I intend my 2023 WEP-IWSG Challenge entries to be more of my Ukraine stories, as I resolve to continue them until there is a just conclusion to the horrendous war.
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/
Part 6, Swords to Ploughshares, to conclude the WEP/IWSG December Challenge and close 2022: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/12/10/swords-to-ploughshares/
Part 7, Winter Resolution https://rolandclarke.com/2023/01/31/wep-iwsg-challenge-resolve/ This extra post leads into this month’s Challenge entry and included a plot event I foreshadowed in Part 6.
Therefore, in today’s Challenge entry I’m able to include a key mid-month romantic event. However, with Russia’s winter offensive threatening to erupt beyond probing attacks, I’m unsure what fate has waiting for my Witches. Unless I ignore reality, NATO holds the cards on when they can be deployed.
I will be following events closely, watching the Ukrainian skies for NATO jets, and listening for the roar of leopards.
Blurb: Night Witches prepare for an imminent offensive.
Winds of Change
Sunday, February 12th – Airfield “Kalyniv” near the Polish border.
The Witches’ two squadron commanders were waiting inside with a lanky air force colonel, whom Kalyna introduced as Maksym Bondarenko from Air Command West, Lviv.
“I wanted to be here when our six brave warriors returned from overseas. Curiously, I see ten.”
The new flight leader stepped forward and saluted. “I’m Kapitan Maryna Sobol. We’re Sable Wing from Cold Lake, Canada… the squadron’s newest recruits, sir.”
“More Canadian-Ukrainians. Your aid will be timely with invasion imminent. The 114th Tactical Aviation Brigade formally recognizes this squadron. A unique, all-women unit, though following in the wingtips of a famous regiment. Do you want to resurrect their designation?
Kalyna looked at Vasy, who answered. “Those were Soviet so not our legacy. Just ‘Night Witches’ and the rebirth in 22.”
“Appropriate. However, we must decide how best to covertly introduce 20 pilots flying NATO jets.”
The Witches nodded.
“Use our legacy,” said Kalyna. “–of two Ukrainian sisters who reached Canada in 1945 with Swedish help. Hence, 12 Canadian Hornets and eight Swedish Gripens.”
“Perhaps,” said Maksym, “your contacts can help revive the plans to begin licensed Gripen production in Lviv.”
Anzhela approached Vasy. “I delivered your message in Sweden. Is that relevant?”
“Yes. Our Saab request ranges from spares to, unofficially, the license.”
Maksym smiled. “Officially, please continue. We need Gripens. Those of you not trained by the RCAF will find flying NATO jets a challenge… one I’m sure you’ll master. Your majors are wise acquiring planes from personal sources where backup is unlikely to fail.”
“When Saab agrees to local production that will change so much,” said Vasy.
“Including removing reliance on the Hornet’s manufacturer, McDonnell Douglas,” added Kalyna. “The RCAF is due to phase that fighter out… so Chayka may acquire more decommissioned stock.”
A murmur sighed among the pilots.
Then Anzhela voiced the whisper.
“How soon before Command requires our new skills? There must have been a goal sending some of us to Canada.”
“True,” said Maksym. “Beyond honing the knowledge to teach others.”
“The next stage is training those who remained,” continued Vasy. “Then we’ll form four Hornet and two Gripen flights will be formed – assignments according to mastery in each jet.”
“You Witches offer unique specialist support,” said Maksym. “However, whether our imminent combined arms offensive includes your squadron depends on other NATO decisions… like openly offering jets.”
Tuesday, February 14th – Zvenigora Restaurant, Lviv.
Mariyka and Sergei were greeted by her mother once they descended into the family’s cellar restaurant.
“How was your romantic visit?” asked Danuta, guiding them to a candlelit table for eight.
Sergei bowed. “I never knew such beauty existed in Lviv… and the Renaissance patio was majestic. A jewel to gaze upon while I held this gorgeous one—”
”—He’s unstoppable… even with a shadow—”
“—who was distracted by your chief mechanic,” said prison guard Odarka.
“All part of the escape plan,” said Dariya, “–so, the lovers can abscond.”
Her mother stroked Mariyka’s cheek. “Will I discover where my daughter has been hiding for five weeks? Military secret?”
Mariyka smiled at Sergei. “He may be Russian, but he’s not a spy. Anyway, only Witches are meant to know.”
As Anzhela joined them, Larisa embraced her cousin Sergei.
When Maryna and Bohdana came over, the octet for their candlelit St Valentine’s meal was complete.
“We’re honored to welcome so many sisters in uniform.”
“Our pleasure to be here in this cozy haven of calm,” said Maryna. “May this terrible war pass you by… and end soon.”
As they ordered from the tempting local selection, a trio of uniformed airmen left their dates to accost the Witches.
“Some of you don’t sound Ukrainian. Please satisfy our curiosity, since I see you’re wearing 114th Tactical Aviation Brigade patches like.us “
Maryna looked to her sisters before saying, “Kapitan Maryna Sobol of the 2022 Night Witches. Apologies for my dialect, but I was born in Canada.”
“So, the rumor is true. We get stuck with MiG-29s,” said the envious flyers. “While you demonic dykes get the American jets us real pilots need.”
One of his mates added, “And they sit here colluding with Orcs – the enemy.”
“Divulging all our military secrets… like Leopard tanks?”
“But you just have,” said Sergei. “Fortunately, your drunk voices didn’t echo for all the other disturbed diners to hear. Luckily all the Russians here want to become Ukrainians,
Danuta approached. ‘Don’t let this war divide us. One day my daughter here may need your wings. Return to your ladies and enjoy your meal with a discount for bravery.”
As the pilots slunk away, she served everyone’s meal.
“I suspect Mariyka and some of you ladies were in Canada ensuring the winds of change were on our side. But I’ll guess no more.”
“Maybe after the war, mama. Now, we’ll enjoy great food and love.”
Mariyka squeezed Sergei’s hand, then everyone toasted St Valentine.
Delicious dishes brought all words to whispers, and the four couples closer.
Lost in their partner’s eyes’ they were unaware of the empty restaurant, until Danuta came over.
“I’d love you all to stay, but there’s the curfew.”
“Back to grim reality,” said Mariyka, knowing death stalked them all. “It’s been wonderful, mama… please don’t refuse our money.”
“Bravery discount then.”
As they walked to the door, Anzhela asked, “Why Zvenigora Restaurant? I should know.”
Danuta grinned. “The film posters hold a clue, but no guessing. Maybe another time.”
“If it was Tara, I’d say it was from that poster,” said Maryna, shivering. “Too apt for now though.”
Outside in the chill night, Bohdana clutched Maryna. “The air or ‘Gone with the Wind’?”
“The prejudice of those other pilots, and the poster. You had your civil war in the Donbas—”
“Still part of this twisted conflict,” said Anzhela. “Too many secrets even hidden from us. Those other pilots were guessing, but even we must. I trust Chayka’s intentions, and place Ukraine’s freedom first.”
“We must,” said Mariyka. “But I wonder who profits from this war… and from the rebuilding?
FCA 1029 words
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