Entry Nickname: Forget You, Stalin, We're Outta Here
Title: Night Witch
Word Count: 115,000
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Nadya, the diminutive trophy wife to a Communist Party functionary called Peter, learns to navigate aircraft, while navigating a secret relationship with Nikolai. In Stalin’s Soviet Union, an extramarital affair is anti-Communist, and Peter would not hesitate to send Nikolai to the Gulag, if he knew the identity of the man Nadya loves.
While the summer sun shines down in 1941, the Nazi war machine quickly swallows up vast areas of land and millions of men. Nadya’s beloved brother is one of them. Nadya refuses to cave to grief. Instead, she leaves Peter and joins the elite “Night Witches”, an air regiment made up almost entirely of women, as a navigator. For the next four years, coping with loss after devastating loss, two things keep her alive: her skills in the air, and her love for Nikolai, factory worker turned front-line soldier.
After Nadya discovers Peter is an anonymous informer for the secret police, she and Nikolai escape him together. These hardened war veterans have had enough of paranoia, famine, and oppression. Nadya knows that to earn true freedom, she and Nikolai must leave the Motherland altogether. If they cannot evade overzealous border guards and undercover secret police agents, they will die – and their two children will die with them.
Moscow, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. September 1940
The tall man with the shock of sandy hair apologized for stepping on my foot, when it really hadn’t been more than a bumping of toes. I smiled and assured him it was all right, and took a seat between two dour-faced men on the metro across from him. The smell of unwashed body contrasted sharply with the elegant station platform I saw out the window, lit with sparkling chandeliers. It was a sight I saw every afternoon on my way home from the flight navigation school where I took classes. It barely registered amidst my floating thoughts about my day, the loveless marriage I was stuck in, and which of my fellow metro riders were compiling denunciations for the secret police while pretending to read Pravda.
I caught the eye of the sandy-haired man again. He was quite handsome, I thought, in his tan topcoat and tie; I couldn’t reconcile the body-odour stink with him. When he returned my smile, I noticed his eyes. Bright, gemlike blue, with corners that crinkled upward at me. Something in my chest tightened. My heart sped up, mimicking the clacking of the wheels on the rails. I held his gaze for a moment before looking away and trying not to fuss with the sleeves of my light jacket.
The train slowed; he stood. “I hope I didn’t injure your foot too badly.” His voice was deep, masculine, smooth as silk. A Don Juan, I thought, but not a contemptible one.