A story a day until there’s a sleigh! This holiday season, I’m sharing a new flash fiction piece inspired by a holiday song every day of December until Christmas. Today’s story is inspired by Carol of the Bells, which I learned is based on a Ukrainian New Year’s song called Shchedryk. I also read an article in the New York Times today about Ukrainian soldiers which influenced this piece.

You can’t take porcelain dolls with you when you’re fleeing for your life. So we left them on the shelf in the bedroom I shared with my sisters, and they were there, stoic princesses with demure expressions, when the bombs came and shook them off the shelf. Rumble, rumble, and they tumbled to the ground.

The picture window in the front room where the Christmas tree stood sentinel every holiday season was blasted out by those same bombs. Now there’s a gaping hole that lets in wind and rain and sleet and snow. The carpets are molded. The damask wallpaper hangs loose and is covered in ash. The banister is detached from the staircase and parts of it have been taken for firewood.

This is no longer a home but a military compound.

I never thought I’d be back here holding the fragments of the doll I was given for Christmas the year I turned thirteen. I thought I was too old for dolls then–even if the dolls were not for playing but for sitting on shelves and waiting for bombs to break them.

There used to be swallows outside the Christmas tree window, the kind whose chatter foretold luck and good fortune. Now there are snipers. I worry my luck will run out soon, and I’ll share the same fate as my dolls. Broken into fragments. Left behind.

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