Saturday, February 13, 2010


Back in '87 I filmed Yevegeny Yevtushenko at a poetry reading, specifically his reading of his poem Babi Yar, of which there's a wealth of detail via google, it concerns the nazi massacre of the Jews in the Ukraine. I asked him to sign a poster for me which he did but in Russian which I can't read. Sourpus has volunteered to try and translate it for me for which I shall be eternally grateful, it's been on my wall these many years I've often wondered what he wrote. Sourpus, I realise the dot structure might make it difficult but anything you can decipher will be fine, Thanks.


bishbosh said...

Hey goneforeign,

Yevtushenko's handwriting makes it difficult to tell for certain - and sourpus may come up with something different (soz for stealing your thunder here, sourpus!) - but it seems to me that he has signed the poster with two lines from the poem:

Я - каждый здесь расстрелянный старик
Я - каждый здесь расстрелянный ребенок

Which roughly translates as:

I am every old man gunned down here
I am every child gunned down here

What an amazing thing to own. And what an incredible poem - despite studying Russian in my uni days, I hadn't come across it before.

sourpus said...

bishbosh, no worries. I think you are spot on. This is from Babi Yar.

goneforeign said...

Thank you both, how appropriate, it soars in my esteem. That's totally the theme of the poem.

goneforeign said...

A p.s.
If anyone is interested, here's Babi Yar.


By Yevgeni Yevtushenko
Translated by Benjamin Okopnik, 10/96

No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A steep cliff only, like the rudest headstone.
I am afraid.
Today, I am as old
As the entire Jewish race itself.

I see myself an ancient Israelite.
I wander o'er the roads of ancient Egypt
And here, upon the cross, I perish, tortured
And even now, I bear the marks of nails.

It seems to me that Dreyfus is myself. *1*
The Philistines betrayed me - and now judge.
I'm in a cage. Surrounded and trapped,
I'm persecuted, spat on, slandered, and
The dainty dollies in their Brussels frills
Squeal, as they stab umbrellas at my face.

I see myself a boy in Belostok *2*
Blood spills, and runs upon the floors,
The chiefs of bar and pub rage unimpeded
And reek of vodka and of onion, half and half.

I'm thrown back by a boot, I have no strength left,
In vain I beg the rabble of pogrom,
To jeers of "Kill the Jews, and save our Russia!"
My mother's being beaten by a clerk.

O, Russia of my heart, I know that you
Are international, by inner nature.
But often those whose hands are steeped in filth
Abused your purest name, in name of hatred.

I know the kindness of my native land.
How vile, that without the slightest quiver
The antisemites have proclaimed themselves
The "Union of the Russian People!"

It seems to me that I am Anna Frank,
Transparent, as the thinnest branch in April,
And I'm in love, and have no need of phrases,
But only that we gaze into each other's eyes.
How little one can see, or even sense!
Leaves are forbidden, so is sky,
But much is still allowed - very gently
In darkened rooms each other to embrace.

-"They come!"

-"No, fear not - those are sounds
Of spring itself. She's coming soon.
Quickly, your lips!"

-"They break the door!"

-"No, river ice is breaking..."

Wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar,
The trees look sternly, as if passing judgement.
Here, silently, all screams, and, hat in hand,
I feel my hair changing shade to gray.

And I myself, like one long soundless scream
Above the thousands of thousands interred,
I'm every old man executed here,
As I am every child murdered here.

No fiber of my body will forget this.
May "Internationale" thunder and ring *3*
When, for all time, is buried and forgotten
The last of antisemites on this earth.

There is no Jewish blood that's blood of mine,
But, hated with a passion that's corrosive
Am I by antisemites like a Jew.
And that is why I call myself a Russian!