Once upon a time there was a man who lived in a small hut in the woods, with his wife and their two children, Ivanko and Mariyka. They were happy together, but the wife soon died. For nine years, he raised his children without help, but decided it was best to hire a maid. They soon fell deeply in love with her and he offered her hand in marriage.

“Who do you take me for!” the woman yelled. “Certainly not possible with her 2 children.”

“Should I then kill them?” the man asked.

“Why do you take me?” the woman replied. “That is certainly not Christian. What you should do is take them deep into the woods and let God take care of them. But do it quickly, because time does not forgive.”

The next morning, he took his two sons deep into the forest. She tied a branch to a tree to blow in the wind to make a chopping noise and dragged herself back to her house.

But the children were smart and found their way back. Night was falling and the two adults looked out the window, dining solemnly.

“Oh my poor orphans!” the man yelled. “Alone in the dark forest!”

“Here we are!” the children cried and ran to their father.

After the tearful reunion, the children fell into a deep sleep and the maid turned to the man and said, “Tomorrow you’ll make it or you’ll never see me again!”

The next day he took the children even further into the forest. He reads a fire and tells them to sit and wait for his return. By nightfall he had not returned. The children tried to find their way back, but couldn’t, and finally lay down, curled up on their backs.

It wasn’t long before a wolf passed by, but seeing what he thought was a two-headed monster, he ran off. A bear passed by too, but he was scared just the same. That was how the children spent the night safely.

The next morning they embarked in search of a town where they could take refuge, and they managed to get out of the forest. They came to an open field, this cool day, and saw a large, barren tree in the center of the enclave. It was hundreds of feet tall and had few branches. But when the children looked up, they saw at the top a shirt, a sword, and a gun. Ivanko noticed something written on the shirt.

“Whoever takes this shirt will be the strongest in seven countries. Whoever takes the gun and seven bullets will take down a third of the world with one shot. Whoever takes this sword will kill everyone he chooses.”

Despite his skepticism, Ivanko worked his way to the top, taking all three awards. When he came down he put on his shirt. He pressed his hand against the great tree and crowned it. Ivanko looked at his sister and smiled.

“I am now the strongest man in seven countries.”

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