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.
Saturday, November 26th – Airfield “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
As promised I wrote Act 3 after posting this Flash. Link to next Part: