WEP/IWSG February Challenge – Gone with The Wind

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.

Part 8

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.”

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

“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.

Italian patio, Kornyakta Palace, Lviv

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

Slava Ukrayini

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:


#WEP/IWSG October Challenge – Thriller

As the war in Ukraine continues, so must my tale of two Canadian-Ukrainian aviatrix cousins unfold to merge reality and inspiration from the WEP/IWSG bi-monthly challenges.

This October Challenge presented another interesting writing prompt in Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. The war continues to throw up horrific images, but the extraordinary Kharkiv Counter-offensive seemed to be more encouraging.

However, I had sown a spectral seed in the last scene of the August Challenge, with aviatrix Ksenia Zelenko frightened for her brother in a Russian prison.

So, I wrote the Ksenia story as the main arc, and tried to fit in two additional events in real life, which felt significant.

But there was too much ongoing destruction and too much escalation that I had to discard one of those real-life incidents – the discovery of a Russian torture building – and so many more tragic events. This seems to be one of those tough choices writing historical fiction entails, especially in historical flash.

Instead, I pruned enough words to add a closing scene echoing ‘Thriller’ and reality.

I am aware how this war has distracted many of us from other pressing crises like climate change. And there are other humanitarian emergencies, so I’m impressed when the Ukrainians are trying to help others in say African countries. And don’t forget their concern, a few months back, for getting their grain out to those starving abroad.

Although most don’t see this terrible war ending soon, I am outlining an upbeat positive piece for the December Challenge. However, I am prepared to keep writing into 2023, even if the pieces don’t fit with Challenge prompts and I must post ‘independently’.

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/

As people have asked where to find all my Ukraine stories, I’ve started creating ‘Freedom Flight’, which will be a collation/collection of them all.

Chapter/Part 1 will be ‘Feathered Fire’, my historical fantasy which at present is only available in the IWSG Anthology ‘Voyagers: The Third Ghost’.

However, there may be complications using a published piece. Will it be difficult getting permission?

Part II will be all my Challenge pieces on the current conflict in Ukraine, however that may resolve.   

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: In Ukraine, Night Witches gamble their lives against Fate.

Part 4

Winged Death



Tuesday, August 30th – Kanatovo air base, Kirovohrad Oblast.

Ksenia leant closer to her brother Kyrylo as darkness shrouded them.

“How much longer have we? We’ve so much to share. Evading death takes a miracle.”

“No time to talk about the Azovstal steel mill. Nor enough faith for your miracle. Soon I must go. Tell me about the counter-offensive, please.”

Did he know? Why? Had he chosen to die again?

No. Never let him leave. Sibling persuasion.

“Our squadron received official approval as an active unit… for this offensive. We have fifteen pilots now, all-women. Plus—”

“—six more NATO compatible jets.”

He knows everything. Of course.

“Yes. The Swedes sent more Gripens. With our new command-and-control systems and surface-to-air defenses, we can field an integrated air and missile defense force—”

“—all-women like the original Night Witches, but deadlier. But I must go home now.”

“Not yet, Kyrylo. We need each other. Stay, please.”

“We will be together soon – forever.” His figure wavered in the moonlight.


“Sacrifice. Please. Grandma calls.”

Then, he vanished – joining their ancestors.

A harbinger of fate? Whose?

Thursday, September 8th

Cold Lake, Canada (21.00) and Kanatovo, Ukraine (Friday, 06.00)

Leonid Sokol had been in shock since hearing the news at 11.30. Reaching his wife Kalyna in Ukraine had proved disturbing as front-line information was shrouded in secrecy. Rumors of high casualties made him fear the worst as time passed with no contact.

How dangerous were the current air operations? Were the Witches being used for night missions? What was the cost in lives?

The sound of her voice was relief, but tears flowed as he said, “Queen Elizabeth died today… we knew it would happen. We’ll mourn her.”

“We heard when Zelenskiy extended sincere condolences on behalf of the Ukrainian people. What did our prime minister, Justin Trudeau say? He’s known her personally much of his life.”

“He called the Queen ‘a constant presence in our lives’ and said his compatriots would always ‘remember and cherish Her Majesty’s wisdom, compassion, and warmth’—”

“Agreed. A life of dedication well lived. Time now to end the horrors here. Make all this carnage meaningful.”

“I fear what’s ahead. More than weapons are needed.”

Sunday, September 11th – Eastern Ukraine

The twelve Night Witches went silent as their three majors entered the briefing room, along with the commander of their ground units.

Vasy uncovered a map showing Russian positions east of Kharkiv. “Again, we’re tasked with a front-line night mission clearing enemy command & control targets. First, we must clear obstacles facing tomorrow’s thunder run. The lighter faster vehicles our brigades are using will bypass strong units. So, our second selection of targets are those.’

Ksenia continued the briefing assigning targets to the various wings.

“My wing will clear out this detachment of tanks. Remember everyone, we don’t have air supremacy in this sector.”


Explosions lit the night as the other wings found their targets. But Russian defenses were now alert and their rockets were incoming.

Ksenia’s Gold Wing had yet to attack their target, although their drone operator had locked in the co-ordinates.

As Ksenia and her wing-sister Lieutenant Ganna Kohut flew a protective pattern above, Lieutenants Anzhela Havrylyuk and Mariyka Shevchuk closed, launching multiple AGM-88 missiles.

Several explosions were confirmed as hits by her instruments. Ground defences tried to bring down the attackers as they climbed out of range.

Before Ksenia and Ganna could attack, four Russian Sukhoi Su-30s flew towards them.

“Don’t engage. Evade. Jink home.”

As the enemy launched heat seeking missiles, Gold Wing all fired off flares and chaff. Then began a combination of tight maneuvers, knowing missiles couldn’t maneuver as nimbly as their jets. And their Gripens’ electronic counter measures sent strong electronic signals, jamming radars.

More projectiles closed from below as the wing turned and barrel rolled in different directions.

Unable to track the jets anymore, most missiles flew past, losing their locks.

But the Russian Su-30s kept following, despite the danger of Ukrainian anti-aircraft defences nearby.

Russian Su-30

Ksenia prayed at least one enemy would be downed.

But they too were dodging attacks, and the Russians seemed intent on one target now – Anzhela.

Ksenia had to protect her friend. She turned towards the pursuers and when in range opened fire with her Gripen’s Mauser BK-27 cannon. Then rolled away, diving groundward.

All four Russians followed, firing missiles and cannon.

Despite the darkness, she flew as close to the treetops as possible, and under every powerline she remembered.

Approaching Kharkiv, she climbed, hoping her pursuers would flee from Ukraine’s air umbrella.

Hopefully her sisters had followed orders and returned to base.  But two jets remained on her radar – one a Su-30.

Higher she climbed, twisting to lose her pursuer, who before running, launched a final missile.

It exploded by Ksenia’s wingtip.

Blood blurred her vision as her Gripen spun down.

She had to eject.

No. Her plane would hit the city.

Fight to regain control.

Another explosion – the Russian.

Steer to open spaces.

A field of harvested wheat. Food saved.

Too much blood.

“I’m dying. Kyrylo was right. Together forever.”


Thursday, September 15th – Kanatovo air base, Kirovohrad Oblast

Anzhela planted the sunflower seedling on Ksenia’s grave. “She saved my life. Why?”

Her partner Larisa and their son hugged her. “For freedom.”

“You avenged her,” said Vasy. “By shooting down that Su-30… not over the city. You saved lives.”

The surviving squadron personnel bowed their heads, then added seedlings to the other graves of their fallen friends.

“Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!”

Above the spirits of all departed Night Witches keened, yearning for a peaceful resolution.


Monday, October 10th – Kyiv, Ukraine

The Russian S-300 missile dropped with precise intent toward its military target – Ukrainian children in a playground.

Putin’s genocide mushroomed as deadly explosives fell, and blood was spilt all over Ukraine.

More innocent corpses. Bodies pulled from devastated buildings.

A special military operation with a spiraling cost in lives.

1,000 Words: FCA

KYIV, UKRAINE – OCTOBER 10: A view of the scene after several explosions rocked the Shevchenkivskyi district of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv on October 10, 2022. Vitali Klitschko said that multiple explosions were heard in the center of Kyiv today morning. There is no further detail on the incident yet. (Photo by Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Although that’s my October Challenge piece, I have more on the War in Ukraine. So. I’m splitting this post in two. For more on the War, including a link or two and a video, plus plans for the December Challenge, and two female Ukrainian soldiers, watch out for Post II in a minute or two… or go here: https://rolandclarke.com/2022/10/19/the-ongoing-war-in-ukraine/

Slava Ukrayini

 #WEP/IWSG August Challenge – Moonlight Sonata

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.

Anyway, on to the Challenge. Please note, this present day tale follows on from my World War II story Feathered Fire, which featured in the 2020 IWSG Anthology (No. 5), Voyagers: The Third Ghost.

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 Challenge:     https://rolandclarke.com/2022/06/15/wep-iwsg-june-challenge-please-read-the-letter/

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: As relationships are rekindled, an all-women squadron reforms in Ukraine

Part 3

Moonbeam Magic


Friday, July 1stKulbakino Airbase, Mykolaiv Oblast, Ukraine.

A MiG-29 Fulcrum takes off from Starokostiantyniv Air Base, Ukraine, Oct. 9 as part of the Clear Sky 2018 exercise. The exercise promotes regional stability and security, while strengthening partner capabilities and fostering trust. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Vaughn)

Kalyna counted the jets landing after their daily patrol of Ukrainian airspace. She noted the most experienced male flyers deplane, then stride towards the debriefing room.

“When will they let women fly again?” asked Vasy. “Are we on guard duty indefinitely?”

“The men get the choice missions,” responded Ksenia. “We might get a tough night mission…”

Assessing the squadron’s serviceable jets, Kalyna added, “when we get more planes. We have keen pilots joining the unit every month.”

Three young women approached, armed with assault rifles.

“Perimeter secure and guard changed as ordered, Major Zelenko,” said one of the trio, a wiry brunette.

Anzhela Havrylyuk was a recent recruit with flying experience at Motor Sich Airlines in south-eastern Ukraine.

She remained, hands clasped, nodding to her colleagues to leave.

“Majors… I need your advice… but it’s difficult—”

“Relax. We’re friends first… and women. Then officers,” said Ksenia. “What’s the problem?”

“My identity. I was born speaking Russian first… but here in Ukraine. I naively believed Putin wanted the best…” She stared at the three older women, then dropped her head.

“Continue,” said Vasy. “We guessed and understand.  But everything changed, so you volunteered.”

“Yes. The invasion was not as expected… and the wanton destruction isn’t liberation. Now Putin expects us to renounce our citizenship… and become Russian—” The next words were lost as a whisper.

“Take your time if there’s more.”

Tears formed as she said, “My Russian friend. Larisa… Larisa Kovalyov has disappeared… in Moscow… after Putin banned the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.” But our son…”

As the moon rose over the airfield. The friends understood. Then hugged their distraught sister.

Friday, July 22nd – Airfield “Kalyniv” near the Polish border.

A Canadian CF-18A Hornet from the 409th Squadron at Cold Lake, Alberta (Canada), launches a laser-guided bomb at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida (USA), on 5 December 2006. U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Tim Pfeifer

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.

Dniester River at twilight

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.

JAS 39 Gripen of The Swedish Air Force taking off from a short runway located on public road. San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive

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.

Moon over Kyrkevik in Lysek by W.carter

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?

Her brother?

1,000 words FCA


#WEP/IWSG June Challenge – Please Read the Letter

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.

Please note, this follows on from my World War II story Feathered Fire, which featured in the 2020 IWSG Anthology (No. 5), Voyagers: The Third Ghost, and my brief sequel Rainbow Firebreak, for the #WEP/IWSG April Challenge https://rolandclarke.com/2022/04/20/wep-iwsg-april-challenge-a-hard-rains-a-gonna-fall/.

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:



Messages keep hope for Mother Ukraine alive.

Winged Woes


Wednesday, April 27th – Luhansk region, Ukraine

Ksenia Zelenko kzelenko99@psu2.ua

To: kzelenko97@psu1.ua

Pryvit Kyrylo,

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.

Slava Ukrayini.

One of the Ukrainian soldiers under siege in the Azovstal steelworks. Photograph: Dmytro Kozatsky/Azov Special Forces Regiment

Saturday, April 30th – Cold Lake, Canada

Leonid Sokol lsokol@chaykair.ca

To: ksokol@chaykair.ca

Darling Kalyna,

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.


Slava Ukrayini.

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.

Saturday, May 7th – Luhansk region, Ukraine

Vasy Holub vholub@chaykair.ca

To: mholub@chaykair.ca

Dearest Marko,

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.


Slava Ukrayini.

Women evacuated from Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol stand next to service members of pro-Russian troops at a temporary accommodation centre in the village of Bezimenne. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

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.

1944 Polikarpov Po-2 of The Shuttleworth Collection, United Kingdom
Ukrainian Air Force Su-27 at the RIAT 2018 airshow

Thursday, May 12th –  Sievierodonetsk, Ukraine

Kalyna Sokol  ksokol@chaykair.ca

To: lsokol@chaykair.ca

Darling Leonid,

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.


Slava Ukrayini.

Friday, May 20th –  Mariupol, Ukraine

Kyrylo Zelenko kzelenko97@psu1.ua

To: k.zelenko99@psu2.ua

Lyuba Ksenia,

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.

Slava Ukrayini.

Ukrainian servicemen carry a wounded comrade as they are being evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, 17 May 2022.

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.

A resident stands next to debris of an open market destroyed by a military strike in Sievierodonetsk. Photograph: Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters


Afraid of What? Not #IWSG?

I’m afraid. Afraid of what?

Afraid of the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group post?

Afraid of worsening health issues? Afraid of what that means?

As I write the fifth draft on April 5th, I’m afraid of what my blood test for CLL (leukemia) on April 13th shows.

Am I afraid it’s worse?

Afraid of being more of a burden? Afraid my wife is suffering as well?

Afraid of being moved to a nursing home? Afraid of the alternative in a crowded trailer park?

Afraid of losing my dog? Afraid she’s not qualified to be a companion dog?

Afraid of the suffering as I live?

Afraid of death?

Maybe this recent post from Writers Helping Writers is a comfort… or a red herring:

Afraid of a legacy lost?

Afraid of minimal writing? Afraid of failing the April WEP/IWSG Challenge?



Afraid for Ukraine? Yes, and I feel unable to help… beyond donating to…

Medecins Sans Frontieres: https://www.msf.org/

 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

What would my fictional Ukrainians do – Kalyna  and Vasy Chayka, the heroines of Feathered Fire?


They fought the Nazis and fled from Stalin’s persecution.

So, their Canadian-Ukrainian granddaughters will fight Putin’s terror.

Rainbow Firebreak is in the pipeline.

I was afraid to tell the Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh ‘ffarwel’. But not yet.

Finally, don’t forget to visit more active writers via the IWSG site:

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

As the question is optional, I’m not tempted to answer… beyond saying, “none so I listen to others”.

April 6 question – Have any of your books been made into audio books? If so, what is the main challenge in producing an audiobook?

The awesome co-hosts for the April 6 posting of the IWSG are Joylene Nowell Butler, Jemima Pett, Patricia Josephine, Louise – Fundy Blue, and Kim Lajevardi!

How can I be repetitive asking you to agree these guys are the best? Well, they are – especially as they all have concerns, fears, and insecurities. But they struggle on, so ticker-tape applause for all of them – plus toasts with the best brew available.

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience, or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something.

For more on the IWSG monthly post and links to other participants visit:


#WEP/IWSG February Challenge – All You Need Is Love

I feared my entry for this month’s WEP/IWSG Challenge would be too late as there were too many interruptions, not least diving down too many rabbit holes... and WordPress being a pain.

Anyway, a writer is never late, nor is he early. He posts precisely when he means to… as the deadline looms.

Having done two Challenge years of Sparkle and Kama tales and having written a romantic interlude for them in December, I felt it was time to give my Norse snow queen another overdue outing. The last one was in December 2019: https://rolandclarke.com/2019/12/11/wep-iwsg-december-challenge-footsteps/

As always, apologies if I’m slow to respond or slow to visit your posts.

Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via:



Gold medals are gifted through divine skills and love.



Tuesday, February 8th

Constant clamour engulfs my ears. The din as Ægir’s dreaded daughters crash against the rocks, sending salt spray skyward.

Seagull squadrons screech and thieve my food as they assault me.

Not what I craved, yet my husband Njörðr expects me to enjoy my days at his Nóatún home beside the whale’s way, watching him play.

Sail-boarding, surfing, and today water skiing.

He insists I admire him showing off his talent. But he won’t teach me, even though as the snow-ski specialist I taught him my arts.

Why did I choose him? Cheated by Loki. Made to decide by selecting feet. Handsome limbs – yes. But not Baldr the Beautiful’s as I desired.

So now, Njörðr believes in this false fetish, saying, “See what this gorgeous god can do, and the skill’s all down to fantastic footwork.”

All I want is real romance. Poetic passion. Epic emotions.

Or escape to frozen-tear drifts. Time to be myself.

Time to leave him for the serene silence of my mountains. I must snow-dance again.


Skadi by Michael Jorvik

Thursday, February 10th

Silent-fall settles as I skill-slide into the rural resort near Thrutheimr, my alpine abode. The winter-blanket glistens under the silver-face, and I enter the central mead-hall.

Everyone is enthralled by the glowing screen showing the Beijing Winter Olympics. We all have our favourites in the final of the Women’s 10k cross-country, though all have learnt my arts.

But we cheer loudest whenever a Scandinavian competitor poles ahead of desperate rivals, and we toast the shield-maidens’ prowess.

A strong arm clasps my shoulder, and a seductive voice says, “We’ve bred them strong and swift in our lands. You’ve inspired them, Snow-Dancer, see.”

I smile then celebrate with my people as the Nordic countries sweep the podium, taking gold, silver, and bronze.

Then I turn my gaze on the handsome stranger.

He feels familiar even disguised, and I tease the truth.

“Wandering or seeking rings to break?”

He hands me a silver locket. “Will this do, Snow-Stepper? Or do you want something more precious? You’ve already won every gold medal.”

I laugh, louder than when Loki tussled with a goat then cheated me.

“All I desire is love. Is this heart-bait truly given? Or another trick?”

Music drifts across the celebrating crowd as he laughs and offers to remove his boots.

“I know about your foot-fetish. These aren’t my son Baldr’s, but my heart is bolder.”

“Do you seek to hide from me? That footwork was a falsity fabricated by the Mischief-Maker. It’s not the feet but what goes with them – and how you use them and where.”

Oðinn says, “I desire you forever by my side, Skaði, my goddess, giantess, huntress and snow-stealth specialist. Will you be one with me – my Snow Queen? If wished I will break the rings binding you to Njörðr.”

“And what of  your other lovers?”

He covers an eye.

“I sacrificed one sight-light for my wisdom and presage. You will be foremost—”

“—and you tell all your conquests that.”  I point to my face, then wink. “I’m not snow-blind. Frigg will view me as a threat… to marriage-purity. But I foresee another rival – Freyja, Njörðr’s daughter.”

Oðinn hesitates and I fear my truth-quest is doomed.

His grin captivates as the jukebox plays ‘All You Need Is Love’.

“Freyja shed tears of gold when I left to wander the Earth. Do we expect our shield-maidens to receive lesser rewards if I repent? Our match is fated, so we must commit to—”

“—to Infinity and beyond, heart-caller.”

614 words FCA

Apologies to those who know their Norse mythology and folklore, as I’ve taken a few liberties here. However, with so little from the ‘Viking era’ surviving, and much of it being oral in origin, I’m following in the bastardising bardic tradition.

For those who like rabbit holes, visit:

Throughout the mythology, Freya is associated with gold. When her husband leaves her to wander the Earth (more on him below), she cries tears of gold. Because of this story, “Freya’s tears” became a kenning, or poetic circumlocution, used to represent the word “gold” in Norse poetry. Freya’s golden necklace Brísingamen (“flaming necklace”) appears in connection with the goddess in several Eddic tales. According to Snorri Sturluson, the terms “flame” and “fire” are often connected with gold in poetry of the North “since it is red,” so it should not be assumed that Freya’s necklace was a thing of fire, but that it was simply made of her favorite metal.

          [From: http://https://www.norsemyth.org/2010/04/gods-goddesses-part-one.html]


Due to numerous similarities, scholars have frequently connected Freyja with the goddess Frigg. The connection with Frigg and question of possible earlier identification of Freyja with Frigg in the Proto-Germanic period (Frigg and Freyja origin hypothesis) remains a matter of scholarly discourse.[67] Regarding a Freyja-Frigg common origin hypothesis, scholar Stephan Grundy comments, “the problem of whether Frigg or Freyja may have been a single goddess originally is a difficult one, made more so by the scantiness of pre-Viking Age references to Germanic goddesses, and the diverse quality of the sources. The best that can be done is to survey the arguments for and against their identity, and to see how well each can be supported.”[68]

[From:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freyja ]

As for the Winter Olympics reference, that is based on real events. On February 10th at the Beijing Games, the 10k gold medallist was Therese Johaug (Norway), the silver medallist was Kerttu Niskanen (Finland), and the bronze medallist was Krista Pärmäkoski (Finland) – so, a Nordic clean sweep.


And now for the music: