Hello friends! This has been an interesting week for me, and I’d like to share some exciting news! A few weeks ago a post appeared in my Springfield Poets & Writers group that someone was looking for help translating some Russian poems. He needed to make sure he’d used the proper wording and grammar in his translations. Never one to turn down a super fun chance at playing with words and correcting grammar, I offered to help out. :) Last Wednesday at the groups monthly open-mic night, I met the man who’d asked for help. His name is Mike. It turns out that the poems are not his own, but those of a Russian professor named Alexander Byvshev who is currenly in prison for writing them. Mike explained to the group that Byvshev was arrested and is facing several years in prison for writing poetry expressing his thoughts on recent events involving Crimea and Ukraine and the current political state in Russia. So already, regardless of what was actually written in the poems, it felt like a very important thing to be helping to share this work, simply for the fact that in America, we do not have to fear the police swarming into our open-mic night to arrest us for sharing our thoughts! Mike had two poems he’d translated already, and after helping him make some corrections, I and another reader were asked to read the poems that night. Mine was titled “Putin’s Russia”, and reading it aloud was no easy feat considering I had about ten minutes to skim it a couple times and look up the pronunciations of several Russian names and places. So I am sure I did not do it justice! But afterwards, Mike and I exchanged info so I could continue helping him translate more of the work.
Mike called me the next day and asked if he could send me one of the poems in Russian to translate myself. (This was one of the specific poems that the author is imprisoned for, so no pressure or anything…) I said I would give it a try! I hadn’t really had time to do much with it yet when Mike called me this past Tuesday to say that The State Journal-Register wanted to publish a story about the poems. The only catch was, I had to have mine finished that night!
So many, many hours later, with the help of three online translators, a thesaurus, Wikipedia, and probably a gallon of Cherry Coke, I knew a little something about Russian and Ukrainian history, and I had a little something worth reading! I sent it to Mike, and the next morning, yesterday, he called me about correcting one line and told me to expect a call from an editor of the SJR! After I spoke with the the guy from the SJR, Mike called again to ask me to post a message with my translation on Byvshev’s facebook page, hoping that the translation and a note about why we chose ceratain words may actually help his case. I did so and received a lovely thank-you reply from Byvshev himself! Then today he posted a poem on Mike’s wall, which I will be translating tonight!
This is why I do everything I do, and especially why I write: to affect positive change in the world! And again, most of us constantly take for granted that we have the freedom to express our thoughts and opinions without fear of being imprinsoned or killed for them! I mean, if there is one great thing about American government, it’s that we’re allowed to be unhappy about it if we want. But that is not so in many other parts of the world. Even uttering anything along the lines of “Crimea is Ukraine” in some Russian territories is enough to get you thrown into prison! I therefore feel very honored to be a part of sharing Byvshev’s story! So without further ado, I present to you my first ever Russian-to-English translation. Look for it in the SJR tomorrow! :)
“Ukrainian Rebels” By Alexander Byvshev
As Translated By Angie Tonucci
The cries of the crows are not in vain!
They forecast the carrion.
They will leave their caches again,
For they know of the fire to come.
A bloody harvest awaits us,
And come what may, God will judge us!
We are united under a common oath:
To strike down the damned, not sparing even ourselves.
We, the soldiers of Stepan Bandera,
We fight the commies and Nazis!
There is nothing stronger than our faith
And our love for our precious Homeland!
For Her, we will face our enemies, even into the mouth of death!
Let us perish for our Native Land
So that She, Ukraine, may never die!
And I will meet you, my friends, in Paradise!
Here is an article about Byvshev’s situation, which was written in Russian of course, so it translates pretty roughly, but you can get the general idea: https://news.pn/en/public/110549
Also, if it wasn’t regarding such a serious situation, this would almost be funny: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/crimea-made-part-of-russia-on-google-maps–but-only-for-russian-users-9257233.html