And my long-suffering wife brought me Apple Orchard tea, despite her bad knees and other ailments. I wish our family did more… but they try given their own problems.
The usual single key tapping continues, but my new pain-med regimen helps ease the intermittent pain, improving my concentration.
My Snowdonia police procedural still depends on my desktop appearing… within another three months, perhaps.
My October WEP-IWSG Challenge – ‘Thriller’ theme – is written but needs honing. I’ve even started creating ‘Freedom Flights’, which will be a collation/collection of all my Ukraine stories.
Part 1 will be ‘Feathered Fire’, my historical fantasy which appeared in the IWSG Anthology ‘The Third Ghost’ and introduced the Cheyka family from Ukraine. However, there may be complications using a published piece.
Part II will be my Challenge pieces on the current conflict in Ukraine.
Anyway IWSG.Remember, the question is optional!
October 5 question – What do you consider the best characteristics of your favorite genre?
I hesitate over ‘favorite genre’ as my current writing for the WEP-IWSG Challenge could be classed as ‘contemporary’ or will become ‘historical’ in a few decades.
My current audio read, ‘The Last Restaurant in Paris’ by Lily Graham, is classed as Historical, as it’s set in WW2… and present day.
OK… so best characteristics of Historical: seamless blend of fact and fiction.
Does that make ‘Freedom Flight’ historical? Eastern Front WW2 and present-day Russian invasion?
Let’s switch to my equally favorite genre… Crime.
As in ‘Fevered Fuse’ my police procedural novel, undergoing revision, well, awaiting that desktop appearance. Plus, all my other Sparkle stories set in Snowdonia are police procedurals.
And my wife and I are avidly watching ‘The Brokenwood Mysteries” on Acorn TV, a New Zealand series with a great mix of quirky characters.
That’s not quite the Crime genre’s best characteristics… almost.
Whether red herrings, misleading information, false trails, or any crafty plot coils, a devious writer uses.
Used craftily, these keep our little grey cells firing and our minds entertained.
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.
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?
This month’s WEP/IWSG Challenge was as inevitable as the dreadful and ongoing tragedy in Ukraine. I’ve attempted to continue my tale of two aviatrix cousins from April, using the suggested approach of ‘correspondence’ – nowadays emails etc.
However, I was unable to catch the emotions involved as others did so well last Challenge. Also, I failed to edit down to 1,000 words.
My excuse… tomorrow, June 1st, we complete on our new mobile home, and we move the following day. So, I’m scheduling this in advance of the Challenge deadline and may be offline for some of June, while we await internet connection.
I’ve prayed for you since the steelworks defence became desperate though brave. Can I believe in a miracle with help and consultation from the angels of the deep?
Please believe dearest brother. Mariupol will be liberated. We will be together.
With my winged sisters Vasy & Kalyna, I helped retain control over most of our airspace. Now Russian air activity focuses on southern and eastern Ukraine. We will harass then drive them back across the border.
Love, blessings, and prayers.
We will have a good day when we win.
Saturday, April 30th – Cold Lake, Canada
Leonid Sokol firstname.lastname@example.org
May this find you fighting fit. The kids share the family’s concerns for you both. Dispel our anxiety as news from Ukraine feels unclear. You must be on the Eastern front, halting renewed Russian attacks.
We watch President Zelenskiy’s addresses, hoping the war ends soon. We read the Ukraine’s Armed Forces report on nine Russian attacks repelled in the last 24 hours. Guess the reborn witches were somehow involved in the destruction of multiple enemy ground and air units.
I know you cannot reveal military secrets, but we have to know you’re safe. Please answer, lyuba.
Chayka Air thrives, despite your absence. Seems our eldest, Aliona has your PR talent, making the most of pro-Ukrainian sentiment. Chayka Air displays are raising funds for humanitarian aid.
Promise you’ll keep the secrets and the memories we cherish in the deep.
Saturday, May 7th – Luhansk region, Ukraine
We didn’t mean our silence to feed your fears. Yes, we maintain some military secrecy when another victory is being devised. The welfare of defenceless and innocent civilians must be paramount.
We are well and love you all. Stay safe and secure yourselves.
Today, the Ukrainian government confirmed the last civilians trapped in the Azovstal plant were evacuated. But our remaining brave defenders appear unlikely to surrender as they vowed to stand until the end – even if many are severely wounded, some crippled. We fear the Russians will capture any who survive and surrender. With their Azov association, they could be imprisoned or worse… executed.
If that happens, please ask my father if he can legally help defend at least one of them: Kyrylo Zelenko, the younger brother of our wing-sister Ksenia. He is not a member of Asov, nor does he share the beliefs of comrades with far right views. Our own clashes with neo-Nazis in Canada has been a warning of irrational reactions. Too late, too late. A fool could read the signs.
We must arrange a virtual meeting. Is tomorrow too soon?
Our hearts are with you all. Mine is yours forever.
Sunday, May 8th – Chayka Air Virtual Meeting
Cold Lake, Canada (15.00) and Luhansk, Ukraine (00.00)
Vasy Holub: Apologies for making the family wait while we honoured the Fallen.
Leonid Sokol: No problem. The time difference means we were running fund-raising aerobatics in aid of Ukraine.
Marko Holub: For our Motherland. Which is why your father will assist Ksenia’s brother and comrades. But he warns there are risks. The far right here in Canada could misuse this support.
Ksenia Zelenko: We’re still grateful. Kyrylo wanted to join us, but the siege hardly pauses. Life is dire. Starvation, infected wounds, and when their water runs out the inevitable end.
Marko Holub: A desperate crisis so our government must act. We hear Zelenskiy’s pleas but feel powerless. You three… night witches are fighting for everyone. We’re relieved our prime minister Trudeau visited Kyiv today—
Leonid Sokol: — and agreed to expand economic and defence cooperation.
Kalyna Sokol: We’re proud to be Canadian and Ukrainian. Especially on this Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation marking the end of World War II. Let’s hope Putin doesn’t escalate this war in his Victory Day speech tomorrow.
Vasy Holub: Which could play into far right hands. Ironic this invasion has strengthened their influence. I fear what lies ahead. More death and devastation.
Ksenia Zelenko: And a false peace if Putin is allowed to seize our eastern provinces. We will only have a good day when we win outright. Slava Ukrayini.
Thursday, May 12th – Sievierodonetsk, Ukraine
News services will show footage of our latest blow to the invaders. You gotta reap just what you sow. I know you all fear for our safety, but rest assured we’re safe.
Today, we flew a dawn raid to help our ground forces repel multiple enemy attempts to cross a strategic river here in the Donbas. Our forces inflicted heavy losses, but the Russians will retaliate. Sievierodonetsk may be targeted. So, we’ll move to another temporary airstrip. Witches keep flying.
My love forever. I miss your arms around me.
Friday, May20th – Mariupol, Ukraine
Kyrylo Zelenko email@example.com
This may be a farewell message. I dread never seeing you again, dearest sister.
We have orders to surrender our positions to the enemy.
Inevitable as we’re struggling in unsanitary conditions, wounds bandaged with non-sterile rags, no essential medicine or water.
Our fate might be worse.
I dread being executed for war crimes… as a ‘neo-Nazi’. You know I’ve never been one. But I must stand and die with my friends, some holding views I ignore. First we fight for freedom and Ukraine. Only when we prevail can we argue politics.
Will they herd us to prison, stage a show trial, then death? Or a bullet as we surrender beside a mass grave?
This is a final plea for help. Is it too late to pray for that miracle?
It’s crazy how it all turned out. We needed so much more.
Love, regrets, and hope.
You will have a good day when our people win.
1,012 words FCA
As with the April Challenge, I’ve slipped a few lines of Please Read the Letter lyrics into my digital interactions.
Invasion of Ukraine
Events have moved on since the date when my flash ends, and it’s been difficult to write this as the horrors Putin unleashed continue every day. I keep the live update from The Guardian open on my PC but feel powerless. All I can do is use my writing to express my support.
May I plead for donations to Medecins Sans Frontieres, who work worldwide and are often the first charity in and last out: 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, but the Russian attacks continue to wreak destruction on another Motherland. Somehow, I will attempt to find the positive conclusion to my Ukrainian story that mirrors reality.
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.
Apologies if I’m slow to respond to comments or struggle to visit all your posts.
Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via:
Two cousins echo deeds of their grandmothers by resisting tyranny in Ukraine.
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.”
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?”
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.”
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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 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′.
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 Churchwas 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.
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?
Important Links for the A to Z Challenge – please use these links to find other A to Z Bloggers