R H Auslander uses his intimate knowledge of Russian Armed Forces, Russian culture and Russian history to give the reader a deep look in to Russia, her culture and her Spetznaz Regiments. The author’s deft hand and storytelling ability open to the reader a view of Russia few outside of Russia have seen in a gripping tale of war and romance wrapped in a vivid panorama of betrayal and treachery, love and honor, loyalty, faith and duty. With the clouds of war darkening the horizon for all to see, the story unfolds of Annya Dmitrovna, a beautiful Russian lady, and Starshi Sarjant Roman Ivan’vich, a foreign man, a professional soldier serving for Russia in 317 Independent Spetznaz Regiment. As their romance blossoms into an understanding during a night of good food, good wine and animated conversation, the thought of war banished from their minds, Roman Ivan’vich is suddenly ordered at 01:00 in the morning to report to his regiment immediately. As the regiment gathers and moves to assembly and deployment, an ominous event portends trouble. As the war begins and the fighting progresses treachery rears its ugly head, a treachery and betrayal that goes to the very heights of power in Moskau, contrasting dramatically with the courage, honor and loyalty of the Spetznaz set in the mixture of east and west that is Russia and the unique culture of her Spetznaz, those warriors who are never defeated, who are Never The Last One.
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Odessa, An Early Spring Dawn
Annushka rose early, why she did not know, actually she had hardly slept at all, so she took the first pair of dogs, Par and Darya, out to walk them. The predawn was warm and soft, the moon bright, the few street lights casting a gentle glow, a mist in some areas forming a soft and delicate golden halo around the lamps.
She smiled for a moment, watching her huge mahogany collie Par gently nuzzle his wife Darya before continuing with his swaying gait, his long hair flowing side to side, his chest ruff narrow and brilliant white. Darya followed behind him faithfully, trotting from time to time as Annushka gave her more leash to keep up with Par, Darya’s coal black hair blending with the night, just the white of her shoulder mane showing where she was.
She smiled to herself. ‘If only my Roma was here, it would be so romantic to walk with him in this dawn. Par and Darya are so tender this morning, the world is quiet, so beautiful, so peaceful. Where is my Roma? Why isn’t he here to enjoy this beautiful and gentle night with me? What is he doing now? I know he is serving, and I worry of him.’
There were no cars out except one tired old Militsiya Lada. The car slowed as it passed her, the Sarjant in the right front looking at her, recognizing her and calling a quite greeting which she returned with a wave. Nothing else, not a soul, was around.
“I swore I would never let a man in to my heart again. My husband died two weeks after we married when I was 18 and he was but 20. Never again would I have the heartbreak of that. Never. And then the Madame Polkovnik, my dear friend, the loving mother I never had, introduced me to my Roma these many years later. I swore I would not let him in, I swore I would not love him when I let him in, I swore I would not lose him when I fell in love with him. Now my Roma is gone, off to another war. When will it end, when will our men be allowed to stay with us and not go off fighting in some soon to be forgotten dark corner of this vast land?”
She walked, Par and Darya staying close to her now, sensing her troubled mind, Darya staying so close to her they touched.
“I was so happy when my Roma’s two letters arrived. The young Lutanant, not much more than a child in uniform, blushed when he handed them to me at my flat door, saying before I could ask ‘Please ask me no questions, Madame Starshi Sarjant, I cannot tell you anything.’ I smiled at him and thanked him for the letters and I told him I know, I know I can ask nothing about my Roma or his Regiment or the coming war. He smiled and left. In the morning I will go to Church, I will speak to Father Piotr’s assistant Natalya, his aid, she who in reality runs the Church, I will have prayers said by Father Piotr for my Roma and his men, his Regiment. In his second letter my Roma gave me the name and phone number of the mother of a young Medical Sister he met. While I am worried of my Roma, poor Sophia is frantic with worry and fear of her daughter. She lives not far from my flat here in Odessa and I know the Madame Polkovnik will also come to me, we will go to Church together to offer our prayers.”
Annushka continued to walk, silently enjoying the early predawn ambiance, Par and Darya staying close to her as she thought. ‘Another block to the park. I will slip their leashes and let them run and play for a bit, then back to the flat to walk the other pair. It will be good for them to run, no one is out, no one will be worried about the dogs, they can jump and play as they want.’ She glanced at her watch. It was 03:30.
Suddenly Par went to alert, uttering a deep, long low growl with bared fangs, his hackles and bright white ruff flaring, looking straight east where the first delicate softening of the night sky on the far horizon told where dawn would break, his eyes narrowed. Par was not pulling and spoiling for a fight as usual, all he did was stand and look east where the sun would rise and continue to growl with bared fangs and ears back, a deep, wet guttural growl she’d never heard before. He stopped growling and looked at her, starting to whine. He took a step towards her, ears up, whined again, turned and looked east. Darya started to get nervous, also whining and looking east, ears up and listening.
‘What do they hear?’ she thought as she looked around.
Par turned back east and without warning roared and lunged forward, nearly catching Annushka off balance. She pulled almost in panic at his leash as of a sudden Darya also snarled and lunged forward. As she struggled to control the dogs Par and Darya started to bark frantically, both looking due east and pulling at their leashes. Par stopped and sat, snapping once at Darya who was instantly quiet and sat beside him, both dogs whining softly, looking east with their ears up, listening. She wrapped the leashes more securely around her hand as she looked around again.
“I see nothing, absolutely nothing. What is going on? Why are they so savage, why did they attack and what did they attack?”
Just as the dogs calmed her cell phone vibrated silently. She looked at the number and saw it was Sophia. Fearing the worst, she answered.
“Annushka! Where are you? I am at your flat.”
Annushka was puzzled. “I am walking the dogs. What’s wrong?”
“Come home, Annushka, come home! The news...the war..” Sophia burst in to tears.
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