– We’re ready, we’re ready! – called the kitten.
Tola and Rascal ran into the clearing. If they hadn’t set the exact hour of their meeting, Pola would surely not recognize her companions.
Tola had almost all her neck and head covered with a silk scarf. It was constantly slipping down on her eyes, so she was tripping over and had to raise her head to see anything in front of her. Rascal was wearing a bobble hat and gloves on his front paws.
The owl looked at the two friends with resignation.
– Ah, alright, let’s go then. Tola, hold on to Rascal and I will grab his braces. Remember, don’t fidget around too much or I’ll drop you…
– Oh, Pola, I swear I won’t fidget around. Not at all! – said excited Tola.
Pola checked with Rascal to make sure he knew his job.
– OK. I’ll manage to hold her. Just don’t drop me deliberately – he added just in case. Rascal hoped the owl would take care of them now that she decided to take them with her.
– Ready… steady… go! – Pola grabbed Rascal’s braces, waved her wings right above his head and after a while she managed to lift the animals.
– Yaaaaay, I’m so high! – the kitten squealed, cheerful about her first long trip into the unknown.
Pola’s plan was really bold; she was flying the whole day and half of the night without a rest.
Finally, around midnight, when it was completely dark, Pola flew down.
– Prepare for landing! – she said loudly to her friends.
One, two, three – Pola waved her wings a few more times and they all landed on a very high wooden building. The roof was topped by three towers, or rather domes with crosses. It was an Orthodox church.
– Dobriy wyecir – Pola greeted everyone in Ukrainian. – Sorry I’m late – she added and then dozens of shining eyes appeared in the darkness. Figures of various birds started to appear in front of them: there were falcons, sparrows, woodpeckers and a lot of owls.
– Privit syestra [hi, sis] hoot, hoot, hoot – Pola’s cousin called cheerfully. – Everybody’s waiting for you – two of the shining eyes came closer to Pola and when they were within the owl’s reach, the figure suddenly jumped to the side and yelled – Aargh! Pola, who’s this? Did you bring a dog with you? – asked the scared cousin who was so happy to see Pola just a second before.
– Not only him, because I – Tola – am here too – squeaked the kitten sleepily. She had just woken up after the journey and put her head out of a huge scarf.
Pola and Rascal looked at Tola and thought – does she always have to speak at the absolute worst time?
– Eh… well, yes – said Pola, a bit embarrassed. She regretted taking the two strangers with her. – They wanted to see our Christmas and granny said…
– And granny said that we lyubov [love] everyone here! – they heard the voice of the oldest of owls – Pola’s granny. – Cajetan, don’t shout. Bring a warm blanket to our guests, they must be freezing – granny said to her grandson while coming over to hug Pola with her wing… – What’s ours is yours – she said, looking at the newcomers. – Come with us, we’re about to finish our midnight mass. I’ll show you what an unusual celebration we’re having today.
Saying this, she took Rascal and Tola under her wings and pushed them to the front. All the other birds moved to the sides, letting them pass.
It was completely dark outside, but some light was escaping through a little window in the roof. When Tola and Rascal looked through it, they saw many beautiful paintings in gold frames hanging in the Orthodox Church. A man with a long beard was standing right in front of the paintings. He must have been a priest. He was wearing a long black cassock and was swinging censers. The incense smoke was spreading through the whole room. The people gathered in the Orthodox Church had just finished singing a beautiful song and the bearded man raised his hands and started reciting the Lord’s Prayer:
– Oćche naś, iże yesi na niebiesĭh, da świętit się imię tvoye – he looked like a wizard with his long beard, standing in the smoke.
– Oh dear… I don’t understand a word in Ukrainian – said upset Tola.
– Our pope – an Orthodox priest – doesn’t speak Ukrainian but Old Church Slavonic – said granny, smiling at the kitten. – Old Church Slavonic is the oldest language in our region, that’s why you don’t understand it. But don’t be too concerned, my grandkids also don’t understand our pope when he celebrates Masses. We can listen to this language only here, in our church.
– Do you understand him? – asked Rascal, very interested.
– Yes, but I’m almost as old as this language – granny laughed cheerfully.
– Oh, you must be so wise – said Tola with admiration, opening her eyes wide. – She turned around to Pola’s granny, with an eye to add something but accidentally stepped on her scarf. She got scared and jumped, but this time she landed on the ice hidden under the snow. As Tola started to slide, she moved her paws quickly, trying to get off the ice but her rapid movements didn’t help.
– AAAAH!!! Heeeeeelp! – yelled little Tola as she slid from the roof of the Orthodox Church as if it was a ski jumping hill and hit the ground.
– Tola, woof, woof – barked terrified Rascal. Despite his calling, Tola didn’t even move her paw.
– Hold on! – barked Rascal as he jumped from the roof. At the same time Pola, with fear in her eyes, flew down and landed beside unconscious Tola.
What happened to little Tola and Rascal? Will granny help Tola?
You will find out in the next episode.
Questions to careful listeners
- How did Cajetan greet Pola?
- What is the name of the oldest language in the region where Pola’s granny lives?
- What is the church where Pola’s family celebrates Masses called?
- What is an Orthodox priest called?
- Did Pola’s granny know Tola and Rascal before, or was it their first meeting?
- Did Pola’s granny take care of Tola and Rascal? Why do you think she did?