Katarina has big dreams of leaving the Land of the Mennonites in Ukraine and becoming a missionary schoolteacher. But an accident with a black stallion wakens her to the reality of war. The Russian Revolution is brewing and the German Mennonites are in harm’s way. Katarina must decide. Will she embrace her faith to fight the oncoming evil, or will she flee with the others?
The German government told Peter that his mother, Katarina died in Ukraine during WW2. He isn’t sure. Are the clues to her disappearance written in her diaries from the Russian Revolution? What secrets lie behind the Iron Curtain?
A compelling story based on true events in Ukraine during the Russian Revolution in the early twentieth century. This series will be of great interest to those with cultural connections to this geography.
Targeted Age Group:: New Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I grew up listening to my grandparents and their friends tell of their refugee trek from Russian Ukraine during the Russian Revolution. After I traveled to Poland and the Ukraine, I realized this important part of history needs to be shared with the world. For decades, the facts of the cultural genocide in Ukraine during the early twentieth century was hidden behind the Iron Curtain. This is a fictional re-telling of what could be my ancestors' story.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Originally, every Russian Mennonite family had a daughter named Katarina, or a version thereof. This was a nod to Catherine the Great who gave the Mennonites the land in the southern Ukraine. My biological grandmother's name was Anna. I never knew her because she died when my dad was a few months old. Her sister raised my dad and her name was Katherina. I wanted to honor both names and they fit the characters in the book. Peter is also an ancestral name that was commonly used. This was also a nod to Imperialism. Even hundreds of years ago, everyone loved the names of royal babies.
KATARINA’S DARK SHADOW
©Sanctified Hearts Publishing 2021
©Miranda J. Chivers
All rights reserved.
CHAPTER ONE (PART TWO):
I couldn’t know the war would change everything.
At fifteen, I believed I was invincible, and the world was mine to own. Until that summer, I dismissed the global conflict and economic angst as irrelevant to my life. Father said that girls didn’t need to know such things. Instead, I should study how to become a good wife and mother — since this was to be my subscribed role. But I craved a different future.
Unlike many of the local Russian children my age, I still attended school. Mennonites valued education highly and most of my peers had graduated from the primary levels. In addition to basic academics, the girls were also taught domestic skills such as cooking, baking, sewing and other similar crafts. This compulsory training — traditionally taught by our mothers and other female family members — guaranteed every young woman’s future as a respectable member of our religious society. The more fortunate (like myself) received the added support of the watchful eyes and hands of our loyal servants.
I was born into a privileged class where land ownership defined wealth and demanded respect, and those who didn’t have served those who did. We enjoyed more than most but less than some. Dad said our family was comfortable but not that important and emphasized humility as a facet of godliness. Money and land could disappear, but character shaped one’s future. Mom said ambition led to greed and so we must watch our thoughts.
I didn’t understand this until I was older.
Food was a serious subject in our family, and so I learned to cook before I could walk. By the time I reached eighth grade, my pies won the most ribbons at the church picnics, and Dad gobbled up my vareniki even though half the filling disappeared in the boiling water. Extra portions of yeasty, molasses-rich bread, and plates drenched with lumpy onion gravy covered my comestible sins. My older brother, Dietrich, was quick to point out my imperfections. I secretly wished for him to marry a grumpy chef. Thankfully, he was soon leaving for his mandatory four years of forestry service in the Russian military. There he would pine for my cooking.
Although I appreciated our community-based life, I yearned for travel and adventure as described in the books I’d read about exotic places like Germany and America. I balked at traditional goals and set my sights on becoming a missionary school teacher. To accomplish this, I strived to be the best student at school and a shining Christian example in the community to ensure my acceptance at teacher’s college.
While Dad scoffed at my lofty ambitions and Mom rolled her eyes, my sister Anna cheered me on. “Why not you?” she said. “The world needs school teachers, too.”
Anna was the last of my sisters to marry. Even though Maria and Helena lived less than a two-hour carriage ride away, their busy farm lives and young families kept them close to home. Only our comedic sister-in-law Justina — married to our brother Heinrich — lived nearby. Our monthly family gatherings allowed little time to dig into each other’s lives. Weddings and funerals were extra opportunities to catch up. That summer, the sisters became almost inseparable as Anna’s engagement and wedding — to the wealthiest bachelor in the land of the Mennonites — brought the women home to help plan the final details.
I thought seventeen was much too young, but what did I know? I was more concerned about losing my confidant and study partner. It wasn’t the marriage that bothered me; it was the fact that Anna was moving across the mighty Dnieper River and far beyond the city to the other colony — a two-day carriage drive (in good weather) — and I hadn’t yet learned to use the train. I despaired. Our future visits were bound to be sporadic.
Although I feigned joy for her marital bliss, Anna’s departure meant this wedding was as much a funeral as it was a celebration. My fear of loneliness wasn’t washed away by her promises of letter writing. I dreaded my bleak future without her.
The day of their wedding arrived in the middle of a blistering July heatwave, and my responsibility — as the single sister of the bride — was to manage the herd of younger cousins who accompanied their parents to the festive reception in our parents’ backyard.
Instead of being one of the best days of our lives, it was the beginning of my nightmare.
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