Archive for June 12, 2010

“Till My Tale is Told” Part II – “Tatar Anguish” poem

“It seemed as if the monstrous Stalinist regime had given birth to a new type of human being, a submissive, inert creature, mute and devoid of initiative.  So it is important that our contemporaries hear the voices of the surviving representatives of another generation of women, born at the beginning of the century, who through the nightmare of false accusation, torture, humiliation, hunger and unspeakable deprivation, bring to the us the ideals of true humanity.” Written by Vera Shulz (Taganka prison)

From the preface of Simeon Vilensky’s Russian version of “Till My Tale is Told: Women’s Memoirs of the Gulag”

As I wrote in yesterday’s blog, a former student of mine in Almaty sent me the link to this fascinating book published in 1999 by Indiana University Press titled “Till My Tale is Told: Women’s Memoirs of the Gulag.” She knew that I have inordinate fascination about what happened in the former Soviet Union, particularly in Kazakhstan where a third of its territory was taken up in the Gulag system.  GULAG is really an acronym which means: Main Administration for Corrective-Labor Camps.   Read on the pathos here as written by Anna Barkova

Tatar anguish, anguish of the Volga.

Grief from far-away and ancient times.

Fate I share with beggars and with royalty,

Steppe and steppe-grass. ages gallop by.

On the salty Kazakh steppeland

I walk, head bare beneath the skies;

The mutter of grass dying of hunger,

The dreary howl of wolves and wind.

So let me walk, fearless, unthinking.

On unmarked paths, by wolfsbane clumps.

To triumph, to shame, to execution,

Heeding no time, saving no strength.

At my back lies a palisade of barbs,

A faded flag, which once was red;

Before me, death. revenge. Rewards,

The sun, or a savage, angry dusk.

The angry twilight glows with bonfires,

Great cities blaze. put to the flames;

Knowing slave labour’s agonies.

They choke and putrefy with shame.

All is alight, all flies to ash.

Yet why should breathing hurt me so?

Closely you cleave to Europe’s flesh,

Dark Tatar soul.

(c.1954) Translations from “An Anthology of Russian Women’s Writing, 1777-1992, edited by Catriona Kelly, Oxford University Press, 1994

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