I love both countries and Shevchenko and Pushkin are both are my teachers. I condemned the bloodshed in inflamed Maidan without excuses in my poem asking the State to simply be a human being. The poem was published in Ukraine and in Russia on the same day and was transmitted with my voice through the website “Echo of Moscow” and by Ukrainian TV. Though the blood on the barricades has stopped, even poetry could not resurrect the more than 70 people killed. I was desperately asking myself how to find a peaceful solution to this situation and I found a key metaphor in the real episode from Sevastopol, Crimea. I am happy that this poem was declaimed aloud on the Maidan by a priest from Florida, doctor Mikhail Morgulis (born in Kiev). The poem became part of a larger proselytization for peace and mutual understanding between all nations. I recited this poem to my students at the University of Tulsa where I have taught for more than 20 years many students from all over the world, including disciples from the Mayflower as well as youth from China, Arabia and Africa, a whole multinational ocean in one drop.
State, Be a Human Being!
Ukraine! Tender mother of my rebel ancestors,
who baptized in the River Dnepr ancient Russia—Rus.
Even in my worst nightmares
I could not imagine your beauty in ruins.
I fear for you and pray.
With me in Maidan are the warm ghosts of Pushkin and Briullov,
the painter who for the portrait of the czar’s brother
bought the freedom of Ukrainian slave-genius Shevchenko.
The tragedy of enflamed Maidan
was like a Vesuvian eruption of fratricide
jumping from the famous canvas of Briullov,
burning to death the alive with painted fire.
Here were brothers against their brothers,
sons against their fathers.
You, Shevchenko, with the great living poet, Lina Kostenko
please remind your people that all of us are family,
How tender the black lips of your soil are, Ukraine,
If we kiss them while on our knees.
You embrace a Jewish rabbi like a close relative,
together with a Russian Orthodox priest.
State, finally be a human being.
Make peace amongst former enemies.
Be above all petty ambitions
and forgive all our prodigal sons.
Finally, I hope all of us will be the same Europa.
It is decided in skies above.
Don’t you hide yourself
And your sins on the shelf.
Are you less sinful
than we are,
Almost a Dream
Recently, an international news broadcast showed a moment that touched many people. Pro-Russian forces stood in the way of unarmed Ukrainian soldiers who marched peacefully to their base. Despite initial tension, both sides found a common language and showed the world that a simple human approach is the best diplomacy.
It was almost a dream, but it was captured forever.
We saw it on TV,
a column of soldiers marched on the steppe,
unarmed,resembling a challenge.
What feelings led the soldiers
To face such danger?
The banners in their hands,
rustling mere inches above the earth,
shared secret histories long hushed.
To the entreating cries of the birds above
both the marchers and the guards
looked into painfully familiar eyes
as if for the first time.
Those boys lowered the gun sights, slowly,
without waiting for diplomats,
but giving a lesson on
how to behave.
Their hands began to think
off something more important than commands
fingers cautiously still on the triggers.
O History! Stop even for an instant!
Thank God you heard the voices of those
who had long ago fought for Sevastopol,
Leo Tolstoy among them:
“Don’t shoot each other!”
A child’s life is greater than politics.
When will we learn to live
without selling arms,
without selling death,
without selling ourselves out?
Will we ever hear, our tears unveiled,
the peaceful song of silence,
like тне soundless bloodless shooting
of all those unstarted wars
and all those unfired guns?
R.YEVGENY YEVTUSHENKO translated by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Jr .James Bachman. Nina Bouis
Former member of the of the Soviet Parliament 1986 from Ukraine in Gorbachev’s times,co-chairman with Andrey Saharov of Anti- stalinist Assosiation. Russian poet, distinguished professor of the University of Tulsa. Honorary member of American Academy of Arts and Letters