As the war in Ukraine continues, so will my tale of two Canadian-Ukrainian aviatrix cousins unfold to merge reality and inspiration from the WEP/IWSG bi-monthly challenges.
Once again Putin provided the grist – his clampdown on gay rights banning at the end of June “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.”
Wasn’t Beethoven unable to marry Countess Guicciardi due to the strict social conventions at the time? Not the same but… echoes/ripples. Social conventions evolve but never let up.
On the war front, I had to address the shortage of Ukrainian fighter jets and the consequences. My solution might be fictional, but mirrors what is happening.
The ending is intentionally jarring, and a foreshadowing of October’s thrilling prompt.
On the life front: Although we moved into our new mobile home in June, we are not settled in yet. My stepson, his partner and baby are still with us. Finally, their brand new mobile home is ready – two months late. So, they’ve begun moving stuff over, but it may be next week before we can make use of two more rooms. The plan is for my wife to sleep in one and have her office in the other.
I will stay in the master but move from my wheelchair into a new hospital bed. It will be far better for me and my care team, as will a new wheelchair they’ve arranged – a swop for my dead machines. Also, my brother was over briefly from the UK to help, mainly with funding. Also, he suggested putting my desktop in the office and linking it to my laptop I can use in bed.
Anyway, on to the Challenge. Please note, this present day tale follows on from my World War II story Feathered Fire, which featured in the 2020 IWSG Anthology (No. 5), Voyagers: The Third Ghost.
Part 1, Rainbow Firebreak, for the WEP/IWSG April Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/04/20/wep-iwsg-april-challenge-a-hard-rains-a-gonna-fall/.
Part 2, Winged Woes, for the WEP/IWSG Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/06/15/wep-iwsg-june-challenge-please-read-the-letter/
Apologies if I’m slow to respond to comments or struggle to visit all your posts after re-connection to the internet.
Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via:
Blurb: As relationships are rekindled, an all-women squadron reforms in Ukraine
Friday, July 1st – Kulbakino Airbase, Mykolaiv Oblast, Ukraine.
Kalyna counted the jets landing after their daily patrol of Ukrainian airspace. She noted the most experienced male flyers deplane, then stride towards the debriefing room.
“When will they let women fly again?” asked Vasy. “Are we on guard duty indefinitely?”
“The men get the choice missions,” responded Ksenia. “We might get a tough night mission…”
Assessing the squadron’s serviceable jets, Kalyna added, “when we get more planes. We have keen pilots joining the unit every month.”
Three young women approached, armed with assault rifles.
“Perimeter secure and guard changed as ordered, Major Zelenko,” said one of the trio, a wiry brunette.
Anzhela Havrylyuk was a recent recruit with flying experience at Motor Sich Airlines in south-eastern Ukraine.
She remained, hands clasped, nodding to her colleagues to leave.
“Majors… I need your advice… but it’s difficult—”
“Relax. We’re friends first… and women. Then officers,” said Ksenia. “What’s the problem?”
“My identity. I was born speaking Russian first… but here in Ukraine. I naively believed Putin wanted the best…” She stared at the three older women, then dropped her head.
“Continue,” said Vasy. “We guessed and understand. But everything changed, so you volunteered.”
“Yes. The invasion was not as expected… and the wanton destruction isn’t liberation. Now Putin expects us to renounce our citizenship… and become Russian—” The next words were lost as a whisper.
“Take your time if there’s more.”
Tears formed as she said, “My Russian friend. Larisa… Larisa Kovalyov has disappeared… in Moscow… after Putin banned the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.” But our son…”
As the moon rose over the airfield. The friends understood. Then hugged their distraught sister.
Friday, July 22nd – Airfield “Kalyniv” near the Polish border.
Moonbeams flickered on the wingtips of the three CF-18A Hornets as they landed at the repurposed airfield in Western Ukraine – the Night Witches’ new home.
Once the jets had taxied onto the grass near the hangers, their pilots jumped down, then ran to embrace the cousins.
“How was the flight from Cold Lake?” Vasy asked Chayka Air’s lead instructor. “Any problems crossing foreign airspace?”
The woman smiled. “No problems. Total approval for this unofficial scheme. With the US dragging its feet, a private Canadian solution was necessary and welcome.”
“We knew the Chayka team would make everything work,” said Kalyna. “Are the others coming via Sweden as planned?”
“With the three Gripen Cs we acquired when the RCAF chose other replacements. Hopefully our colleagues get the armaments our trio require.”
“Will the Swedish Airforce send more Gripens?” asked Ksenia. “I’ve heard the Gripens can operate from every rough field we find—”
“–and be rearmed, serviced and refueled in 10-20 minutes by 5 untrained volunteer mechanics and a single trained crew chief,” added Chayka’s deputy mechanic. “Wasn’t that why I was coerced into this… and my Ukrainian heritage.”
“It’s why we’re all here… and why the millions of Canadian dollars raised for the Night Witches revival was possible.”
The six Ukrainian recruits stood beside the three Canadian jets they would fly soon.
The third Canadian aviatrix added, “We painted the planes midnight blue for night missions… presuming that’s best for witch magic.”
Saturday, July 23rd – Airfield “Kalyniv” near the Polish border.
Anzhela sat beside the meandering upper reaches of the Dniester River, watching the sun set to the west and praying her partner Larisa and their son Maks were safe somewhere.
“Travel safe my loves wherever the just path leads. We’ll make the zealots run.”
“Zealots are creating difficulties everywhere,” said Kalyna approaching from the base to the north. “There may be news soon. We’re expecting a truck from Poland tonight, bringing supplies and messages from abroad.”
As dusk fell, they reached the edge of the airfield. Headlights glistened on the tarmac and six military vehicles approached, guarded by an armored personnel carrier. The lead truck pulled up. The driver grinned as he saw Kalyna.
“I felt my wife would forgive me coming this far if I had gifts… like Polish alcohol, food, us-time and—”
“—perfect… as long as you have something for my friend Anzhela… plus, our munitions.”
“Of course, in the back with Vasy’s husband Marko.”
Anzhela slowly walked to the rear of the truck, where Larisa and Maks hugged and kissed her.
Beaming, she said, “So soon… how?”
“Others fleeing Putin’s clampdown… and they want to help.”
“Of course. I’m sure the majors will be pleased… welcome friends.”
Volunteers and crew unloaded the vehicles, while the armored personnel carrier patrolled the perimeter.
“No more foot patrols,” said Anzhela. “I won’t miss those.”
The sound of jet engines made everyone turn to watch three Gripen Cs clear the trees washed by the moonlight.
“But I’d love to fly one of those Swedish beauties, Larisa.”
Sunday, July 24th – Airfield “Kalyniv” near the Polish border.
Before dawn, the aircrew were gathered in the main hanger, where Chayka Air’s deputy mechanic was briefing the ground crew.
“…the Gripen is NATO compatible with weapons and avionics. It uses its own and link-16 datalink.”
“When the Gripen E is supplied to the Swedish Air Force, will they send us more Gripens?” asked Ksenia.
“We don’t know that yet,” replied Kalyna. “But they sent spare parts and munitions. They’ll monitor our progress.”
“Which jets will we train on, please?” asked a recruit.
“All of you will eventually fly all three models,” said Ksenia. “We’ll form three wings rotating planes. Maybe we’ll receive more to master. For now, it’s three MiG-29s. three Hornets, and three Gripens.”
”The wings are as follows,” said Vasy. “Gold: Ksenia Zelenko, Anzhela Havrylyuk. Mariyka Shevchuk. Blue: Vasy Chayka, Dariya Kravchenko, Tamila Medved. Red: Kalyna Chayka, Olha Tkachuk, Raisa Bondarenko.”
Saturday, July 30th – Airfield “Kalyniv” near the Polish border.
Clouds covered the moon, and a chill gripped Ksenia. Were any of the Ukrainian prisoners killed in Russia’s massacre at Olenivka captured at the Azovstal steel mill?
1,000 words FCA