Photo credit: Heath Houston

Bringing the World Together — Po-Ruski


Original piece:

In the darkness ahead
I have seen a ray of light
should I look or look away
wondering this
I stand here silent, undecided


In Russian, which I am not fluent in, not even close:

В темноте впереди
Я увидел луч света.
Смотри или смотри в сторону,
Я думаю про себя,
стоящий нерешительный и тихий.

and my pitiful attempt at pronunciation:

(V*)tim-nahtay(v) peredi
ya ooveedel loosch seeyeta.
Smahtri’ili smahtri storonou,
ya do may(u) pry-sebya,
stoy(a)she near-a-sheet-el-nee’e teek(h)ee.

* Pronounced almost as a short breathy “Hhh”

[(v/u/a) means short and barely enunciated]

I was traveling through Czechoslovakia shortly after their Velvet Revolution and ended up falling for a Russian girl, Anika, who was also traveling through. I was 17 and she was 18. The lady, Paní Nina, who ran the hostel with her husband, taught me some Russian so I could say a few things Anika would understand.

I started writing the story here:

I’m a language lover and poet, so I’m typically over-eager in regards to playing with other languages. The Russian dialect here, I could only term as St Petersburg (Leningrad at the time) filtered through Coldwar-era Czech (much like my Deutsche is very Bayern/rustic compared to what people usually hear on TV/movies).

I can neither competently read nor write in Cyrillic, so I did need some Google help with that, as well as a few words I wasn’t familiar with. I was hoping someone fluent would have some feedback on it. It’s not exactly a word for word translation as I used a little bit of leeway to make it more sensical in Russian (I think I did, anyway).

Please consider my response a bit of support for your idea rather than an entirely appropriate example of what you were prompting. :)