#WEP/IWSG April Challenge – A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

I decided on the theme of my entry for this month’s WEP/IWSG Challenge over 50 dreadful days ago, and before I checked the apocalyptic song lyrics.

Putin had invaded Ukraine a few days earlier, and I had already researched tyranny in that country for my World War II story Feathered Fire, which featured in the 2020 IWSG Anthology (No. 5), Voyagers: The Third Ghost.

Readers had wanted to know what happened to the Ukrainian sisters, Vasy and Kalyna Chayka, whom I had also built an emotional bond with. So, Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall inspired my brief sequel Rainbow Firebreak, which I hope echoes the idiosyncratic protest song and pays tribute to the ongoing bravery of the Ukrainian people.

More on the invasion of Ukraine below my flash piece.

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BLURB:

Two cousins echo deeds of their grandmothers by resisting tyranny in Ukraine.

Rainbow Firebreak

2022

Saturday, February 26th – Cold Lake, Alberta

Vasy Holub glanced at her cousin Kalyna Sokol. The decision was easy, but they must convince their families.

“We called you here to say we’re travelling to Ukraine. We must assist our besieged homeland whatever our age.”

Kalyna’s oldest son stepped forward. “Then, I’m coming. I’ve graduated so I’m old enough to fight.”

“And die, stupid,” said Vasy’s pre-teen daughter. “It’s a death sentence, mama. Okay, we’ve Ukrainian ancestry, but Canada is our country… since the old Cheyka sisters escaped here decades ago.”

“Show respect, lyuba. Baba Chayka was twelve when she and her older sister fought the Nazis in the Second World War as Nochnyye Vedmy—”

“—and escaped the Stalinist butchers who murdered their parents,” added Kalyna. “They fought for everyone and Ukraine. As their namesakes, Vasy and I will return for us all.”

Her father silenced everyone, then spoke. “You expect us to do nothing. What if I offer my legal skills? And why aren’t your husbands here?”

“They were as shocked as us when Putin launched his invasion on Thursday. They too have relatives and friends there, tato. But they’re assisting with our plans—”

“Remember our grandmothers,” added Vasy. “My baba wrote in her memoir: ‘We lurked in the middle of seven sad forests to avenge our people’. Now it’s our turn. But we need your support. Someone must keep this business running.”

Her mother smiled and nodded. “We will help you prepare, lyuba.”

Wednesday, March 2nd – Przemyśl, Poland

As the packed train drew into the station, Kalyna peered into carriages for familiar faces. The doors opened disgorging a confused crush of refugees from Ukraine.

“Did they catch this one?” asked Vasy. “This is the third without them… unless we missed meeting in the throng.”

“It’s a long journey from Kharkiv… across a country many women and children are fleeing, while the men arm themselves to defend freedom.”

A haggard figure with three kids threw her arms around Kalyna.

“You came as promised. I am so grateful.”

“It’s nothing. Your husband’s grandmother, Galina Sokol helped ours escape Stalin. Did you travel alone? Friends?”

“They went to Warsaw… those who didn’t stay to fight like my husband and father.”

The cousins led Kalyna’s Sokol relatives to their hire car, passing over the keys, and documents to get them to Canada.

“Someone will be at Edmonton airport to meet you. We’re going to Lviv to volunteer—”

“I can’t stop you, but a warning – of the nightmare. Our apartment building was gutted… people were killed. I saw a blackened tree with blood that kept dripping.”

The cousins were undeterred. “Despite the growing brutality, we’re determined to aid our suffering homeland.”

LVIV. A child waits on the train to Poland at the central train station. Many people are heading west in anticipation of Russia’s military renewing attacks in the east
Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Ukraine

Sunday, March 6th – Lviv

The recruitment officer stared at the cousins as they approached.

“Wrong building to volunteer for humanitarian work. We only take experienced combat veterans. Sorry.”

They chuckled and handed him the papers from the Ukrainian Defence Attache in Canada.

“We were both majors in the Royal Canadian Air Force at Cold Lake flying Hornets.”

He checked their enlistment details.

“Apologies. Impressive – like your mastery of our language.”

“We’re Canadian-Ukrainians, but learnt both dialects as we grew up.”

“Excuse me asking: why flying?”

“It’s in our blood and when we were kids—”

“—we heard the sound of thunder, then saw our first low flying jet fighter. It roared out a warning and a challenge.”

The officer smiled, then shook their hands.

“I’m afraid our forces may be brave, but not as well-equipped as yours.”

“It’s the skill that matters,” said Vasy. “We saw how brilliant your pilots are when we were guests at Clear Sky 2018 hosted by Starokostiantyniv air base.”

The officer closed his eyes.

“The invaders claim they disabled Starokostiantyniv this morning. Where these deployment papers lead you is unclear. Why use the names Kalyna  and Vasy Chayka?”

 Burned buildings marked with bullets holes and shrapnel fragments show the evidence of a brutal battle that occurred in Borodyanka. Photograph: Matthew Hatcher/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

Thursday, March 10th

Trekking east, the cousins were horrified by the devastation. They were relieved to reach a temporary forest base, which used a stretch of road as a runway. Jets were hidden under the trees, echoing WW2 tactics, backed up by anti-surveillance electronics.

The smell of borscht was welcoming as the commander led them to meet tired crews.

“Endless sorties and evading the enemy takes its toll. Fresh pilots are welcome, especially if you are familiar with our jets.”

“We’ve both flown a MIG-29 and an Su-27, since we left the RCAF,” replied Kalyna. “Our air display team has one of each.”

“And we flew against an Su-27 during a Maple Flag exercise at Cold Lake,” added Vasy.

The commander gestured at a female pilot, a few years younger than them. “Perhaps it was Kapitan Ksenia Zelenko – one of our finest”.

The blond aviatrix saluted as she stood, then relaxed.

“An invaluable experience, although I never imagined I’d fly with you again. Together we will drive out these invaders.”

An honour to serve our grandmothers’ homeland—”

Ksenia glanced between them, then produced a black and white photo of women pilots posed by a biplane.

“That one was my mother’s babushka. As a young girl growing up, her example was like a rainbow revelation.”

Kalyna studied the group, then pointed. “And that’s mine.”

Commander Evdokiya Bershanskaya gives a briefing to her “Witches”. (Archives Vlad Monster, http://www.ava.org.ru)

https://www.gracpiacenza.com/night_witches_eng.html

Wednesday, March 16th

As darkness enveloped the base, the  shrouded lights on the runway glowed. The Ukrainian counter-offensive to drive the neo-Stalinists back was about to begin.

“Your targets tonight: six artillery systems blasting Kyiv indiscriminately. Make them pay.”

Ksenia led the trio to their ebony-painted Su-27s.

Nochnyye Vedmy reborn.The night witches will wreak terror again.” 

“May our grandmothers be with us,” said Kalyna.

“We’ll fly to the depths of the deepest black forests to stop tyranny engulfing our world.”

A Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-27 lifts off at a 2017 airshow in the U.K. The Su-27 is Ukraine’s long arm, an offensive fighter with great range and the capacity to carry nearly 10,000 pounds of bombs, rockets, and missiles.
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/air-space-magazine/fighter-jet-fights-both-sides-180975834/

958 words FCA

Unlike the February Challenge where I had the song playing in the closing scene, or in 2021’s Year of the Art with pictures/replicas in the flash, my approach above was different. Does it work? Was it noticeable? Too obscure or blatant?

A clue…

A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Hard_Rain%27s_a-Gonna_Fall

Invasion of Ukraine

#StandWithUkraine

Events have moved on since the date when my flash ends, and it’s been difficult to write this over the two months since I started and since Putin unleashed his terror with horrific war crimes emerging every day. I keep the live update from The Guardian open on my PC, but feel powerless – beyond donating to Medecins Sans Frontieres: https://www.msf.org/

How this terrible crisis ends is hard to foresee, especially with the daily threat of escalation as Ukrainians find the will to resist.

The war also became more real through a game I’ve played for over a year. Its developers are in Ukraine, and one of their team, a regular on social media, gave a disturbing interview after fleeing Eastern Ukraine. Despite the ongoing destruction of their country, the team refuses to give up, if not fighting, then managing to update the game regularly.

On a different note, a musician I know (from my equestrian days), David Gilmore has colleagues over there, plus a Ukrainian daughter-in-law. Disturbed by the Russian invasion, he has released a new Pink Floyd single Hey Hey, Rise Up!, with proceeds going to Ukrainian humanitarian relief. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2022/apr/07/pink-floyd-reform-to-support-ukraine

Pink Floyd – Hey Hey Rise Up (feat. Andriy Khlyvnyuk of Boombox)

I’m resisting adding more rabbit warrens I explored – like the Royal Canadian Air Force or fire rainbows. Maybe if you ask in a comment.

For now, I will close with this article, which demonstrates what some Canadian veterans have been doing: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/17/canada-veteran-evacuating-ukrainian-kids-cancer Other veterans, like Vasy and Kalyna, have gone to fight, for instance as part of the Canadian-Ukrainian Brigade: https://nationalpost.com/news/world/exclusive-so-many-canadian-fighters-in-ukraine-they-have-their-own-battalion-source-says

Photo: A Ukrainian flag flies in a damaged residential area in the city of Borodianka, northwest of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. Photograph: Sergei Chuzavkov/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

R for Rurikid Diarchy

My 2020 Blogging from A to Z Challenge revisits my best posts from the 2014 to 2019 Challenges.

R for Rurikid Diarchy 1933 (2017)

Time for another shift in world history.

And all because I couldn’t stop constructing my Kanata alternative history. The initial trigger, Leif Eriksson’s permanent colonisation of Vinland, inspired me to rewrite other key episodes in history. I wanted the legacy forged from Vikings merging with the indigenous people to ripple down time. Kanata evolved into my vision of a 21st Century Viking Age.

Anyway, this one has deep roots as well as great ripples. Before the ‘our timeline’ revelation, will you recognise all the real historical events echoed here? I threw my whole set of spanners into this period. Amusing? Believably or fantasy?

Expect more alternative history ahead.  

In fact, this ties with my current interests – like my short story ‘Feathered Fire’ which has a Ukrainian MC. The tale will appear in the IWSG anthology Voyagers: The Third Ghost, which is released on May 5th, 2020. There’s a taster on the IWSG Anthologies blog – if you’re tempted to delve.

Links to my other 2020 A to Z posts can be found here: https://rolandclarke.com/blogging-from-a-to-z/blogging-from-a-to-z-challenge-2020/

To visit other participants see The OFFICIAL MASTER LIST: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YphbP47JyH_FuGPIIrFuJfAQiBBzacEkM7iBnq6DGDA/

R is for Rurikid Diarchy

A2Z-BADGE-100 [2017]

My 2017 A to Z Challenge theme is “The History of Kanata”, the parallel world that is the setting for “Eagle Passage”, my alternative history novel that all began when I wondered, “What would have happened if Leif Eriksson had settled Vinland permanently in 1000 AD? For further details and links to my other A to Z posts – and hints at the ones to come visit “Kanata – A to Z Challenge 2017”.

R (1)

R is for Rurikid Diarchy: 23 April 1933, Kiev – With the peaceful future of international relations thriving after the creation of the Union of World Nations in 1930, Tsaritsa Irina Feodorovna, co-ruler of the Rurikid Diarchy agrees with her co-ruler Patriarch Yaroslav Pieracki of the Kievan Orthodox Church that they should abdicate in favour of a true democracy. Despite the opposition of Georgian authoritarian, Josef Stalin, her Ukrainian advisors, Dariya Stasiuk and Havryil Chayka, draw up a constitution that addresses the existence in the Rurikid territories of various ethnic groups and states, using the example set by their trading partner, Kanata.

Fears of another European war diminish with the successful election of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, and the defeat of the Nazi party struggling after the death from syphilis of their psychotic leader Adolf Hitler.

A year later the Rurikid Confederation is born, with the Tsaritsa agreeing to represent Rurikid and perform speeches or attend any important ceremonial events as a symbolical guide to the people, but she agrees to hold no actual power in decision-making, appointments, etcetera. The Rurikid dynasty has ruled the Rus territories since 862, when her Varangian ancestor, Prince Rurik, originally from Norway, settled Novgorod before conquering Kievan Rus′.

 

800px-Top_of_the_Millennium_of_Russia_Monument_in_Novgorod,_2005

Millenium of Russia monument in Novgorod with Prince Rurik at the centre and Vladimir the Great at the left and Dmitry Donskoy at the right (both Rurikids) – Creative Commons

In our timeline: The Rurikid Dynasty was founded by the Varangian Prince Rurik, around the year 862, and they ruled in parts of Russia for over 700 years. The Varangians was a name given to the Vikings by the East Slavs and Greeks. Many served as mercenaries with the Byzantine Empire.

 

The last Tsars, the Romanovs, were descended from the Rurikids through marriage, but their reign ended with the Russian Revolution in 1917. Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was a Georgian by birth and took part in the Revolutions of 1917. He was the leader of the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953. Some have argued that he would have forced his way into power under any system and was never a true communist.

The Russian Orthodox Church was founded around 988 and survived through the Soviet period despite persecution. Some of the former states now have separate Orthodox Churches over which the ROC does not have full autonomy, notably the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The Social Democratic Party of Germany was the main opposition to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, but in 1930, its deputies were either arrested or fled into exile. Adolf Hitler is reputed to have had various medical conditions, including syphilis.

Could a move to genuine democracy in Germany and Russia, and the death of Hitler, have avoided World War II? What kind of influence could a Kanata Confederation with allies in Northern Europe have wielded?

***

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