We traveled at night to avoid the bombers and bandits. “Where are we going?” everyone would ask, but no one answered because no one knew for sure. I snuggled in the soft, warm down-feather pillows inside the wagon, but outside the wind was howling and the snow began falling harder. Our horses were stamping their hooves and whinnying, struggling down the icy mud trail. We had begun our journey with one sled, but my father came from a long line of merchant traders and had managed to beg, borrow or trade for everything we needed. Now we had a covered wagon, three horses and a cow. Grandma had given us her blessings, with bread and salt, and as we reflected on our good fortune, we knew that her prayers had been heard by God.
Anatoly walked alongside the wagon, looking ahead for problems in the trail, and behind for any approaching enemies. Gala sat on the back of the wagon, holding the reins on the cow, and our dog Red brought up the rear. For a little girl of four, this crude wagon with pillows and blankets was the height of luxury, and our flight from the advancing Red Army started out as a grand adventure. But after hearing explosions in the distance and seeing the red flashes on the horizon, I gradually realized that we were in real danger. As the roaring sounds of battle grew closer, our wagon stuck in the freezing mud; my father screamed at the other wagons for help, but they only moved faster. Nobody had time for anything except saving their own skins.
In a few hours, morning approached. The sun came up, the winds calmed down, and the sounds of distant battle subsided. As the day warmed, the mud dried, and my father was finally able to pull the wagon out of the ruts and get us moving again. We had lost precious hours, and it was time to catch up with the other Cossacks on the road to nowhere. “Let’s go,” my father said in his tired voice. “Let’s go and meet a new beginning.”