|Somewhere in Ukraine
Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra
Photo courtesy of
a farm in Ukraine, somewhere between the Carpathian Mountains and the
borders with Slovenia and Hungary, along the Dnister River. The time
was about three o'clock in the morning. It was raining.
Haiduk, Hungarian, rowed his canoe across the Dnister River into
Ukraine. He hauled the canoe to the river bank and left it on the
bank. He was careful in choosing the spot where he left it. He was
now in Ukraine, on the farm of octogenarians, Macey and Taras Bulba,
his neighbours. Their farmer families were neighbours for
two guard dogs ran to meet him, and accompanied him to the front door
of their home. He knocked on the door, calling their names,
repeatedly, "Macey! Taras! It's me, Rudy!" The dogs joined
in, fun-barking, and scratching the door. One of them suddenly paused
to scratch itself; the other ran around dementedly, now-and-then
jumping up to bite into drops of rain.
opened the door, by the light of an oil lamp. "Rudy! Come in,
come in." Rudy entered, and took off his raincoat. The dogs,
followed him into the home.
generator not working again, Macey?" "No. What's the
emergency, Rudy?" "We just got news. Soldiers heading your
way from the mountains." "Only yesterday we said the war
would take months to get this far west." "I know. That's
why I lost no time getting here when we got the news. It's not
official. Our pirate radio people detected it."
long you think they will take to get here?" "No idea,
Macey. But if they are not regulars, they will be travelling faster.
You and Taras will be safer with us across the border." There
was silence, for seconds. Taras entered.
"Taras. You heard?" "Yes. Take the dogs with you,
Rudy. They will attack. Those soldiers will kill them. Macey and I
will have to stay. If they see us here, they might not destroy the
home." "You came by canoe?" "Uh-huh." "The
dogs won't fit." "They don't have to, Macey. They will swim
after me. We play that game quite often."
we use new parts to fix the generator?" "We did, Taras, but
Macey did observe at the time, they were new when he bought and
stored them six years ago. Don't worry. This time I will come here
straight from the hardware store." "Thank you, Rudy. You're
the best neighbour."
put on his raincoat, and left, calling the dogs to follow him. They
put out the oil lamp. He and Taras sat in the dark. In silence, for
it's not going well for the country." "Did Rudy say whose
soldiers? We have not seen a soldier on this side of the mountains
ever since this war began." "Ours would have no reason to
come this far. The enemy would need to secure the river crossings
into Hungary and Slovenia." "Just our luck that both
crossings are on our farm." A long silence in the dark.
the generator is fixed by then, if they arrive at night, oil lamps
might appear to be a ruse." "At our age, Taras, it's quite
likely they won't shoot." "If we don't have electricity by
then, Macey, they won't be able to see enough of us to not suspect we
are planning a trap."
the next midday the rain had stopped. Rudy and the young women had
fixed the generator. Taras had made a sumptuous lunch. They discussed
the advisability of some of the Hungarians staying until the foreign
soldiers arrived. Eventually, it was decided it would risk
dangerously complicating the situation. So far, Hungary was not in
Hungarians left, promising to be ready to cross the Dnister to help,
at all hours of day and night.
their way back to the river border, one of the Hungarians started a
conversation. "Macey and Taras are Cossacks, right?" "Yeah.
Twenty-four carat." "They keep alive the memory of their
ancestors banished to die in Siberia, centuries ago." "Those
foreign soldiers do not know what they're walking into." "You
think the octogenarian Cossacks might see this as an opportunity?"
The group paused.
we should go out there and 'accidentally' meet those soldiers to warn
them?" "The pirate radio said those soldiers were on foot,
crossing the mountains." "That's good for them because they
will probably be too young to know about Cossack history in these
parts." "When we 'accidentally' meet them, should we give
them a quick history tour?"
foreign soldiers arrived the next day, at mid-morning, on the Bulba
farm. Pointedly, they carried no weapons, and were not in military
uniforms, though they were uniformly dressed. There were hundreds of
them. They were so well-trained that although Macey and Taras never
let their guard down, those soldiers appeared to materialize out of
nowhere; suddenly; all at once; all around the home. The officer in
charge was pleasant.
said his unit was an advance party to survey the banks of the Dnister
on the Bulba farm on the Hungarian and Slovenia borders, in order to
build to prevent unauthorized crossings from Ukraine into those
was careful to be extra friendly when he said he was asking
permission of the Bulbas to conduct the survey, and that they were
free to deny him access, in which case he and his men would have to
wait on the farm while he contacted his superiors on how to proceed.
and Taras graciously gave their permission, and noted that
'unauthorized' free and friendly and many family crossings both ways
over the river in the three countries had been going on for
Ukrainian, sir?" "From birth, Mrs Bulba. Every one of us."
"Why do you not show obvious designations, sir? This is Ukraine.
You've noticed the flags we display everywhere." "There is
a war going on, Mr Bulba. Not every Ukrainian-born is on Ukraine's
side." "Sadly, so very true."
soldiers left to begin their survey.
friendly enough." "Even if he is Ukrainian-born and speaks
Ukrainian perfectly, he is not fully Ukrainian, Taras." She
stared at him, intently and steadily, for an explanation.
dear, remember, I spent eleven years working with THEM in
Novosibirsk, Capital of Siberia. I have a sixth sense about THEM."
reached out in silence and held hands. She spoke softly. "Then I
can stop feeling guilty I did not warn them about those ever-shifting
fatal quicksand locations on the river banks."
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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