and therefore we bless our lucky stars...
The changes taking place in life quite often
coincide with changes taking place in us.
And if we have a different point of view,
if we have changed
the estimation scales,
if, viewing people,
we discover something new,
it means we first revealed it in ourselves.
Of course, I haven"t lived too long, and yet
at twenty I reviewed my life throughout:
I should have never said
what I had said,
and what I hadn"t said
I should have spoken out.
I saw that I had often been too prudent,
had not been thoughtful, sensitive, pretentious,
that in my life, quite smooth, there wouldn"t
be real deeds, but rather good intentions.
But still there is a way of coming round
and gaining strength for new ideas, just
stepping down, once again, upon the ground
I used to tread, barefooted, raising dust.
This thought has always helped me everywhere,
a simple thought it seems to be, by far,
that I"ll be seeing you again somewhere
near Baikal Lake[i] you, station called Zima.
I"d like to see the old familiar pines,
the witnesses of the old-old bygone times,
when great-granddad, along with other peasants,
were banished to Siberia as rebels.
From far away
to God forsaken place,
through mud and rain, deep in disgrace,
along with their wives and kids they were driven,
Ukrainian peasants, from Zhitomir [ii] region.
They plodded, trying to forget about
the things they treasured most of all, perchance...
The watchful convoy guards on the look out
would look askance at their heavy veiny hands.
The corporal would be playing cards as night would fall
while great-granddad, absorbed in thought all night,
would skilfully pick up a piece of coal
straight from the fire, to have a light.
what his thoughts were about;
perchance, about that land, unknown, new...
Would it be friendly or the other way around?
What it was really like God only knew.
He didn"t bet on tales there were
about the place which "wasn"t really bad"
that "simple people lived like nobles there"
( Where had ever people lived like that ? ).
Nor did he trust the feeling of distress
which would come over him all over sudden:
for, after all, there was a plot, for kitchen garden,
where he could plough and sow like anywhere else.
What is in store for us?
There is a long-long way to go as yet.
Where is Ukraine?
Sweet homeland, where is she?
There"s no way back from here, you bet.
New settlers, not withstanding their wishes,
the peasants should have, naturally, thought
that land to be a twist of fate and a malicious
misfortune which had fallen to their lot.
They had to change their homeland for another
and should have felt resentment and dismay,
for, after all, however good, stepmother
would not replace one"s mother, anyway.
But as they touched its soil, to see what it was worth,
and as they let their kids taste water, crystal clear,
they realised: it was the good old earth,
that it was theirs,
near and dear !..
However, they would gradually come to harm of
the yoke of poverty, and hardship would begin.
It"s like a nail one drives in with a hammer,-
is it to blame
for being driven in?
They were early birds and never waited
for crows to wake them up at dawn,
but all was vain: however hard they sweated
they would be swallowed by the harvest grown.
They mowed, threshed grain,
made hay and weeded,
they did the house-chores and cleaned the shed;
sufficiency of bread was all they needed, -
was in the daily bread.
My great-granddad believed in bread devoutly,
and, having gone through miserable days,
he dreamed about the truth, undoubtedly,
but not the kind of truth he had to face.
The great granddaddy"s truth was insufficient for it,
the new, unusual truth was to be trusted in:
a girl of nine, my mother got to know it,
the year of nineteen hundred and nineteen.
One autumn day, amidst the skirmish thunder,
there came a horseman, riding from afar,
a man with golden forelock
seen from under
the hat embellished with a metal star.
Then, galloping headlong, in jubilation,
across the bridge, which couldn"t hold the load,
cavalrymen rushed passed towards the station
with sabres glittering in flight along the road.
There was some merit and some simple vision,
which obviously were acquired traits,
about the way the man from State Commission
had stopped the robbery and looting raids;
about the way the comic from the squadron
performing in the club;
about the way
the lodging soldier-man was bothering
with his jackboots
he"d give a good hard scrub.
He fell in love. She was a high-school teacher.
He lost his head and couldn"t say the word,
he"d talk about this and that but feature
of the hydra of the world.
He was quite smart in theoretic sphere
( as soldiers in his squadron said ).
The main thing , he would claim, was the idea,
it didn"t matter if there wasn"t bread.
He would go wild and argue with devotion,
resorting to quotations and his fist,
the bourgeois, he said, must drown in the ocean,
the rest was simple,
like the twist of wrist.
What would come after? Life would be so lovely:
unfold the flags and banners, red!
the trumpets playing lively,
march to Commune,
straight ahead !
As tough as old jackboots, the "preacher",
the valiant horseman, loaded down with grain,
got on his horse
and, turning to the teacher,
"So long! See you again!"
to look ahead into the distance
where winds were filled with powder smell,
and off he rode,
the horse now took him eastwards,
in burrs and bands its forelock swayed farewell.
I was a boy then.
We would play around.
At hide at seek we"d find a little nook,
the place where we would not be found,-
the barn with bullet holes through which we"d look.
We lived in our world of fun and mischief
when Moscow was within the reach of
Guderian[iii], who standing on the tank,
gaped at the Kremlin on the river bank...
We were carefree, we"d run away from class,
across the schoolyard through the field of grass,
on to the river we would come out,
we"d cut a twig, a fishing rod, self-made,
we"d have a line, a hook and bait,
with no one there to order us about.
I would go fishing, fly a kite,
I would take a stroll,
I"d wander, chewing clover,
out in the open,
my sandals green from grass, from top to sole.
I"d walk along beehives
and fresh black furrows
and watch the clouds floating, soft and white,
I"d see them, slightly trembling, stretch as far as
horizon, where they"d drown, filled with light.
I"d see a farm-yard and, walking by it,
I"d listen to the horse"s neigh,
and I would fall asleep,
tranquil and tired,
relaxing in a stack of hay.
I had no worries living life of ease then,
which was as smooth as it could be,
did not seem hard to me just for the reason
that I would have my problems
solved for me.
I knew that I would get the answers, surely,
to all my questions: "how?" and "what?" and "why?",
however, it was no one else but I
who had to answer all these questions duly.
The difficulty, as I pointed out,
came by itself, as some unwitting chance,
and it was my anxiety, no doubt,
that made me go to see Zima, for once.
Returning to the near and dear forests,
to streets where I liked to walk about so,
I brought my current complication and my worries
to the simplicity of former times, for show.
They looked intently in resentment, or they rather
were feeling mutual offence, an anger streak:
two ages, Youth and Childhood,
faced each other
who would be the first to speak.
It was my Childhood that began:
I hardly recognised you.
It"s your fault.
I used to dream about you, and, you know,
you"re different from what you were in my thought.
I"ll tell you openly that you upset me.
You are my debtor, and you owe me a great deal".
Youth , slightly puzzled, answered:
"Will you help me?"
And Childhood , smiling, said:
Then, stepping softly, as we said our goodbye,
watching the houses around and the passers-by,
I made my way, in joy and trepidation,
about the streets of
ofdear Zima station.
I had been thinking, and I wondered whether
I would see any changes when I got in.
I figured if it wasn"t any better
at least it wasn"t worse than it had been.
But everything appeared to be small,
the chemist"s shop, the city park and all.
It seemed that things had shrunk and therefore
were smaller than had been nine years before.
As I was circling around the vicinity
I gradually came to realise
that it was not the streets that had become diminutive,
it was my steps that now were big in size.
Like in my own flat I used to live in it
where I, without stumbling, even in the dark,
would, practically, find within a minute
things like the bed, the wardrobe and or the rack
It made me really sick to watch the sight:
the fence with an offensive scribble,
the tea-room with a drunk man outside,
the local shop with the disputing people.
It wasn"t somewhere else, it was a challenge
to homeland, to my place of birth and youth,
my dear land where I had come for courage,
strength, virtue, fortitude and truth...
The carter cursed officials from the council,
somebody laughed at roosters breaching peace,
the dusty burrs, without the slightest rustle,
incuriously listened to all this...
I was anticipating some refreshment,
something I really needed, something great,
as I approached my dear and near threshold
and turned the iron ring upon the gate.
Indeed, the happy exclamations such as:
So nice that you have come!",
the warm embraces, kisses and reproaches:
"You might as well have sent a telegram!",
"We"ll fan the samovar for drinking bouts!",
"It"s been years! I can"t believe!"-
all this, as I had thought, dispelled my doubts
and filled my heart with comfort and relief.
Aunt Lisa, full of bother, was quite clear
and firm about her decision now:
"You need a bath after the journey, dear.
Those trains! I know what the are like, and how !"
The tables were already being taken out
into the yard; the spoons and plates as well,
as I walked, murmuring a song aloud,
across the bed of onions, to the well.
It was awaken and appeared to be listening
to "Song of Stenka Razin[iv]" which I sang.
Like in my childhood days, the bucket, glistening,
was coming up from darkness, with a clang.
A short while after, surrounded by kinship,
amidst the bustle of enquiries, toasts and that,
wet-haired, wearing a clean well ironed T-shirt,
as an important guest from Moscow there I sat.
I was too weak for huge Siberian dishes,
so I was looking wistfully at lavish food.
aunt Lisa said -
they are delicious.
What do you eat in Moscow? Is it any good?
Why don"t you eat? It is improper, really...
Take some pelmeni[v]. Do you want some gourd?
"You like "Stolichnaya[vi]" ?
my uncle asked me drearily -
now let us drink the local brand, it"s good.
But , mind,
it"s bad for you, young people.
Once you begin you"ll learn it fast.
Make sure you do it in a gulp! It"s simple.
Let us hope it isn"t last".
We drank and talked
and joked. in exaltation,
and then, all of a sudden, silence fell: so much
were all intrigued
by my young sister"s question:
"Did you attend the funeral [vii]in March?".
The conversation turned to serious issues,
the issues of the year of which there"d been a lot,
and the events concerning utmost wishes,
arousing anxiety and thought.
My uncle put aside the home-brew he was drinking,
and said: "All people are philosophers to-day.
Such is the time.
We all have started thinking..
You can"t make out what is happening right away.
The doctors [viii]were not to blame, as it comes out.
Why did they hurt them, penalise and scold?
It was a scandal nation-wide, no doubt.
The wicked Beria[ix], it was his fault !".
He told me,
the things that worried him and weren"t plain to see:
"You are from Moscow,
and you know it all throughout.
Will you explain it properly to me?"
He was demanding, pushing, so to say,
and didn"t feel ashamed. No way.
He started rolling cigarettes, in expectation
of my response to his momentous question.
I had to answer him for he was so impatient.
I think that my response was justified,
I calmly said (as though I knew the explanation):
"I"ll explicate it later on, all right?"
My bed was in the haystack.
I lay musing
and listening to the sounds of the night.
They danced somewhere to accordion music,
while I had nobody to help me, by my side.
The bed was prickly,
and it was getting cooler,
the hay was rustling, stirring my pillowslip.
to crown it all, my younger brother Kolya
would bother me, preventing me from sleep.
I would be puzzled with the questions put:
"What is pineapple? Is it a veg or fruit?
A helicopter, have you ever seen one?
Goalkeeper Khomich[x], do you know the man?"...
When I got up the sky was dull but clear;
I stretched myself sitting on sacks with corns.
The light of dawn,
beginning to appear,
descended on the cocks" purple combs.
The morning mist, still there, was now bound
do dissipate, and far away therein
like nestling-boxes, slowly fading in,
emerged up from the ground.
Along the streets staid cows were proceeding,
cracking the whip, the herdsman walked behind.
I saw that all was steady, good and fitting,
and all I wanted was to free my mind.
At breakfast time, despite reproachful glances,
my pockets stuffed with bread, and lightly clad,
the way I used to run away from classes,
I ran off to the river - just like that.
Along the strand, on warm and silty ground,
I walked up to a willow and lay down
upon the sand, relaxing in the shade.
In front of me the river babbled softly,
down the stream the logs were floating slowly,
colliding now and then they pulled ahead.
There were distant sounds of hooter,
and down the strand
a railwayman was standing in the water,
his trousers rolled up, a fishing rod in hand.
He frowned at me, and by the angry glare,
by his appearance he seemed to say:
"He isn"t fishing...
Well, I wouldn"t care ...
The thing is that he is in the way".
Then looking carefully he said : "Ah, Zhenka!"
and coming up continued:
"Let me see.
Aren"t you the son of Zina Yevtushenko?
You look like one...
Have you forgotten me?...
Are you from Moscow? For the summer?
Now let me settle down somewhere".
And, sitting down,
he unrolled the pack of meal:
a piece of bread, tomatoes, salt and dill.
He asked me questions, and there were many;
I had to answer though I was tired and vexed -
how big my grants were, if I got any,
and when the Exhibition [xi]would be opened next.
A biting man, a vigorous debater,
he tried to catch me out in some way.
"The youth -he argued - used to be much better,
the Komsomol [xii]is tedious today.
I knew your mom at seventeen or thereabouts,
admirers ran after her in crowds,
but they were cautious
fearing her speech,
a sharp-tongued girl, she was beyond their reach.
In overcoats remade to their sizes
like your mom,
as I recall,
at meetings cried, rejecting compromises,
that plaits were bourgeois survivals, after all.
They"d always have ideas and suggestions
and would hold forth on something, out of wits.
Say, they would seriously discuss the question
of "socialisation of the kids".
There were funny things of course, no doubt,
at times things were even very bad.
There is one thing
that I am worrying about:
you haven"t got the ardour that they had.
I"ll tell you
( though I know I may be censured ):
your thoughts, my friend, are not the youthful kind.
In point of fact, our age is, is always measured
by our thoughts and our turn of mind.
There"s youth but there"s no youthful spirit.
Well, my nephew is the one.
He"s not yet 25 but you will not believe it,
you"d say he"s a 30-year-old man.
He was an ordinary young man,
like any other,
then he was put on the committee"s [xiii]list.
Imagine him preside, debating , full of bother,
the way he bangs the desk with his commanding fist !
He walks and talks
in an imposing fashion,
and as a speaker he"s such a gifted man! -
as though fine words spoke louder than actions,
forgetting that it"s easier said than done.
To listen to him all is smooth and clear.
Can he be called an ardent youth ?
Not half !
He has forgotten football and his near and dear
because, he thinks, it isn"t serious enough.
He has become a serious man, but where
discussions, striving mood?
The youth are not the same as they once were.
Nor are the fish,
( he sighed ),
they aren"t so good.
So we have snatched a mouthful, it appears...
Now let me throw the line. Just have a look".
A minute later, smacking, to my silent cheers,
he took a perfect crucian off the hook..
"It"s grown thick indeed ! Oh what a fortune!" -
amazed at such a gorgeous fish, he beamed.
"You said the fish weren"t good" - as if reproaching,
"I didn"t mean all fish..." - he grinned.
He shook his finger at me with a sneer
as if he wished to say:
"I"ll tell you what:
the fish has fallen for the bait, my dear,
but you may rest assured that I won"t..."
At table talks,
over my aunt"s abundant
and hearty meals,
I couldn"t speak at all.
Why was I thinking of that man, I wondered .
There were many suchlike people, after all..
"I"m not your mom- in- law " - complained aunt Lizzie
Why are you always gloomy, in a foul mood ?
Come, come cheer up, boy, take it easy!
We"d better go for berries, to the wood.
There were two girls in petticoats, three women
Through rye fields we were driven,
and from the lorry platform carrying hay
we watched the mowers flashing here and there,
caps, kerchiefs, horses glimpsing all the way,
we got the rolls of bread, prepared for the day,
and drank fresh milk, to while the time away.
Quails fluttered off the road escaping wheels,
the deafening sounds grated on my ears,
the world was bustling , trembling, growing green,
while I kept listening and just watching all that scene.
Some boys were tossing stones down by the stream,
and though the sun was getting hot and burning
up in the sky dark clouds were stirring
and breathing heavily, accumulating steam.
Now it was dark, with signs of rain before us,
some climbed the haystack for shelter to attain,
at breakneck pace we flew into the forest,
along with lightening and the pouring rain.
We rearranged the platform making room in
the heaps of hay we raked up leaving space,
but there was one among us,
a young woman,
who said she didn"t need a hiding place.
She"d been reserved all day and looked worn out,
at lunch and breakfast time she wouldn"t say a word;
but now, all of a sudden, she came out
in front of us and looked so young ! My Lord!
She took her kerchief off, and waving with it,
in outburst of fervour, with a swing,
wet to the bone, but joyful, showing spirit,
she moved her shoulder and began to sing:
"Little girlie walked about
picking berries in the wood,
she would take the bigger berries
as for little ones she wouldn"t."
She straightened, proud, daring and dashing,
her eyes, her heart turned forward, full of grace,
but there were tears and a storm upon her lashes
and lashing pine tree needles on her face.
"Now don"t be silly,
you will get some ailment" -
aunt Lisa pulled her, giving her a stir,
but she bestowed herself upon the rain, and
the latter gave itself entirely to her.
She ran her swarthy hand through her dishevelled hair
and looked ahead into the distance
as if she saw
something the others couldn"t really see.
It seemed to me
that in this world there were
no other things
except for this terrain,
this ride against the wind,
this country air,
this singing woman
and this pouring rain...
We found lodging for the night
I n a small house,
it was a barn, or granary, quite plain;
the air was stale and smelled of sheep and cows,
dried mushrooms, bilberries and grain.
The twigs of besoms smelled of leaves and foliage,
up on the wall, in sliding beams of light,
horse-collars, obviously kept in storage,
looked like tremendous flying bats at night.
I couldn"t sleep;
the faces were drear,
I heard a woman"s whisper, full of grief,
I listened to the voice :
"Oh Lizzie, dear,
you really can"t imagine how I live !
We"ve got a metal roof, which makes me proud,
a brand new oven, house plants and all.
The rooms are orderly,
I"ve got my husband, kids,-
but what about my soul?!
It"s cold in there, and the cold is vehement...
My mother says:
"Your Peter is quite good,
he doesn"t beat you,
and he doesn"t go with women,
Well, yes, like any other man he would."
he will come home, intoxicated,
and he will growl, saying he is bored,
and he will take me, silently,
oh how I hate it!
as if I weren"t a human, oh my God!
I used to cry, it wasn"t really funny,
I had insomnia,
now it is all over, though.
The way I look..
A forty year old granny!
I"m only thirty five, you know !
What shall I do? What will the future bring me?
I wish I had a loving man, my dove!
I would do all for him... and let him beat me...
if only he could give me faith and love !
I"d stay at home and never leave the house,
and I would keep it tidy, nice and good,
I"d wash his feet, like a devout spouse,
and drink the water then, I really would !"
It was that very woman who was singing
as in the pouring rain we made a rush.
I really envied her
her open mind, her recklessness and dash.
The whisper died away.
A creaking sound
came from the well,
and then there was a hush,
all was serene and quiet all around
but for the champ of spinning wheels in slush.
We were awaken by a youngster in the morning.
He had a jacked on, appearing "grand",
a scab upon his nose, a sort of warning,
he stood a copper kettle in his hand.
He glanced disdainfully at me, my auntie
and those who were still asleep and said:
"You"re going to the wood for berries, aren"t you?
I wonder why
you should be still in bed."
To catch up with the herd a cow was scurrying,
a woman chopping wood some logs was carrying.
A rooster shrieked.
We were on our way.
The chirring of grasshoppers pierced the air,
there were haystacks towering here and there,
the sky was blue, it was a clear day.
We went across the fields,
then through the forest
to sounds of bustling birds" chorus,
and in the in glamour of the morning dew.
There were already some enticing samples
of tender smoky raspberries and brambles
amidst the bushes, showing red and blue.
We picked the bilberries as we proceeded,
the cowberries were burning underfoot.
But we were after strawberries. We needed
the best of all the berries in the wood.
Now someone suddenly cried out loud:
"Oh there it is! Look, there"s another one!"
Oh joy of grasping, wishing more and picking out !
Oh sound of berries bouncing in the can!
The youthful leader stirred us, speaking drearily,
and somehow we obeyed him when he said:
"Hey people ! You"re being funny, really,
we haven"t reached the berry fields as yet!"
Then suddenly a field broke out of the forest,
a field of flowers, berries, sunlight glow.
We were dazzled, -
what we had before us
was like a sound of amazement: "Oh!"
The strawberries were thrilling and exciting,
with bins and cans we ran to them by leaps,
and going down on the ground,
we tore them off the stems with our lips.
The grass on hills looked like a misty shroud,
the pines and midgets were buzzing, after rain...
It wasn"t berries
that my thoughts were about,
it was that woman, and I looked at her again.
There was a touch of joy in all her motions,
her kerchief had slipped down her forehead low,
she"d pick a strawberry revealing her emotions,
but I believed it was a show.
Confused and puzzled, brooding, as it were,
I rose from trampled grass, now warm and good,
I gave my berries to somebody there
and walked away, at random, through the wood.
I didn"t leave a single moment out
but summed up all I had in memory....
From humming pines I gradually came out -
I saw a field of wheat and greenery.
Up in the sky
a solo bird was flying.
I settled on a heap of twigs to rest from stroll,
and turned my question to the wheat,
how happy life could be ensured for all.
"Do tell me, wheat,
I know you"re wise and clever,
I"m helpless, and I feel ashamed of it,
perchance, I am no good , and I will never
be capable of doing it?"No, - replied the golden ear, slightly shaking, looking sad, - you are just too young, my dear, and you"re neither good nor bad. I accept you question, really, Sorry, but I"ll let it pass, and although I get it clearly I can"t answer it, alas !"
And I went on my way, walking down
country road, past a horse-driven cart,
and I met with a man with a frown,
looking angry but cheerful at heart.
A remarkable, small , young man an"
dusty and weak,
in a practical businesslike manner
he was carrying his boots on a stick.
He was telling me quite in the earnest
that the harvest was coming to harm,
that Pankratov, the boss was dishonest
and a real disgrace to the farm.
He went on: " I will not pay lip service,
I will get law and justice restored.
If the local officials don"t solve this
I will go to Irkutsk [xiv]for support".
There appeared a car from somewhere
with a pompous official inside,
bag at hand, he was sitting in there
like a chairman up to preside.
"Do you want your mom to shed tears?
Are you going to lodge a complaint ?
You"ll remember Pankratov for years!
I will teach you a lesson, just wait!"
He was gone, and I felt real power
was not in that big man at all,
I believed it was rather in our
man of will, barefooted and small.
Then we parted. The little man hurried
straight ahead on the dusty road,
I could long see the boots which he carried
sway and swing on the stick as he trod.
A few days later we were hurrying home, worn out,
We took a passing lorry and set out.
The house holder came to see us off,
we shook his hand , the parting was warm-hearted,
we wished he came to see us, as we parted,
he hoped to see us many a time and oft.
He was a firm old man, a man of ration,
a forester, a true Siberian man!
He passed the buckets in a stately fashion
onto the platform of the lorry, one by one.
The stars were fading, and we had to hurry,
and in the crawling hazy break of day
we started once again, the little lorry,
with bits of grass on wheels, took us away.
The host was waving to us - an aware man!
He knew Siberian forests inside out,
but he, undoubtedly, didn"t know about
the things I chanced to hear in his barn.
But I don"t want to talk about , really...
I"d better dwell on
how I got up early,
I"d have a glass of milk
and would be gone,
on how I would admire bright green meadows,
surrounded by forests,
and the lawn
where I would wander
stepping on the shadows,
of clouds floating in the sky at dawn.
I"d take a hunting gun with me.
it was in vain, to no avail as ever,
but I would take it with me anyway.
I would sit down, gun in hand , in contemplation,
recalling everything, including my relations,
both Volodya and Andrey.
As for Andrey, the elder one,
I"ll say the following:
I like the way he sleeps
when after work he comes,
the way he washes
early in the morning,
the way he cuddles children in his arms.
The manager of motor transport-depot,
he"s always smudgy,
always out of temper,
a stocky figure, sitting in his office jeep,
he drives from place to place letting it rip.
Sometimes, after a quarrel with his people,
he"ll disappear for a day or two,
and he"ll come back , exhausted, kind and simple,
smelling of gasoline and forest dew.
When shaking hands
he"ll give a squeeze and pressure,
at wrestling he will throw two men over his head,
he can do everything with taste and pleasure,
he can chop wood and salt a slice of bread.
Uncle Volodia is a wizard, I declare!
The plane makes wonders when he works at home,
when he, from top to toe in golden foam,
shakes pine wood shavings off his bang of hair.
Oh what a skilful man! Oh what a joiner!
And as a story-teller he"s so great -oh my!
I"d often listen to him standing nearby
outside the barn or in his joiner"s corner:
about a cook who was shot dead for cheating,
about soldiers who, as they marched along
somewhere in a village, heard a greeting:
a woman named Francesca sang a song.
I loved my uncles so! As for he the rumour
I didn"t care. It wasn"t true, I bet:
"You know, Andrey is flirting with a woman,
a driver"s wife" - the next-door neighbour said.
-Talk to your aunt and have the matter out!
-Well, no! Why should I?. Somehow she will know.
Volodya[xv] is a perfect joiner, there"s no doubt,
All people know him as a drinker though".
She drummed into my head (we had a tangle)
that I should be concerned about the case,
but I did not. And then my younger uncle
all of a sudden vanished in the haze.
From day to day there came all sorts of people
with a request to fix a toy, a bed, a shoe.
The answer was laconic and quite simple:
"He"s gone on business. For a day or two".
Then suddenly the neighbour woman shouted
her lengthy nose appearing in the door :
"They are ashamed to tell you straight about it,
he"s lying there down on the floor !
This is a lesson which you should learn with care.
Come on! Let"s go!" - both vexed and glad,
as if she were the hostess there,
she took me to the larder in the yard.
And there he lay, spread on floor, in underwear,
his breath was reeking of some liquor, cheap and strong,
he tried to breath a tune into the air
confusing it with a prevalent Georgian song.
On seeing us he sat up looking drear,
still at a loss but coming round now,
and said addressing to me : "Zhenka[xvi], dear,
you"ll never know I"m fond of you. And how!"
I couldn"t see him in such a situation,
he discomposed me once again. So I was gone.
I didn"t want to eat at home with my relations,
I had refreshment in the tea-room, on my own.
The tea-room breathed a sultry summer air,
they were stabbing pigs, to jeers and cries,
there were flashing trays and faces here and there,
and sticking bands on windows, to catch flies.
A teacher stared at me, short-sighted, squinting,
a country woman damned the soup with grunt,
a lumber-man, appealingly was clinking
the glass, a fork in his enormous brown hand.
It was too noisy, the waitresses were working,
there were crowds of them flying here and there.
At tea I gradually started talking
with open heart and feeling, unaware.
The man I talked to was big-faced and earnest,
an intellectual, as far as I could see,
he called himself a Moscow journalist,
"I"m writing a report" he said to me.
He poured me berry liquor, soft and mellow,
and waving the tobacco smoke of blue
he commented: "You"re naïve, my fellow,
there was a time when I was just like you.
I wished to know what things were all about,
and I was confident of my abilities and skill,
I was a fighter, and I tried to make things out
and rearrange the course of time at will.
Like you, I was steadfast, persistent, and devout,
and I would never give up in advance;
and then I failed to have my book put out,-
I had my family, and had to have my chance.
I am a newsman now and not a bad one either.
I drink, and I am a sullen man, they say.
I don"t write books, no, well, what is a writer?
He"s nothing but a man of influence to day.
There are some changes, yes, but there"s a hidden
and shrouded game behind the things we say-
today we say what yesterday we didn"t,
and we don"t mention what we did yesterday".
But from the way he glared at everything
and from the way he scorned and censured all
I saw that he did not believe in anything,
love is belief, so it was not belief at all.
"Gosh! I forgot about my feature story!
I"m going to the sawmill. Time to stroll.
I didn"t like this food, it"s really horrid.
Well, what can one expect from such a hole?"
He wiped his lips, and, then all of a sudden,
as he caught sight of torment in my eyes,
he said: "This is your birthplace, pardon,
I just forgot, and I apologize".
I had to pay for his oppressive stories
by walking round, listening to the forest;
Andrey said : "Well, I really need a go
to take you out, silly you. This evening
we"re going to the central club, they"re giving
a concert there. It"s a philharmonic show.
We all have got the tickets, don"t you grumble...
Look at your trousers, go have them pressed"
And soon I walked along, dressed up and humble,
the warmth of iron on my shirt, I looked my best.
Beside me, with a measured tread, and taking
a careful look at their jackboots all along,
my sedate uncles sauntered radiating
the smell of polish, liquor and cologne.
The highlight of the show was a promoted Russian
weightlifter giant who was really great!
He could do everything!
In a majestic fashion
he lifted with his teeth a fifty pound weight.
He"d jump about on swords, adroit and restless,
and then he"d play the violin, for a while,
and, juggling skillfully with balls and vessels,
he"d toss and drop them in a splendid style.
He cast out kerchiefs, as many as he wanted,
then rolled them all in one and then unrolled
to show the a dove of peace embroidered on it
as the idea and the moral of it all.
My uncles clapped their hands: "Isn"t it clever!
Oh what a skilful man! Look, he is grand!"
I, too, applauded,
just to do a favor,
they would have got offended if I hadn"t.
The artist, showing off his muscles, bowed, overjoyed...
It was dark night when curtains were drawn.
"How did you like the show? Did you enjoy it?"
But I just wanted to be left alone.
"I"ll take a walk".
"That"s what we"re grieved about,
"cause all the family keep wondering where you are.
You never stay at home, you"re always out.
Have you a love affair here in Zima?"
I took a walk alone, unnoticed, quiet,
I didn"t dream, I had my land in thought.
The show ? I hadn"t much admired it,
these kinds of things I"d seen a lot !
I"d seen so many tricks, gone by and dated,
but rearranged and set as costly shows,
I had applauded, though not much elated,
I"d been to quite a lot of those.
Like signs on silver spoons, the concerts
were out place when hardship was the price,
I"d brood about false and truthful concepts
and the transition of the truth to lies.
Let"s think. We"re all to blame for the occasions
of mournful little things oft taking place.
of empty rhymes and numerous quotations,
as well as standard speeches and clichés...
There are two kinds of love,
flatter their sweethearts, with a wink,
however serious the wound, they will forget it
without making an attempt to think.
We"ve gone of late through very many grievous
events; - we see it when we look behind.
Our love for Russia should be fixed and serious,
and shouldn"t be insouciant and blind !
Let us consider every little thing
so that we don"t live fast, but live and think.
A noble cause will never lie but can be cheated
by those who always try to outwit it.
I do not justify the week and helpless,
but I just wouldn"t pardon those
who are engaged in gossip, petty, endless,
and squander Russia"s great prophetic cause.
Let fuss and bustle be the fate of weaklings,
it"s easy to blame others and feel free;
it"s actions, big and small,
that Russia really expects from me.
What do I want?
I want to be a fighter.
I want to bravely fight so everything I do
and all I struggle for might have a lighter
to burn the flame of truth I would adhere to.
So that wherever I may be,
or walk about,
along the road, on fields or rusty sand
I"d have a banner over me,
and the sensation of its handle
in my hand.
I know that disbelief arouses contemplation;
while our thoughts are the result of love,
we get to know the truth by revelation,
for those who for its sake have given life.
We want to live, and not just float and wander,
we"ll understand all our "whats" and "whys".
A great cause calls us! Let us ponder,
let us come up to it, and show that we are wise.
I took a casual route to walk around
along the wooden pavement resonating loud,
there were sporadic creaks from gates and huts.
A group of girls walked past me chatting:
"He loves me so! I must do something".
"And do you love him?" - "No! I am not nuts!"
As I walked on dark night lay all around
and hidden in it, there deep inside,
there was a powerful state which had come out
with locomotives, rails, electric light.
There were heaps of metal shavings, glistening,
there was a funny pusher. I was listening
the way it rattled steaming to and fro;
two fellows, hammers in their hands, were working,
the muscles on their shoulder blades twitched, jerking,
their teeth on oily faces white as snow.
White clouds of steam, belligerently hissing,
were coming sharply from beneath the wheel,
the rails and locomotive were glistening
and filling the night air with a chill.
The watchman, rolling a cigar for his companion,
a little flag under his arm, said with a sigh:
"The train is late. Behind the time we"re planning on.
Vasily is divorcing, Did you hear why?".
Now suddenly I stopped and stared recalling:
across the tracks with a habitual step, a guy
dressed in an oily jacket, holding
a suitcase in his hand, was coming bye.
Impossible! Could it be Vovka[xvii] Drobin?
But he had left Zima, it seemed to me.
I went up to him, and my voice was dropping:
"We used to know each other, didn't we?"
We laughed. He was the same except that he
would have, stuck in his belt, a book of Defoe.
"You haven't changed! As thin as rail, I see.
Still writing rhymes? Come join us in the Depot".
"Remember how we gave his due, that odious
Sinelnikov for dirty tricks he'd done?".
"And how we sang in hospital for soldiers?".
"And how you had a sweetheart? It was fun!"
I felt like chatting to him, speaking out
my grieves and sorrows,
I just wished to talk.
"But you are just from work, you are worn out!"
Oh come!. There"s the Oka[xviii] River, let us walk".
The little path stretched through the dark night shadows,
with prints of boots and feet and horse-shoes, left by day
amidst tall bushy plants along the furrows
and huge tin-colored burdocks all the way.
I was alarmed and calm as I was speaking out,
expressing all my thoughts I criticized a lot.
My classmate listened to me cautiously, without
responding to my argument and thought.
And so we walked towards the river, talking,
we could already feel the smell of sand,
of willow trees, and fish and saw the fishers smoking,
The Oka was approaching.
It was close at hand.
We jumped into the water, black, enormous,
he shouted: "Come on !Don"t lag behind!"
And, unaware, I recalled some moments,
while some things suddenly had slipped my mind.
And then we sat upon the moonlit bank of yellow,
the good refreshing water turned my brain,
not far from us up in the meadow
some horses browsed, neighing now and then.
I was reflecting as I watched the flowing Oka
I had a guilty conscious, in a way.
"You"re not the only one who thinks - said Vovka,
all people tend to contemplate today.
The way you sit, you"ll get you jacket rumpled.
You can"t know all at once, I"m afraid.
With time all things will be unfolded and unscrambled.
it takes some time, my friend, you have to wait.
The night was calm but for some distant hooting,
and presently my friend got up and said :
"That"s fine, but I must think about my duty.
I must be off. I"ll go to work at eight".
It was the break of day. All things around
had grown young, the night had come to naught,
now it was cold. The contours, faded out,
were putting on a colored overcoat.
The rain had stopped. A drizzle late in summer.
My friend and I walked by the river, running deep;
I could imagine that Pankratov somewhere
was riding round in his haughty jeep.
He was a dauntless and convincing story teller...
But walking somewhere in the neighborhoods
there was a stubborn barefooted fellow
with an amusing stick for carrying boots.
It was an ordinary day, and it was lovely.
There were so many pigeons over me!.
I also was agreeable and lively!
And I was young , as young as I could be!
I was departing. I was sad and clear.
I was a little desolate because
I"d learnt a lesson, something very dear,
I couldn"t say exactly what it was.
I drank some vodka to my near and dear...
I walked about Zima for the last time.
As usual, the day was warm and clear,
the sunlit trees were green, in their prime.
Some boys were tossing coins and playing,
there were lines of lorries on the roads,
and at the market women were selling
all kinds of berries, cattle, cows and goats.
I walked on further, sad and free as air,
and then at last I passed the final block,
and gradually got up a sunlit hillock,
and long stood looking down from there.
I saw the building of the railway station,
sheds, houses, barns, and stacks of hay,
I listened to Zima"s preceptive revelation,
and this is what my town had to say:
"I live a modest life, crack hazel-nuts for eating,
with quiet engines steaming night and day,
I think a lot about the time we live in,
I love it, and I tolerate it anyway.
You"re not the only one, so resolute, I fancy,
in your ambitions, thoughts and in your fight;
you shouldn"t worry that you couldn"t answer
the question which was put to you that night.
Keep watching, listening and you"ll make it later,
keep searching, knock about, roam and cruise.
The truth is good, my son, but happiness is better,
and yet there is no happiness without truth.
Go round the world, be proud and dashing,
be firm of purpose taking heart to grace
with tears and a storm upon your lashes
and lashing pine tree needles on your face.
Love people, you will understand them, dear,
I"ll keep an eye on you at any time of day!
And in the hours of trouble do come here.
And off I went.
I"m on my way.
[ii] Zhtomir - a city in central Ukraine, W of Kiev. 244,000.
[iii] Guderian - A Wehrmacht general, commander of a tank army in the eastern front during World War II
[iv]Stepan Razin - Leader of a peasant uprising
[v] Pelmeni - Russian Cookery.
a Siberian dish of small pockets of dough filled with seasoned, minced beef, lamb, or pork and served boiled, fried, or in a soup[vi] Stolichnaya - a brand of vodka distilled in Moscow, hence the name "capital"
[vii] funeral - the funeral of Josef Stalin who died on March 5th, 1953.
[viii] doctors -a group of doctors put to trial for alleged conspiracy in the wake of Stalin"s death in 1953
[ix] Beria -1899-1953, Soviet secret-police chief: executed for treason
[x] Khomich - a Russian goalkeeper, popular among football fans in the 50 ties
[xi] The Exhibition - the all Union Agricultural Exhibition in Moscow which was shut down in late 50ties
[xii] Komsomol - a communist organisation in the former Soviet Union for youths 16 years of age and older
[xiii] put on the committee"s list - started working for the party committee
[xiv] Irkutsk - a city in the Russian Federation in Asia, (550,000).West of Lake Baikal.
[xv] Volodya - a common Russian name short for Vladimir, see also Vovka, Vova below
[xvi] Zhenka, also Zhenya - a common Russian name short for Yevgeny
[xvii] Vovka, also Vova, Volodya - a common Russian name , short for Vladimir
The Oka - a
river rising in the Sayan Mountains of south-central Siberian Russia and
flowing about 965 km (600 mi) generally north to
the Angara River, not to be confused with the river
of the same name, the Oka,
about 1,488 km (925 mi) long, of central European Russia. flowing
north, east, and northeast to join the Volga River
near Nizhny Novgorod (A.V.)
about 965 km (600 mi) generally north to
the Angara River, not to be confused with the river
of the same name, the Oka,
about 1,488 km (925 mi) long, of central European Russia. flowing
north, east, and northeast to join the Volga River
near Nizhny Novgorod (A.V.)
name, the Oka,
about 1,488 km (925 mi) long, of central European Russia. flowing
north, east, and northeast to join the Volga River
near Nizhny Novgorod (A.V.)
northeast to join the Volga River near Nizhny Novgorod (A.V.)