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.
Swords to Ploughshares
Wednesday, December 21st – Airfield “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.
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.
“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.
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