Swords to Ploughshares

My December WEP-IWSG Challenge post, using ‘The first time ever I saw your face’ prompt was missing what was outlined as Act 3. However, I felt I needed to write and post this next Part of my Ukraine stories as some kind of conclusion.

When do they become a saga?

Anyway, for those new to this ongoing creation, please note, this present day tale began with my World War II story Feathered Fire, which introduced the Chayka family from Ukraine and appeared in the 2020 IWSG Anthology (No. 5), Voyagers: The Third Ghost.

The current stories open with 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 June Challenge:     https://rolandclarke.com/2022/06/15/wep-iwsg-june-challenge-please-read-the-letter/

Part 3, Moonbeam Magic, for the WEP/IWSG August Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/08/17/wep-iwsg-august-challenge-moonlight-sonata/

Part 4, Winged Death, for the WEP/IWSG October Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/10/19/wep-iwsg-october-challenge-thriller/

Part 5, Soul Seeds, for the WEP/IWSG December Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/12/01/wep-iwsg-december-challenge-first-time-ever/

Blurb: Night Witches look to the Peace after the firestorm.

Part 6

Swords to Ploughshares


Wednesday, December 21stAirfield “Kalyniv” near the Polish border.

The headlights of six trucks sparkled on the drifts of snow beside the runway. Anzhela and Larisa slid open the main hanger doors.

When the vehicles had parked inside, the Chayka cousins climbed out and greeted the assembled squadron members.

“Our Canadian supporters send seasonal blessings and this first convoy from Poland,” said Kalyna. “The fundraising meetings raised 8 million Canadian dollars—”

Exclamations of surprise and joy erupted from the gathering.

“—with more promised,” added Vasy. “This first consignment includes urgent humanitarian and medical supplies for us and the local community.”

“And others?” asked Anzhela. “Like those in Eastern Ukraine?”

Vasy said, “All arranged and probably more. The Canadians were also concerned we could tackle extreme cold weather requirements. So, as well as thermal blankets and clothes, we’ve included portable generators and stoves.”

“Amazing raising so much,” said Kapitan Mariyka Shevchuk, leader of the newly created Green Wing. “We can now help so many more. If only we could do more to stop the almost daily rocket attacks.”

“When the Witches are at full strength,” said Kalyna. “Then Command will sanction more missions… especially with six more Hornets.”

Cheers greeted this news.

“Not new Hornets, but earlier models the Canadian Airforce were due to replace,” said Vasy. “They’ve also suppled equipment to repurpose our recovered jets, and for servicing all Hornets.”

Mariyka embraced her wing sisters.

“Maybe we’ll no longer be flying planes from other wings after our Christmas leave.”

“Correct Kapitan,” said Vasy. “Six of us will return with the Hornets after a five-week winter training course in Canada, starting January 9th.”

Green Wing saluted, then Mariyka said, “If anyone plans to be in Lviv on Christmas Eve, you are welcome to join my family and me for midnight mass at St George’s Cathedral.

A typical maple leafed CF-188 Hornet. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Phylyp

Thursday, December 22nd – Lviv Oblast

Her family were all waiting when Mariyka reached their restaurant.

Her mother hugged her. “I’m pleased you wore your uniform, vilunya. We’re so proud of you.”

“So brave too, Kapitan Shevchuk,” said her sister. “Whenever a fighter jet flies low and fast…” She gazed up, then glanced behind. “You remember Tomas, your nephew… he’s staying with us.”

Mariyka remembered… his father had volunteered… and been killed in defending Slovyansk. Tomas had moved to Lviv with his mother, who now helped cook… when there were customers. Eating by candlelight might be romantic, but evading air raids was still a danger at night.

Tomas was watching her from beside his mother. “Papa wore a uniform too. He made me a gun to fight evil Russians.”

“I keep telling my son there are good Russians.”  

Mariyka nodded, remembering Larisa Kovalyov.

“Please can you make me a plane?”

 “I’m not as clever as your papa was, but I can try.”

Her mother waved her over. “One of the POWs at the local camp might make toys.”


Wearing her uniform for courage, Mariyka approached the camp commander, asking if there was a woodworker able to make a toy plane.

“I might have a true craftsman. He’s also a model POW, so I’d be less worried about him making a war toy.”

“That was my concern too. I worry what examples we’re sowing.”

Minutes later, a guard escorted her over to a shed where a man was working a candlestick holder on a lathe.

He turned and stood, removing protective goggles.

He was tall and strong, but it was the sun rising in his amber eyes which melted her.

“I’m Sergei,” he stammered.

She stumbled over her name and what she wanted.

“A wooden jet,” he repeated. “I’m impressed at you women flyers. Our men don’t even dare fly at night.”

A tremor shot through her. Had he heard about the Witches?

Does he fear us?

Time passed in a blissful sharing of dreams and hope. He suggested a better toy. Admitted his opposition to the war, and his immediate surrender when given the chance.

He finished polishing the candlestick holder, and she bought it with some others.

Pillar Candle Holders

“Can the toy be ready in two days – or is that too soon?

“For you anything.”

“Are you allowed to come to midnight mass?”

“I was Russian Orthodox… until Patriarch Krill called this a ‘Holy War’. For you, I will come.”

Saturday, December 24th – St. George’s Cathedral, Lviv

Mariyka and her family waited in the darkness for her squadron sisters. Other families were huddled round candles or torches, gathering for midnight mass on this most holy eve.

Slowly, people went inside, past the stone images of Pope St. Leo and St. Athanasius guarding the portal

Mariyka glanced upwards into the frigid night sky. Would the enemy attack on this night Ukraine defenses might be focused elsewhere? Overcast skies kept the air force grounded and ground batteries blind.

Her eyes settled on the cathedral’s peak and the silhouette of St George fighting evil as a fearsome monster. Putin? He would lose against the followers of St George.

St George’s Cathedral, Lviv — façade: mounted statue of St. George, piercing a dragon with a spear, two statues st. Leo and st. Athanasius, a symbol of the unity of the Church.
Taken from pl:Grafika:SoborSwJuraLwow2.jpg by pl:Wikipedysta:Stako

Then, many of her sisters, all in uniform, climbed the steps and came alongside the balustrade towards her.

“Everyone wanted to attend,” said Anzhela. “But Kalyna and Vasy insisted on remaining with a few volunteers. But they send greetings and blessings.

Mariyka had just finished introductions, when some Ukrainian guards appeared, escorting four Russian prisoners.

Sergei strode up to her and saluted.

“Kapitan Mariyka Shevchuk, it is a pleasure to see you again—” He paused and despite the cold, blushed, then said in Ukrainian, “Solnyshko moi.”

As her sisters giggled, she said, “Lyubimyy, I missed you, but I am honored you came. May I introduce my family and friends.”

 She turned to find Anzhela’s partner Larisa in tears. Then Larisa threw her arms around Sergei.

“We feared you might be dead, dearest cousin. And then Mariyka finds you and falls in love. How?”

“A miracle arising from a gift I need to give… please solnyshko moi.”

Mariyka took his hand and introduced her nephew. Sergei bowed to Tomas, handing him a wrapped present.

“My apologies, but this humble carpenter crafted what I felt you needed.”

Tomas unwrapped the wooden toy. A tractor painted blue and yellow.

“Thank you, kind Russian. This is wonderful. Now I can pull dead tanks away… and feed people.”

The bells for Midnight mass rang.

Marika allowed Sergei to take her arm and follow everyone inside.

Anzhela took Larisa’s arm. “Peace works best through relationships like ours”

1,074 words FCA

As the terrible war in Ukraine may continue for months, my stories won’t end here, especially since this new romance must thrive.

In fact, my restless brain has outlined another episode. There’s a clue above to the opening event in the New Year. All I need is a WEP/IWSG Challenge prompt to weave into it

With my mind part focused on Ukraine, I have found a highly recommended book – my next Audible listen: https://www.boldwoodbooks.com/book/memory-keeper-of-kyiv/

I am also giving copies of You Don’t Know What War Is: The Diary of a Young Girl From Ukraine by Yeva Skalietska to family members with kids. This Guardian review explains more about the diary: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/nov/22/you-dont-know-what-war-is-by-yeva-skalietska-review-ukrainian-child-poignant-diary

Slava Ukrayini

#IWSG – Holiday Writing

This month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post might be a mite rushed, but not because of the holidays… well not directly.

Rather, I’m still working on my December WEP-IWSG Challenge, which, although part of my ongoing Ukraine story, this month has a holiday element and is set during the festive season.

However, I have posted Acts 2 & 3, and I’m now writing Act 3 – Swords to Ploughshares – to give a more upbeat closure to my story, which closes on Christmas Eve.

I will probably write more as the end to this disastrous war remains uncertain.

As for me, I am still attempting to concentrate on the key tasks… my second chance.

To focus on family and writing… on leaving that loving legacy.

My Snowdonia police procedural will be finished, although I fear getting my desktop installed looks unlikely this year. After six months, it’s no longer a priority for others amidst their real-life emergencies.

So, my New Year resolution is to re-start my revision of ‘Fevered Fuse’ afresh.


Every month, IWSG announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Remember, the question is optional!

December 7 question – It’s holiday time! Are the holidays a time to catch up or fall behind on writer goals?

If the question is general, I would guess for many writers the holidays cut into their writing time. Celebrations and family time come first.

For me, this has been the norm for many years, even when I was retired.

However, ill-health has given me an excuse to leave gatherings early… so, slip away and write… or sleep for hours.

Now I’m bed-bound, gatherings are different. The family hold them in our trailer park’s clubhouse. In theory, if a few people were able to transfer me from bed to powered wheelchair, then I could drive to the gathering.

But so far, for a step-granddaughter’s first birthday and Thanksgiving, I haven’t braved the cold nor the noise. Instead, most of the family have dropped round afterwards. Thus, good to see them, and more writing/sleeping time… plus, less noise… and warmer.  

On Monday, I was intending to celebrate St Nicholas Eve, but arrangements went awry.

An icon of St. Nicholas painted in 1294 for a Russian Orthodox church on Lipno Island in northwestern Russia. Public Domain

First though, I’m not Catholic, but my maternal grandmother was, and my mother was High Church Anglican, we observed a few more feast days. I have a memory of celebrating St Nicholas Eve as a child, especially when we had two Austrian servants (Anna & Anton).Of course, Santa Claus is real as the spirit of St Nicholas lives on… or should.

 Our original plans this year were derailed by a mix of menu indecision, other priorities, and then family sickness. Thus, we plan with a few select family and friends to celebrate the Feast of St Nicholas on December 19th, the day Christians who follow the Julian calendar, as some Eastern Orthodox do.

Krampus is alerted and available.  

The awesome co-hosts for the December 7 posting of the IWSG are Joylene Nowell Butler, Chemist Ken, Natalie Aguirre, Nancy Gideon, and Cathrina Constantine!

Finally, don’t forget to visit more active writers via the IWSG site:

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

#WEP/IWSG December Challenge – First Time Ever

As the war in Ukraine continues, so must my tale of two Canadian-Ukrainian pilot cousins unfold to merge reality and inspiration from the WEP/IWSG bi-monthly challenges.

However, my ability to write cannot keep pace with reality. I had outlined a three-act story, but as I wrote it, slowly… while struggling to stay awake – like now – I realized the length would be unacceptable.

So, I dropped Act 3, the promised Swords to Ploughshares scenes. It’s still too long, but my editing brain is frazzled – apologies. But Act 3 is not abandoned, and since it gives a positive conclusion to my Ukraine tales, I will post it in a few days.

As for the horrific war, a just peace is likely months off. Thus, my characters’ trials haven’t ended, so, I may have to write more… if I can prevail.

That depends on my health and the overdue revision of Sparkle Anwyl novel ‘Fevered Fuse’. I’d be remiss if I abandoned my Snowdon Shadows mysteries.

Anyway, on to the Challenge. Please note, this present day tale began with my World War II story Feathered Fire, which introduced the Chayka family from Ukraine and appeared in the 2020 IWSG Anthology (No. 5), Voyagers: The Third Ghost.

The current stories open with 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 June Challenge:     https://rolandclarke.com/2022/06/15/wep-iwsg-june-challenge-please-read-the-letter/

Part 3, Moonbeam Magic, for the WEP/IWSG August Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/08/17/wep-iwsg-august-challenge-moonlight-sonata/

Part 4, Winged Death, for the WEP/IWSG October Challenge: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/10/19/wep-iwsg-october-challenge-thriller/

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: Night Witches commit to soul mates in the season of what should mean Peace.

Part 5

Soul Seeds


Saturday, November 26thAirfield “Kalyniv” near the Polish border.

As her ground crew maneuvered the Gripen C into its shielded revetment, Anzhela Havrylyuk tried to ignore the mischievous glances of her partner Larisa Kovalyov.

Shouldn’t she behave now she’d been promoted to Kapitan and given command of Gold Wing?

Yet, everyone knew how intimate they were.

Larisa nodded to her crew mates, then sidled up to Anzhela, snaking arms around her.

“It’s been too long, lastachka.”

“One lonely night apart, myshka, while we moved back here.”

The embrace became a passionate kiss, broken when the Chayka majors approached.

“Sorry to interrupt your reunion,” said Vasy. “We have an urgent request, Kapitan.”

“We need you to take command of this squadron,” said Kalyna. “Temporarily… while Vasy and I are in Canada raising support for Ukraine.”

Anzhela gulped at the responsibility… the expectations. Air Force command no longer saw the Night Witches as an effective squadron after the high casualties during the Kharkiv offensive.

Six… including her wing leader and friend Ksenia Zelenko. Killed saving her.

“You are the best person to guide the sisters through this rebuilding,” said Vasy, putting a reassuring arm across her shoulders. “Our seven recruits will be in good hands.”

“Ignore any male prejudice, which questions the Witches’ ability to train new pilots,” added Kalyna. “We were given the most dangerous night missions… and still succeeded.”

Anzhela saluted, saying, “I’m honored you entrust the squadron to my care. I feel this winter will see us all demonstrate our effectiveness. When are you leaving?”

“Tomorrow morning, we drive across the border to Rzeszów,: said Kalyna. “There we join the fifty-three refugees we are helping join families in Canada. On Tuesday, our whole group flies from Kraków via London to Calgary—”

“Our full itinerary and contact details will be posted in the office,” added Vasy. “Plus, a duplicate in the shelter… in case a stray Russian missile deletes our records.”

“As long as it spares our canteen this time,” added Larisa. “Doesn’t a squadron fly better well fed?”


“The first time ever I saw your face,” said Anzhela, as she traced her lover’s nose, “I thought the sun rose in your eyes.”

“A lifetime ago,” replied Larisa. “Yet still, the moon and stars rise in yours. But if you weren’t studying in Kharkiv when my cousin Sergei was exploring clubs there, he’d never have introduced us.”

“And my life would have been dark. Now we share endless skies, my love.”

The couple embraced, letting the moon play across their snuggled bodies, as it shone through ice-frosted glass.

“Where is Sergei now?”

Larisa wiped tearful eyes. “I read on Telegram he was arrested for protesting mobilization and sent to the front.”

Anzhela shook her head. “That’s so wrong. He’s not a soldier.” She clasped her hands to her head. “I can’t kill him. I’ve already blood on my hands. Why can’t it be Putin’s.”


Monday, December 19th – Chayka Air, Cold Lake, Canada

The main hanger was transformed for this crucial fundraising event. Photos from Ukraine, from proud defenders to precious land, lined the walls. Among them the Night Witches, their jets, and ground staff. If supporters wondered where their aid was going, here was a photographic record.

Above was the Polikarpov U-2 flown to freedom by the Chayka sisters in 1944 – the iconic biplane of the original Night Witches.

Kalyna turned to her husband Leonid Sokol, saying, “Our eldest Aliona has excelled herself organizing tonight’s fundraiser.”

“I said she had your PR talent. Expect to raise another million tonight.”

From a dais at one side, Aliona addressed the gathering.

“Before we eat a traditional Ukrainian meal, I would like you to watch a documentary about the Russian Invasion and our reborn Night Witches – Nochnyye Vedmy.”

Even though she’d been in Ukraine since early March, and seen the team making the film, Kalyna was always moved reliving events and seeing departed sisters… like Ksenia. Looking at the guests, she knew the documentary touched them too.

After it concluded, Aliona said, “While you’re enjoying your meal, study the sheet on your table listing the items Ukraine need this winter. Many like warm gloves are things we take for granted as Canadians, when winter temperatures fall as low over there.”

She paused, and everyone looked at their lists.

“Now consider what you can spare this holiday season to donate to their struggle for their freedom… for ours. Whether it’s money for blankets or a jet, no sacrifice goes unseen. We thank you.”

The Cold Lake Garrison Commander opposite Kalyna leant forwards. “Major Chayka, as you’re serving with the Ukrainian Air Force, I must ask a question before I give my speech. By my count your squadron is five jets short if every trainee qualifies—”

“—and all six recovered wrecks become spare parts. Correct. The UAF who insists on giving us dangerous night missions wont supply new planes, even MiGs.”

“Do you prefer Hornets or Gripens?”

“Gripens suit Ukraine’s situation best. But it’s unlikely Sweden will give us more unless that gives them an advantage over Russia.’’

“Okay. I can work with that for now.”

The commander then talked with his deputy, while studying the donation list.

“Yoi made a good impression on him, lyuba,” said Leonid. ”As you did with me… in a different way, the first time ever I kissed your mouth. As I felt the earth move in my hand.”

He held her close, ignoring others. Kissing her deeply.

“And your trembling heart was there at my command, yagudka.”


As coffee was served, Aliona welcomed the Cold Lake Garrison Commander to speak.

He expressed his pride at being amongst so many brave people, especially the refugees, and those who were helping them settle in Canada.

He praised the documentary, adding, “All those associated with what Chayka Air are doing for Ukraine deserve gratitude. However, we all know more is needed.

“Please, give generously… as I and my fellow officers here will be doing, We can’t donate fighter jets, but we can ensure the Canadian Armed Forces pledges to fill the shortfall of the Night Witches squadron. Slava Ukrayini.”

Everyone clapped, then repeated the battle cry.

The commander approached Vasy and her husband Marko.

“Major and Mr Holub, may I join you, please?”

“Of course,” said Vasy. “We welcome whatever CAF can provide. Can they really fill our shortfall this winter?”

“When I report what you’ve achieved, Hornets will be found. CAF has been pledged to helping Ukraine since 2014… not just in military aid, but also humanitarian. Your help mirrors that and continues to.”

“We have to,” said Marko. “The war will end with our victory. But the recovery will be traumatic and long.”

“Have you made plans beyond the peace?”

“The immediate medical needs,” said Vasy. “More accessible health services for survivors, especially of sexual-based violence. As an all-women squadron we’ve learnt a lot about what remains buried.”

“The commander stood and exchanged salutes with Vasy, then joined his fellow officers.

Marko kissed his wife, long and tearfully.

“I don’t ever want to let you go… not now, not the first time I saw your face.:

“Nor I. The first time ever I felt your heart so close to mine and knew our joy would fill the earth.”

“And would last ’til the end of time, moya dusha.”

1229 words FCA

Slava Ukrayini

As promised I wrote Act 3 after posting this Flash. Link to next Part: