We had met Dmitri a year earlier when we were at the same guest house on Lake Victoria, Uganda. He built wells in several northern villages and we taught there. We knew his work kept people healthy.
“If you visit Ukraine, you must come to our out of the way house.” He said with his deep accent.
We had kept in touch over the past year talking about friends in common and our families.
“This is no military practice.” He had emailed us.
Dmitri and his wife Nikita were excellent hosts. We had a rousing snowball fight with the entire family after dinner.
“Tomorrow, you must see what is just over the ridge.” We bundled up early and got in his truck.
“No that is not merely exercises,” My ex-army husband noted. “They look serious.”
Our mood was sober as we drove back to their home.
“This land has belonged to my family for a long time. I can’t imagine those tanks turning all our land into mud.”
“Maybe it won’t come to that,” Nikita wrung her hands.
“No matter I have decided. You will take our children to Mariople where my mama is with her sister.”
“Dema and Sasha are welcome to come all the way to Odessa if you would prefer.” I said thoughtfully.
“No, Mariople will be very safe.”
“Then we will take them. What about you?” My husband was concerned.
“We will stay until we feel it necessary to go.” The couple said in unison.
That night the car was packed with the basics: clothes and bedding for the children.
“Please remind my mother to shop for some basic needs like bread and cheese.” Dmitre said soberly.
The next morning, we were on our way. We said goodbye to the town of Horlivka wondering what her fate would be.
The children were in good spirits and chatted the whole way about their holiday with their babushka and titka. We failed to notice the vehicle that had followed us from Dmitri’s.
The roads were surprisingly empty and we made good travel time to Mariople. The last time I had been in Ukraine I had stayed not far from Mariople on the Azov Sea. The Azov Sea was cold and inhospitable this visit.
It was wonderful to stop and enjoy an evening with Malika and Luda. Malika’s borscht and brown bread was world class.
“Thank you for a lovely stay,” my husband said as we stood at the door the next morning. Dema and Sasha threw their arms around my hairy faced husband.
“A moment please,” Malika motioned to me.
“Yes certainly.” I smiled.
“We hope it is not necessary but if…”
“If you are not safe, you must come directly to Odessa.” I said.
“That is all I needed to say.”
“Yes, I know.” We embraced in a goodbye.
This photo is taken in The Passageway of the 1890s hotel named The Passage in Odessa, Ukraine. photo attribution here
Thanks for stopping by Penned In Moondust by Moondustwriter for the A to Z Challenge. This (continuing) story was birthed at The Passage hotel in 2007 in Odessa Ukraine. I changed the time period to the present. I hope you feel the courage and tenacity of the Ukrainian people as this fiction unfolds.
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