1968 November 26th
Carpathian Mountains, Romania - Ukraine Border
(Present day Borșa)
After an initial year of traveling together, Ashley and his companion had begun learning to communicate. Simple gestures, body language, and small phrases created on their travels the both could understand. Simple cues the two had created to help each other avoid danger led them along their destined path.
“Travel, time?” Ashley had inquired.
“No far.” replied his Russian companion with a resounding nod, “New friend soon.”
This new friend the man had been referring to was in need of some sort of assistance that required Ashley, the partisan group that was collaborating with the Ukranian forces had informed him that the man he now traveled with was assigned to prepare a family for political asylum to the Soviet Union. Romania at the time had been formerly occupied by the Soviet Union earlier that year. Due to the fascist influence being rooted in the area at the time the Soviets called upon the partisan parties to reclaim what they could.
Ashley was astounded at the resilience of the man he met was, a true embodiment of the Iron Curtain. The whole trek from Kiev to the Romanian border had run Ashley ragged, while the man who trailed off ahead of him maintained a diligent march the entire way - even after river they had crossed fought with them every step, sapping energy with its penetrating chill.
The mountains aside rolling bluffs the trail they traveled greeted them with tall trees gently bestowing the earth with their warm colored leaves, as if they were an onlooker to the adventuring men. As majestic as the view was, winter surely upon them. The few Italian speaking partisans had informed Ashley of the potential inability to make the trek back if they had not kept up with a time-frame before the season change.
They might get stuck up there, the both of them.
It was a large possibility, but one that wasn’t too much of a threat once they made their destination.
A structure in the clearing of the horizon offered a potential respite, something that had spiked a brief glimmer in the wayward men.
Drawing closer, Ashley could identify fencing enclosing the property, a large lean-to adjoined to a hut, and a brief but repetitious clanging coming forward.
“A stable! Finally some horses for the rest of this god forsaken way!” Ashley exclaimed.
After a brief period of time.
Ashley had spent his brief break documenting their travel, recounting supplies used along the way, and resting as much as he could while his companion negotiated a price for horses with little to no avail.
“No horse.” the dejected Russian man sighed as he approached Ashley casually “No buy.”
“What do you mean no buy?” Ashley responded
Each of them gave a resounding shrug in trade at the frustrating challenge laying before them. Scaling the mountain without horses would impose a great inconvenience and set them back greatly, but the sale couldn’t be made.
Ashley uncorked a bottle of wine he produced from the pack that laid bare, offering the first quaff to his companion who gladly accepted.
“Da.” he remarked before taking it in hand.
The twilight began to blossom with amber hues that caressed the clouds adorning the night’s sky.
With night slowly approaching, the pair foraged what they could for a fire at the temporary campsite near the outskirts of the stable.
“Maybe ill try in the morning, see what I can do in trade for the owner.” Ashley offered.
“Da.” his companion retorted while not quite paying attention to the situation, giving a small relaxed gesture of his off hand to indicate that he was in fact listening.
A subtle reflection piqued Ashley’s attention as the wave had broken the indirect sight-line of his companion’s visage. The iron bodied man was in a more humble pose, unclasping a locket now in his clutches.
“Who?” Ashley asked after noticing.
“Oh? Maybe… good for you?”
Till now, Ashley had known little to no personal information about the man he had rendezvoused with after his desertion of the 173rd, the subtle enlightened expression gave way to a softening of his partner’s normally stone-faced nature.
“Maybe, father wife…” the man attempted to grasp some sort of translation whilst making an odd gesture, “…eh, me no maybe.”
Ashley nodded, hoping it would give the man some semblance of understanding. The most he could infer was a potential disagreement from the father of the woman he was now courting. Something he wasn’t familiar with but could tell his foreign partner cared deeply about.
“Well, I wish you good luck, you’re braver than me - well… braver than most.” he chuckled as he laid his head to rest on his pack.
“You, good luck. Maybe tomorrow… you maybe.” the man pointed in the distance at the farmstead after tucking away the locket beneath his collar.
Weary from their travels, they rest their bodies, each of their minds envisioning the future.