A WWII poem by a Soviet Soldier

This is a poem written by a Russian (Soviet) soldier during World War II, right before Soviet Union launched a defensive counter attack against Hitler’s army. It had such an impact on me that I had to translate it.

To my friend who is writhing in agony –
Don’t call out to those you had loved,
Instead, listen, let me warm my hands a bit
On hot steam rising up from your blood.

You aren’t wounded, don’t moan, you are not a kid;
You’ve been killed, there is no going back.
Let me keep instead the warm boots off your feet –
We both know I still have to attack.

Posted in About World War II (WWII) - the Soviet perspective, Literature and Writing, Poems, Russia - about Russian culture and Russian history - past and present, Russian to English Translations by Julie Deshtor | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The album Two Fates by Astrakhan and Naumov – Vysotsky in English

Vadim Astrakhan, in collaboration with Yuri Naumov, has just released his new CD of Vladimir Vysotsky’s songs translated into English – “Two Fates“.

Vladimir Vysotsky in Engles translation

Album Two Fates Vladimir Vysotsky in English, Vadim Astrakhan and Yuri Naumov

As a little girl living in Moscow, I was immersed in the world of Vladimir Vysotsky’s songs. Then, twenty years ago, my family relocated to the United States.  Since then, I have obtained my English degree from the University of Utah and launched my own literary career.

As a bilingual poet and writer, I have been actively translating not only Vysotsky’s work, but also the work of other Russian-speaking poets such as Sergei Esenin, Marina Tsvetaeva, Anna Akhmatova, and others. Of these, I have found Vysotsky most challenging.  His multi-layered and complex language is particularly difficult to capture.

I have been following Vadim Astrakhan’s music and his translations of Vysotsky for some years now, and anticipated, with certain trepidation, the release of his new album “Two Fates”.  I knew of Vadim’s desire to modernize Vysotsky’s songs. I was also acutely aware of his love for the heavy metal genre. The idea of Vysotsky’s lyrics performed to a heavy metal/hard rock accompaniment was intimidating, to say the least.

Well, I must say that Vadim managed to pull it off! Though I’m not a fan of heavy metal, I can’t help but say that the music, production and presentation of “Two Fates” is superb.

The songs:

“Gypsy Blues (Tziganskaya)” has literally been given a new life, with lyrics, music and ambiance that brought it into the new century, allowing English-speaking listeners to experience the raw energy and intensity of this long-time Russian favorite.

“When the Great Flood Waters Had Subsided” was never one of my favorites as performed by Vysotsky.  To my utter surprise, I found that I enjoyed Vadim’s version of this song more than I ever did the original.

Other personal favorites: “Race to the Horizon”, “Tale of the Wild Boar” and “A Merry Funeral Song” skillfully convey the original tone and implication of the songs.

At the same time, my English-speaking friends, especially those with military background, are deeply moved by “Death Convoy.” Others are amused by Vadim’s rendition of the “Why Did the Savages Eat Captain Cook.” A few professional rock climbers that I know relate well to Vadim’s version of “If Your Friend.”

Overall, the album is a resounding success. Through his daring and unique vision, Vadim Astrakhan has managed to achieve what few had considered possible: he brought the spirit of Vladimir Vysotsky’s work into the modern age and in a format that is meaningful, accessible and engaging to the present-day English-speaking audience.

 Julie Deshtor, 2012



Posted in Literature and Writing, Music, Poems, Russia - about Russian culture and Russian history - past and present, Russian to English Translations by Julie Deshtor, Vladimir Vysotsky Russian to English translations, Vysotsky in English | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

I think that i would like to die tonight (poem)

I think that I would like to die tonight;
I am so tired of this endless war.
Yet here I stand again, prepared to fight
For things that do not matter anymore.

I am the door you slam when you are mad.
I am the dirty dishes in the sink.
I am the monster underneath your bed –
That fragile, scary and familiar thing…

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You need to know

You need to know that my smile ain’t real;
This merriment is worth its weight in blood.
You need to know that I don’t belong here,
That I would rather fade into the dark.

You need to know that my soul is tattered,
My hands are torn; there’s not much left to do,
That nothing that I had achieved had mattered,
That I can’t help myself and can’t save you.

I’m shadows, I’m smoke – I’m evanescent.
I am the echo of the setting sun.
I can’t redeem the past. Can’t fix the present.
And I have lost my faith in everyone.

I burned so brightly that I have burned out.
The sun is setting, now it won’t be long
Before I follow it into the ground.
Just please remember me when I am gone.

And don’t you dare pity me. You know
Your pity is one thing I won’t forgive.
Unclench your hand and simply let me go;
I’ve lived the only way that I could live.

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We pretend to be badder then we are,
living in shadows
of all our fears,
in the falling ashes of our past
alone with our badness,

And the flash of a blade in the night
means nothing
is nothing
like the leaves whispering on the empty branches
and glass shuddering.

And the love-making
is written in blood
And the love-making disturbs voices
in your heads.

And your sleep echoes our timelessness,
our uselessness,
in your world,
where everything is counted,
where everything is measured,
where everything is sorted,
and shelved.

Voices break into sobs in your world,
a glistening void
where the blood hasn’t pooled,
where the blood will not pool,
where there is no evil,
no monsters,
no purpose,

And the silence reigns supreme.

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When life is a bitch

When I find myself backed up against a brick wall,
when I’m too proud to fight and too tired to crawl,
when my lovers have gambled my secrets away,
and I can’t find a pen, and there’s nothing to say,
when the pavement beneath my feet crumbles to dust,
when there are friends around whom I do not trust,
when I run out of bullets and run out of time,
when my total achievements amount to crime,
and the house in which I had lived has burned down,
and I’m searching for my brothers’ bones in the ground,
and emergency dispatch won’t answer my call,
and I see my name splattered in blood on that wall,
when I’m high on the anger and giddy with pain –
how do I hit ‘reset’ – and start over again?

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Visions – Bread Crumbs

I do recall a battle and (why was I by your side, in what capacity? – a female in those days?) the overwhelming need to fight for you, even onto death, and then to fight on to retrieve your body, to bury you before they could make a counting trophy out of your ear. The open, rolling landscape with grass not green, but sandy-brown, and stained with gray and red and plum. A few sparse trees a bit to our right and back; leafed trees with narrow long trunks and flexible burgundy branches. A river – small one, almost a creek, off in the distance ahead. No horses, only feet – but shod, not boots nor sandals, with leather straps wrapped up around the calves. Iron weapons, no bronze here, and no decor on the hilts. Your head is exposed, and your armor consists of a simple leather breast plate, and leather belt with stitched-on bone plates. A leather thigh guard (is that what you call them in english?), but long, much longer than the Greek ones, a simple linen under tunic, to just above the knee. Your right arm is badly sliced; you managed to make a sort of a sling out of a piece of leather. So no shield. No sheath, either, only the chipped short sword in your left hand, and the hilt of a dagger tucked into the foot wrappings. There is a piece of brownish square fabric, coarse and worn, wrapped about your shoulders. It hangs heavy now, making it harder to move.
Your eyes are fire. Not the hot kind, but the chilling murderous intent, concentration. What’s left of your men riles around you.
I scream, and someone grabs for me (what was I doing there? A guest? A captive? A soiled dove traveling with the band?) – I claw his eyes out and make three steps forward before another one steps on the back of my garment and I fall hard. He drags me up by my hair, he’s pissed, his buddy howling in pain. But I am straining to see you. To see the dance of swords as you turn pale and go down to one knee.
The dagger is sharp against my chest, I manage to pull it out and blindly slice, severing two of his fingers. His grip weakens and I am running for you, and there is a name, a name running thru my mind – Belior.
But I am too late. There is a spray of blood coming from the left side of your neck; it paints the grass in rhythmic squirts.
I drop down before you.
You are trying to speak – but there are no words, the air blows in and out of the cut, bubbling thru your blood.
Your eyes, your eyes alone speak…
I hold my hand out and catch the living red paint, I smear it over my face, I rip my garment and smear it across my chest. I turn around and they back away, pointing, rumbling in a tongue I don’t understand. I must be quite a sight, for they back away and stay away and what’s left of your men carry you off, over by the trees and we all dig the soft soil with our hands and we bury you in silence…

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