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.
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Original publish date 03 February 2018. Page count 178.
Shortly before noon the goulash cannon was moved from the side lot at the end of the street to in front of Bogdan and Tatyana’s house and brought up to cooking temperature. Tatyana took over as Komandeer of the two cooks and dragooned a couple of the younger village women to help her. It wasn’t but a few minutes before Nadezdah Konstantinova arrived from our house to help also. Tatyana smiled at her as she approached.
“Welcome, Madame. Are you coming to assist me?”
“Yes, my dear lady, I will assist you. I served many years ago and I was a cook, I know this machine like the back of my hand. My husband always praised my cooking, although he is long gone now.”
“Madame, I am so sorry to hear of your loss, so very sorry. I will be very happy for you to assist me and I will be very willing to follow your instructions for feeding the soldiers, our families and any villagers who want to eat with us. I have spoken to the Tovarich Sarjant cook and he has assured me he has enough food to feed us and the entire village. He said he has done this before and has enough for both this lunch and dinner later.”
Nadezdah Konstantinova thought for a moment, then spoke. “My dear young lady, it is a very great pleasure to meet people such as you. We all noticed how polite you new people are to both us and each other. It is good to see and hear the old ways, the old manners, again, many of our young have gotten away from such formality and manners. I also notice you are very close to your mother and father. That is good to see also, as is the closeness of your mother to her mother and father. That is as life should be, and I hope to see the old traditions in this village again. You even speak Russian as we older ones do, not the Russian many of the Ukrainians speak, full of slang and mat and with terrible accents.”
“Madame, I thank you for your compliments. Since my husband and I will be in this village for many years, you may as well know now about me. It is no secret among us that my mother and father adopted me, I was raised in an orphanage. When I turned sixteen I was put to work in an Army Field Kitchen as a scullery maid. I met my husband right after my training at the aerodrome with no name just north of Odessa. My unit and his were activated and we arrived at the front the day the war started, we were five kilometers north of the fighting during the Battle of the Terek River. My grandfather was wounded, he lost his leg below the knee, so my mother and grandmother came to Field Hospital 184 just south of us to succor him.”
“That is where I met my mother, she came to field kitchen with her guards. The moment we met, my mother sat me down and told me what my life would be. I did not believe at first, I could not believe at first, but the more she talked, so gently and clearly she talked, I believed, and every single thing she told me that day has come true, everything. She told me very clearly that my Bogdan and I would have to work very hard, that life would not be easy for us, and she was correct, we have worked very hard and we will continue to do so. Twice my Bogdan has been posted away from me and I waited patiently for him to return, that is my duty to him and to Russia. I will continue to support my husband, my mother and father and my grandmother and grandfather, and I will raise my children the very best I can. That is my duty, my duty to Russia, to my husband, to my mother and father and to my children.”
Nadezdah Konstantinova was silent for a moment. “Your mother is Turkoman, I can see it in her face. You are, too, and the two of you look more like sisters than mother and daughter.” Tatyana was silent, she just smiled gently at that statement.
Nadezdah Konstantinova was silent again for a moment, then again spoke softly. “Your mother sees, that is why all of you suddenly arrived in our little village and I feel, I know, there will be more of you arriving. You will be welcome here, all of you. We are not fools, we may be simple villagers, the Ukrainians consider us country dolts, but we, as you, know there is trouble coming. We are quietly planning and preparing. Now that you are here, we know we will be safe, we will win against any trouble those Ukrainians will bring.”
She was again silent for a moment, thinking. The three soldiers had quietly moved away, taking the village girls with them as the two women conversed, one very old and one very young.
“Your father, he was at the Terek?”
“He was serving in the Spetznaz Regiment, yes?”
“Yes, Madame. He was Starshi Sarjant of 3 Rota, 317 Spetznaz. He was wounded on the last day, he was commanding a small unit. My grandfather says it was my father and a Lutanant on the other end of our lines that made the victory possible, they attacked the enemy and distracted them so the Regiment could storm across the open fields and take the victory. My father was listed as missing after the battle, he was found after some hours and taken to 11 Guards Field Hospital across the road from my Field Kitchen. My mother was almost beside herself with worry until he was found. She was allowed to see him after his surgery, then she, her guards and her Medical Sister came to my kitchen and had coffee. I was so happy to see her, so happy that my father was found, I kissed her when she gave me the news, I kissed her and hugged her right there in the kitchen in front of everyone.”
She struggled with her emotions, her eyes brimming with tears. “My mother hugged me and kissed me, too, then she took my hands in hers and told me I would be her daughter, that her husband and she would adopt me and be the loving parents I so needed, she said that I so deserved. I wept with happiness.”
Nadezdah Konstantinova smiled softly at her and gently touched her cheek. “You poor child, you poor, poor child.”
Tatyana dried her eyes on her apron and smiled. “No, Madame, I am not poor, I am the richest woman in the world. I have a mother and father who love me, I have a grandmother and grandfather who love me, I have a husband who loves me, I have children who love me and who I will raise to be the best children in this world. No, Madame, poor I am not, I am rich beyond anyone’s dreams.”
Nadezdah Konstantinova smiled to her, a knowing smile. “Now, Madame Kapitan, we need to get to work, we have soldiers and villagers to feed!”
She hesitated one more time, just for a moment, then spoke very quietly. “Have you told your husband?”
Tatyana looked down for an instant as she blushed demurely. “No, Madame, I will tell him tonight when all is done and we go to bed.”
“A little over seven months.”
“In this village?”
“Yes, the child will come to this world in our house in this village.”