On December 31, 1924 a little baby girl named Nadia Chaplya was born in the Ukraine. Nadia would be the middle of three children; her older sister was Maria and her younger brother was Boris. Her parents were Anton and Oksana. The Chaplyas had a small farm with a grove of cherry trees that their children had helped them to plant. Anton, however, struggled with alcoholism and made things difficult for the family.
This was a difficult time for the Ukrainian people as the Communist influence was increasing. In their small village, corruption and abuse of power was rampant. The town constable, Ivan Dushko, wanted the Chaplyas' land so badly he was willing to use his power to take it. To that end, he falsely accused Anton of political crimes, making him a wanted man.
Anton went into hiding, living in the forest near their land. He knew that if Ivan could find him, he would be arrested and the land would be taken from his family. Anton's plan worked quite well until he was captured one day when he came home to retrieve some supplies. The false charges leveled against him made he and his family outcasts in their community. When he was arrested, things became even more dangerous. Anton was found guilty, and shipped off to a labor camp, known at the time as Gulags.
The family remained in their tiny home, while Ivan Dushko adapted his tactics. Late one icy cold evening, Oksana was out trying to find some food for the children. The three children were alone in the home when they heard a knock on the door. They had been to never answer the door unless it was their mother, and they knew by the knock it wasn't their mother.
As they huddled together in fear, their was a terrific crash at the door as one of Dushko's henchmen smashed into it with an axe. Within moments their home was overrun, and the children were thrust out into the snow and the cold. Nadia and her siblings hid in a shed on the edge of their property. When they heard the sound of hammers, they peeked out and saw boards being nailed over the windows and doors of their home. Dushko was making sure that the family could not get back in.
When Oksana returned home, she found her children huddled in the garden shed. She spread her coat over them and no doubt began to worry about the future. Their home was inaccessible, and they really had nowhere to turn. If anyone tried to help their little family, that person would risk being charged with the same crimes as Anton. What would become of this little family?
Sara McCaslin is an engineer, a computer scientist, and a freelance writer.