WeWriWa—Saying goodbye


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 23-year-old departing soldier Yuriy suggested to his 18-year-old crush Inga that she might be a real American girl and have a returning soldier for a boyfriend by the time they meet again.

Inga said she only wanted her old family, and Yuriy tried to cheer her up by saying the pain of longing isn’t so bad as more time passes, and that after the war she could create her own family who’ll never leave her. He then holds out his hand for a farewell handshake.

“Can’t I hug you goodbye?  You deserve more than a handshake after you’ve been so nice to me.”

Yuriy smiles as he hugs her. “You’re such a sweet girl.  Just make sure not to be too sweet with the wrong kinds of people.  You have to be strong to survive in a new country.”

Inga stands at the door and watches him walking up the street, until she can’t see him anymore.  She was given a very nice friend, what some would call a guardian angel, bearing the same name as her belovèd dedushka, to get her started in America.  But he could only do so much, just as eventually a mother bird pushes a baby from the nest so it can fly.  Now it’s up to her to make good in America.

WeWriWa—Ice-cream parlor


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 few lines after last week’s, when 23-year-old Yuriy tended to his 18-year-old crush Inga’s injured knee one final time. They’re now on their way to get ice-cream before he has to get a train back to Canada.

This has been slightly edited to fit 10 lines.

Yuriy turns into the first ice-cream parlor that appears and finds a green corner booth that almost matches his uniform. He translates the menu for Inga, and she orders a sundae with chocolate ice-cream, hot fudge, cherries, and crushed candy bars, with an orange egg cream, while Yuriy orders a humbler strawberry ice-cream float.

“I’d ask you to kill some Nazis or Japs for me, but I can see you’re a medic,” the soda jerk says when she brings over the food. “Good luck with saving as many guys as you can.”

Inga lingers over her sundae and egg cream, not sure when she’ll next be able to splurge on a little luxury like this. Once they’re done, Yuriy leaves the money on the table and walks Inga home.

“You’ll be fine,” he reassures her. “You’ve got a new family who’s eager to take care of you, and some new friends. The language comes quicker than you think, if you’re constantly immersed in it. I bet you’ll be a real American girl by the time I come to visit again, and you might have a returning soldier for a boyfriend.”

WeWriWa—One final knee inspection

Happy heavenly 123rd birthday to my favorite actor, Rudolph Valentino!


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 23-year-old Canadian Army medic Yuriy gave his 18-year-old crush Inga an elephant charm and invited her to get ice-cream before he has to go to the depot at the end of furlough.

Yuriy also said he’d like to inspect her injured knee one last time.

“Sure, I’ll get ice-cream with you, but you’ll have to look at my knee downstairs.  My father left instructions about how to navigate the subway, so I won’t get lost.”

“I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not a big deal to look at your knee here.  No one’s looking in the window, and there’s nothing scandalous about sitting on a bed alone, if that’s all you do.  I’m nothing like my blood father.  I hope he dies in Siberia, if he’s not dead already.”

Inga sits down and looks away as she pulls her skirt over her knee.  Yuriy unwraps yesterday’s gauze, cleans out the healing wound, dusts it with a thin layer of ointment, and wraps it back up with fresh gauze.  As soon as he’s done, he stands back up, wishing Inga weren’t almost five and a half years his junior.  Were she only a few years older, he could ask for more, and keep that nice memory with him when he’s far from home.

WeWriWa—First gift


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, as 23-year-old Yuriy Yeltsin-Tsvetkov visits his 18-year-old crush Inga Savvina before his furlough ends. He’s just asked if she can write him letters with her fountain pen and stationary, instead of using a typewriter.

This has been slightly edited to fit 10 lines.

Yuriy opens his satchel and hands her a silver elephant charm. “I got this for you.  You can wear it on a chain for good luck.  Don’t feel bad you didn’t get me a going-away present, since I wasn’t expecting anything.”

Inga puts it on her pillow beside Dotnara. “That’s very nice of you.  I’ll take very good care of it.”

“Would you like to get some ice-cream before I go to the depot?  I hope you know how to get to my aunt’s store by two.  I’d also like to check on your knee one more time.”


Inga now works at the Russian gifts boutique run by Yuriy’s aunt Valya, her husband, and their three children. One of her duties is painting Matryoshka dolls. Yuriy suggested this job to her so she can stay close with his family.

Xanten, Germany

(This post is edited and greatly expanded from my 2014 A to Z post. It’s not a crime to plagiarise yourself!)

Reconstructed Roman gates, Copyright Andy1982

Xanten, Germany’s only town whose name starts with an X, is in North Rhine-Westphalia, and borders the Rhine on the north. It was settled by isolated tribes around 2000 BCE.

The Romans arrived around 15 BCE, creating a home base camp (Castra Vetera) for military campaigns against Germania. Eight to ten thousand legionnaires lived there until the Revolt of the Batavi in 69–70 CE.

Harbour Temple of the Xanten Archaeological Park, partly reconstructed, Copyright Magnus Manske

A new base camp, Castra Vetera II, sprang up, and a settlement created nearby, home to 10,000–15,000 legionnaires and civilians, gained colonia rights in 110 CE. The old settlement was completely destroyed to create the new one.

This colonia was the next-most important commercial post in the province of Germania Inferior (with Köln [Cologne] being #1). Sadly, it was almost destroyed by Germanic tribes in 275. In 310, a new town with better fortifications was created.

The Romans gave the area up in the early 5th century, after endless attacks by Germanic tribes.

Stadium ruins, Copyright Magnus Manske

In the 5th century, the Franks settled in Xanten, but since they didn’t build with stone like the Romans, only their graves remain as evidence.

In the second half of the 8th century, a church was built on the grounds of a Roman cemetery from the colonia days, and named Sanctos (super Rhenum). It was alternately called ad Sanctum. The etymology came from the believed grave of 4th century martyr Viktor of Xanten, and thus the town’s modern name was born.

After a convent was established, the city began to take on its German character.

St. Viktor Cathedral courtyard, Copyright Xantener

Cathedral façade, Copyright Joe North; Source

Northwest façade detail, Copyright Matthias Nonnenmacher

Xanten was besieged by Norsemen in the 9th century, but in 939, King Otto I defeated Saxons, Franconians, and Lotharingians at the nearby Battle of Birten. That year’s Battle of Andernach decisively brought the area into Otto’s kingdom.

Xanten received town rights on 15 July 1228, and in 1263, the foundation stone for its landmark St. Viktor Cathedral was laid. It was finally finished in 1544.

By the end of the 14th century, Xanten was protected by a town wall.

Siegfried Windmill, Copyright Magnus Manske

Due to crop failure and war, the population shrunk from 5,000 to 2,500 from the beginning of the 16th century to the end of the 18th. When the Rhine’s riverbed shifted away from Xanten, their robust economy as a trade town also suffered.

Things got worse when the river flooded several times. Then St. Viktor Convent was forcibly secularized by Napoléon in 1802, and the convent library and the libraries of several closed monasteries were merged.

The town walls and one of the gates were torn down in the 1820s, but further destruction of the town’s past was halted in 1843 by a town councilor. Further rescue came from archaeologists fascinated by the Roman ruins.

Copyright Ben Bender

Xanten had a Jewish community since the Middle Ages, when some of the residents were murdered by Crusaders. In 1891-2, the community was endangered again due to a blood libel against shochet (kosher butcher) Adolf Bischoff. The population was down to 30 by 1905. Following Kristallnacht (9 November 1938), what remained of the community fled.

85% of Xanten was destroyed during WWII.

Mörmter Cloister, Copyright Frank Vincentz

Xanten’s Archaeological Park is one of the largest open-air archaeological museums in the world, and Xanten Cathedral is said to be the largest cathedral between Köln and the sea. Other attractions include Xantener Sommerfestspiele (an esteemed classical music festival held for two weeks each summer); Xantener Montmartre (an art showcase drawing artists from worldwide); and an annual sandcastle contest.

Legend has it that Siegfried of Die Niebelungenleid was born in Xanten.

Klever Tor (Gate), Copyright Rainer Lippert

My character Yuriy Yeltsin-Tsvetkov is in Xanten with the Canadian Army at the end of WWII, and sees the heavily bomb-damaged cathedral as he walks through the newly-liberated town. In a nearby requisitioned house, he treats wounded soldiers.

In Xanten, Yuriy finds souvenirs to bring home to his family and penpal Inga, whom he’s secretly in love with. The gifts for Inga are a black fur jacket and malachite bracelet.

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