Ющенко Иван

С детства, прочитав книгу Корнея Чуковского «Высокое искусство», я увлекся художественным переводом. Первой серьезной публикацией стал сборник рассказов Реймонда Карвера «О чем мы говорим, когда говорим о любви», размещенный в Сети. За ним последовали десятки переведенных фильмов и сериалов для телевидения, сотрудничество с различными издательствами. Несмотря на то, что я увлекаюсь видеосъемкой и живописью, перевод был и остается моей профессией и — главным увлечением. Всегда с улыбкой вспоминаю фразу профессора Хиггинса из пьесы Шоу «Пигмалион»: «Счастлив тот, кому его конек может доставить средства к жизни!»

As a young boy I read Korney Chukovsky’s book about literary translation, and since then I have been fascinated with this art. My first serious work was the translation of Raymond Carver’s «What we talk about when we talk about love» published on one of the literary web sites back in the 1990-s. It was followed by dozens of movies and series translated for television and collaboration with various publishibg houses. And although I am an amateur painter and amateur film maker, my true love is always will be translation. I smile quoting Professor Henry Higgins of G. B. Shaw’s «Pygmalion»: «Happy is the man who can make a living by his hobby!»

Перевод «Русские романтики»



His last lecture doctor Astrakhantsev gave nine years ago. His last patient he received fifteen years ago. Now his mind was not  sharp anymore but he enjoyed reading medical files his grandson took home with him sometimes. Astrakhantsev was proud that the ‘kid’ followed his steps, took on medical profession. Once, in one of the files, among the pages covered with small handwriting, he saw a photo printed with LaserJet. And for a moment he thought that his cataract had gone. As well, as all his initial symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It winnowed his old age as chaff. Everything had come back to him.


He held in his hands a photo of a girl with coal-black hair and piercing blue eyes. Evidently, it was those eyes that had removed his cataract as if by laser.


There was a time, terribly long ago, when he knew two girls. One of them he met in 1940 during the trip to Germany with a group of Soviet medical workers and militaries. This girl’s name was Bertha; she was a nurse at a hospital in Munich. Young Russian doctor fell in love with her, and once they even went strolling the evening streets. They were strolling and talking long. But she never let him kiss her. Only touched lightly his cheek with her lips at parting.

The other girl’s name was Zina. He operated on her. She had multiple shrapnel wounds of both legs. Once, when was already better, they spent a night together — sitting on a bench in the hospital garden and talking. End of story. But the very youth of doctor Astrakhantsev became inseparably associated with the images of those two girls.

Now then…

Two girls born the same year in two different European cities entered two different youth leagues, with the same idea in their minds to serve selflessly their people, and the same optimistic faith in Future. Were there someone to tell them they were under delusion, the girls would have despised such a person. One of them was Bertha and the other was Zina. They were good swimmers, they took part in parades, they learnt to shoot, and they were proud that their boyfriends wore military uniform. Their dream was to learn parachuting. Bertha’s boyfriend was with the Air Force, and Zina’s boyfriend was a frontier guard. Parting with them at the gates of their regiments girls made new dates and then walked down the evening streets home with smiles on their faces. It seemed to them that life would be just as happy, as that day. When the war started Bertha’s boyfriend Georg wrote her often from the frontline, and Zina’s boyfriend Kostya never wrote her. A company of a Wermacht’s motorized battalion had wiped out his frontier post in fifteen minutes. Zina went to the front as a volunteer; she got to an air-defense regiment, started to master anti-aircraft gun. Bertha worked as a nurse at a beautiful sanatorium with white columns, where wounded warriors restored their health on nourishing diet and passed their time going for a row at a beautiful lake. Both girls were sure of their ideals as never before.

In the summer of 1942, Georg, Bertha’s boyfriend, during a low-flying attack shot down an anti-aircraft battery. Zina’s double luck was that she had not been killed right there and then, and that, being at a hospital, she never took part in the battle of Stalingrad. Georg was lucky too, for he had slipped on a wet plank returning from the canteen and sprained his ankle; they granted him a furlough that let him go home and see Bertha. He and Bertha went for a row on the lake too. There they decided to get married in two months, when Stalingrad surely would be taken, as Georg promised, and the war would be over. Bertha believed her fiancé; the more so, because Dr. Goebbels, that most clever man, kept on telling the people the same thing.

It had come out wrong with Stalingrad; instead, night bombings of Germany started soon and neither Bertha, nor her friends, nor even Dr. Goebbels himself, never ever had seen such a terror before. Bertha could not even recognize her parents among those charred corpses.

Zina never completely regained her health, so they did not let her return to the frontline, but sent her as a warder to one of the camps where those cowards and slimes were kept who had betrayed Motherland in the hard times, the enemies of the people who was not good enough even for penal battalions. The memory of her fiancé, a frontier guard who had died as a hero, made Zina ruthless to them. And the chief of security, who had looked at Zina with distrust at first, soon praised her: «You’re doing well».

Americans, who entered Munich, organized a small out town excursion for the locals. Bertha and the girls from her Youth League group, along with many others, by buses and trucks were taken to a certain place. There a lot of people lost consciousness and one girl just went mad. They were shown the Dachau death camp.

Back home Bertha stared at Georg’s photo with a black ribbon across its corner. Georg had burnt in the sky over Kursk.

Many years had passed, Bertha had a house in the suburbs of Munich, a modest sum in the bank, on weekends, as long as her age and health allowed that, she drove her own car to the Alps, where she liked to ski; she also had two cats and the photo of her fiancé.

Zina spent her last years at a retirement home; when attendants robbed her of her pension she screamed «Fascists!» opening wide her toothless mouth in the frenzy of bitter mortification.

An American TV company invited Bertha to take part in a documentary. Bertha wearing black dress, showing her remarkable dentures in a reserved smile, told the audience about her youth, the girls from the League, her fiancé. «It turned out later that they lied to us. We were under delusion,» said she, with tears and the same smile on her trembling lips.

She died a week later, and a Protestant priest delivered a short yet magnificent eulogy over her grave.

When Zina was dying, a priest came to her too; he had visited her several times before, offering her to commune and confess. He kept telling her that it would put her soul at peace, that now it was her only comfort and hope, anyway.

But Zina always refused. She imagined that, perhaps, in 1941 a sweet-spoken German officer similarly offered her fiancé to give up: «Resistance is useless». But her Kostya, having pushed aside his machine gun with its magazine empty, stood up and gripping in his hand a grenade, with its safety pin out, went to meet him. She could not afford to be weak, for that meant to betray his memory, to betray all their beliefs. The very name of his, Konstantin, symbolized to her the constant of her life. And she firmly said to the priest «Go away».

She could not know that her Kostya had been wounded and taken prisoner; that he had escaped from a death camp and managed to return to the Red Army’s positions; that authorities had not believed his story and sent him to a Gulag camp, like the one where Zina had served so well. At that camp, he had been beaten to death by a warder, just as diligent as Zina, and buried in a common grave with no gravestone.

At death’s door, each of the two women recollected her life, short, yet happy days of her youth filled with meaning. They were both grieving that they were never married, never had visited friends or been to a theater with their husbands, never had a chance to celebrate holidays with their families, never had children, never pampered their grandchildren; they often dreamt how beautiful and bright everything might have been. At the very end, the things that they had never done turned out to be the most important for them. So, come to think of it, all that left of their lives were the things that never happened.


But doctor Astrakhantsev was unaware of all that. In his mind he saw them young and happy, and he smiled through his tears.

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