The following is by internationally-renowned poet YEVGENY YEVTUSHENKO. Yevtushenko is also a novelist, essayist, dramatist, screenwriter, publisher, actor, editor and director of several films. He has been on the cover of TIME magazine and won countless awards including the presitigous American Liberties Medallion. Many have extolled Yevtushenko as the “the greatest writer of his generation” and “one of the greatest poets of the modern age.” He currently teaches poetry and European cinema at the University of Tulsa.
This is in remembrance of my Belarusian grandmother, Anna Ermolaevna Yevtushenko, from the village Khomich in the Kalinkovichi region.
«Grandma Anna lifted her sundress, without any shame, and showed me the burns on her old yellow breasts: ‘Look, grandson, this is from the Nazi cigarette lighters. They tortured me to find out where the resistance was, but I did not say anything…'»
This is taken from Yevtushenko’s poem Mother and the Neutron Bomb.
I carry the Kalinkovichi area inside my soul,
And also the whole world inside of me,
But the number of countries does not matter,
What is important is what I breathe.
I breathe the village of Khomchin,
Where there are hatches without locks,
Where you do not want to be closed off,
That is why I am the way I am.
I breathe, as though intuitively,
I swallow the ash from my lips,
Smoke, soaring unseen
From Khatyn’s black chimney pipes.
Guiltily without the guilt
I sense the smell of a gunshot’s blue smoke,
The gunpowder from the rifle barrels,
Both Khatyn and Katyn are therein.
And I see the unforgiving
Ash of a multitude of people,
And, yes, the ash of promising,
The ashes raised me,
And, although, I was impoverished from childhood,
Who can call us poor,
For we are wealthy in our sorrows!
I saw, in evacuations,
My whole country, as a starving poor kid,
And I am unable to get used to it, that
My country is no longer.
I fell down, I collapsed,
But my whole life, it is as though I am at war,
And the Belarusian
And Siberian are united within me.
In fact, all of my poetry
Saved my homeland within me,
The resistance, the Poleskye part of Belarus
Are more than just a craft.
True, I was not in a concentration camp —
But the camp was inside of me —
Where is he, my grandpa, unmourned
And buried in the camp?
I was taught to stand for all,
The way I do for the whole nation,
To my grandpa Ermolaeus
I dedicate this war.
And the messenger of the resistance
From the swaying thicket,
Whispers to me, “Grandchild, don’t be afraid!”
In a future without war
Let someone bring me
From the fighters’ marshes.
And it pulses, like a tiny vein,
Maybe the main one in me,
For all who saved me, the debt
Is somewhere deep within my soul.
I am not from the writers’ circle,
And certainly not of the gods,
Simply just an obligated
Returner of all my life’s debts.
Translated by Veronica Grigaltchik