:

They stand and gape when they see a woman with blonde hair cut as short as a man’s.  They’ve known bobbed hair is in fashion for women, but not that women in North America are allowed to get away with cutting it even shorter.  The second thing they notice is the woman with dark brown skin.  Neither of them has ever seen anyone with such dark skin before, except in pictures.  Naína represses the urge to wonder out loud if she and Kátya might be suffering from consumption, since their skin is so pale in comparison to the servant’s healthy dark skin.

“I can’t believe you have a real butler!” Naína says. “Just like in all the old British books!”

“The only other language we know is Ukrainian,” Kátya says. “But we’re not stupid.  We’ll work very hard to learn English.  Does your maid ever speak her African language?”

“You’re allowed to be sterilized in this country without a medical emergency?” Kátya asks. “This is like a science fiction story come to life!”

Naína and Kátya get up to gather shells with the children.  Lyuba doesn’t know whether to find it more refreshing to see teenagers doing an activity with children or depressing to see girls so old reacting to everything as though they’re children themselves.  They’re not even attempting to hide their delight at collecting shells, going on rides, swimming in the ocean, or building sandcastles for the very first time.  As upset as she is at being stuck in the city for so long, at least her own children are having a somewhat normal childhood and aren’t being deprived of simple joys and bombarded with political propaganda in a state-run orphanage.

***

Kátya and Naína drop their suitcases as soon as they’re shown into the room, putting Kárla’s little suitcase into the closet.  After throwing their travel clothes on the floor and pulling on their new nightgowns Katrin bought to replace their ugly orphanage-regulation ones, they climb into bed and look up at the stars through their window.

“It’s been a long way from Russia to Toronto,” Kátya says. “Perhaps somewhere out there, our Kárlochka is looking up at the same stars and being looked after by decent people.”

“Perhaps.  We found Sónya and our old friends the Lebedevas after so many years.  I guess some miracles aren’t supposed to happen overnight, since we might not appreciate them as much.”

Ellis Island (Euphemia)

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Font: Euphemia (wanted Edwardian Script, but it was too hard to read for an extended period, even in 30-point type)

Chapter: “Ellis Island”

Book: You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan

Written: Spring 1999 or 2000

Computer created on: It was a Mac that must’ve been made in ’96 or ’97, or a new ’99 one.

File format: Word98 (first and only time I wrote any chapters of my first Russian novel in Word!)

This is Chapter 22 of my first Russian historical novel, the first chapter of Part II, “America.” I had so much fun doing the research for this, because I’ve always been fascinated by the history of immigration to the United States, and Ellis Island. More recently, I went back and did some editing on this chapter, after finding out some new information (like how single women and unmarried couples weren’t allowed to leave alone, and how immigrants had to do puzzles to test their mental powers).

Our characters arrive on 3 May 1921, after having left from the port of Tallinn on 15 March. They were very lucky to get in, as restrictions on immigration began tightening that year. In early 1924, it became even more difficult for anyone from Eastern or Southern Europe to immigrate, thanks to all those racist, xenophobic laws. People from Asia couldn’t immigrate even with a miniscule quota (which was never even met in all those years it was on the books). America is made of immigrants, even the Native Americans themselves. These laws severely restricting certain races and ethnic groups from entering are one of the biggest black eyes in our nation’s history. Many people died because they weren’t allowed to leave dangerous situations, like Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia. Rant over.

Lyuba’s party traveled second-class, but they end up having to go through the processing station with steerage, instead of inspected right on the boat like they were promised. Along the way, there are a couple of problems, but eventually everyone is allowed to enter the mainland. I now realize that a large White Russian immigrant community was established uptown in Hamilton Heights, but I’m too used to having them in the Lower East Side to undertake significant rewriting to change the setting. I think the downtown setting works better for the storylines of the first two books than putting them uptown would anyway.

The chapter ends with Kat and Nikolas’s wedding and Nikolay’s baptism at the Kissing Post.

Some highlights:

“The Americans in government now are racists,” Katrin proclaims. “Don’t you remember what Pyotr said?  They’ll send back people with a little birthmark on their neck if it looks like it’s contagious.  I even heard they once sent an old woman back because one of her fingernails was black, even though it wasn’t from disease.”

“Does anybody here have relatives to take them in?” Katrin asks. “I also heard they routinely send people back if they don’t furnish proof of employment or family waiting for them.”

“Time to be checked out by customs,” Katrin’s young suitor tells them after the three hours are up. “Don’t say anything incriminating.  And be warned, single women aren’t allowed to leave the island without male escorts, and they don’t let unmarried couples leave together.”

Anastásiya screams as the eye doctor flips her eyelids back with a buttonhook.  Katrin begins to whimper when her turn comes up.  That indignity, however, is soon overtaken when various jigsaw puzzles are set before everyone.

“I’m twenty, not five,” Katrin huffs. “If you’re giving us these puzzles for us to pass our time, you could at least do to give us puzzles with a hundred or more pieces.”

Anastásiya has switched from crying to her old bad habit of biting her nails since she’s gotten discharged by the doctors.  She’s biting them harder and more desperately than ever before because she’s afraid of spending the night here, on Ellis Island, surrounded by strangers.

Lyuba watches with tears in her eyes as the priest marries Kat and Nikolás.  Kat is wearing a purple silk gown and holding a nosegay of flowers she’s bought from one of the vendors.  Nikolás is wearing the only suit in his possession.  Kittey stands by, wearing a pink velvet dress and holding a second nosegay, serving as the bridesmaid.  For the first time since the Revolution, everyone in the wedding party is able to take Communion.