R H Auslander has used his considerable knowledge of Russian culture and Russian Armed Forces to skillfully weave a tale of people, places and happenings in to a fictional story of the world shaking events of late 2013 through early 2014 in Sevastopol and Krimea which led to the Russian Spring of late February, 2014.
The narrative starts with the bucolic retirement life near Odessa of the veterans of 317 Spetznaz Regiment from the author’s epic novel Never The Last One, and their realization that there is trouble on the horizon. The reader will recognize many of the characters from the novel and their story is woven in to the fabric of this narrative with a deft hand. New characters appear as the story progresses, their back stories quite believable and blending in to the fabric of this story seamlessly as the veterans settle in to a new life in a small village in Sevastopol Region, all the while knowing they will be called back to service as the storm clouds gather.
With real events, real locations and real actions placed in front of the reader, some readers have asked the question of is this story fictional or true. In Soviet times, readers of the news were adept at reading the news and finding the nuggets of truth. That skill is useful when reading this tale.
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“You see, Soleena and I know where all the tunnels are in Yevpatorya, Kacha, Lubimovka, Sevastopol, Simferopol and all along the south coast to Kerch on the far east end of our peninsula. This includes the tunnels in Rahdio Gorka Region on north side of our harbor, these tunnels were not destroyed by the big German gun. I know what the official documents say but the documents are wrong, the tunnels are still there, just the entrances from the coast were covered with debris during the fighting.”
“We do, we truly do. Anastasiya and I have been in all of them and we have maps we made during and after the war which shows all of them. In addition to fighting, we were Medical Sisters and we also mapped everything for the Soviets.”
“But Soleena and I did not give all the maps to the Soviets and we did not tell them about all the tunnels including Rahdio Gorka, the hospitals, the storage rooms, the kitchens, the weapons rooms.”
“No, we didn’t, we truly didn’t, we didn’t tell them all because Anastasiya and I knew the day would come when we needed them again.”
Polkovnik Nikolai Mikhailovich looked at them in disbelief. “You have maps of all of them? You have been in all of them?”
“Yes. Soleena and I know all of them. You know of the third level below 35th Battery but you do not know of the fourth and fifth level. We were in the fifth level last night near your base.”
“Yes, we were in it last night, we truly were. We go in the tunnels often, we make sure things are as they should be.”
“But you are elderly ladies. I find it hard to believe you.”
“Soleena, my dear, why don’t you give him the gift we got for him last night?”
“Yes, Anastasiya, I will, I truly will. Tovarich Polkovnik, we brought a little gift for you.”
Soleena reached in to her purse and pulled out a brand new Makarov service pistol in its supply system box with two full magazines for it and handed the box and magazines to the Polkovnik.
Anastasiya smiled. “Tovarich Polkovnik, this pistol came from your weapons room directly below your office in the first level of basement below your base main building. We were in your weapons room early this morning.”
Tovarich Polkovnik gave them a look of true shock. “You are joking! No one can get in that room, it is strongly guarded 24 hours a day and has steel lined walls and ceiling!”
“Tovarich Polkovnik, we were in your weapons room and this pistol came from there. Why don’t you call your base and have them check the numbers on the pistol? While they check the numbers, tell them to look on the bottom shelf on the west wall of your weapons room in the far left corner, we left you another gift there. It is a new PehPehSha with two full drum magazines, our personal gift to you. The number on it is ВЖ4751, the date is 1941, and it has the stamp of the Stalingrad Tractor Factory where it was made.”
Polkovnik said not a word as he punched a number in to his cell phone as we looked at the two old ladies with what should be described as nothing short of awe, all of us except for Annushka. She just sat there with a small smile.