Poets of Ukraine. Vasyl Stus. A Hundred Years Since Sich Went Down. Translated by Alex Foreman

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Poets of Ukraine. Vasyl Stus. A Hundred Years Since Sich Went Down. Translated by Alex Foreman

A hundred years since Sich* went down.
Siberia. Cells in Solovkí**.
And dead of night wraps right around
A hellhole land and hellish scream.

A hundred years of tortured dreams,
Of expectations, faith and blood
Of sons all branded for their love,
A hundred hearts like blazing beams.

And from their bast shoes they grow up,
From cossack breeches on the plain,
From smokey huts slaves grow to sons
Of their one mother, their Ukraine.

You will no longer perish, stout
Land sacked and slaved for centuries.
Oppressors cannot choke you out
With Siberias or Solovkís.

You are still suffering in pain,
Still ripped to bits and raggedy.
Already toughing and untame,
You have stood tall for liberty.

Your mother’s milk was anger. Now
You’ll get no peace from it. It will
Keep growing, growing, growing til
The prison doors at last go down.

As joyful stormy thunders roar
Lightning bolts from the sky. And words,
— Shevchenko’s*** prophesying birds —
Over the Dnipro’s waters soar.

*Sich – main encampment of the Ukrainian Cossacks until Catherine II ordered it destroyed
** Solovkí — the Solovkí islands were home to an infamous Soviet concentration camp that
bore their name.
***Ukraine’s national poet


~ ~ ~

The Original:

Сто років як сконала Січ.
Сибір. І соловецькі келії.
І глупа облягає ніч
пекельний край і крик пекельний.

Сто років мучених надій,
і сподівань, і вір, і крові
синів, що за любов тавровані,
сто серць, як сто палахкотінь.

Та виростають з личаків,
із шаровар, з курної хати
раби зростають до синів
своєї України-матері.

Ти вже не згинеш, ти двожилава,
земля, рабована віками,
і не скарать тебе душителям
сибірами і соловками.

Ти ще виболюєшся болем,
ти ще роздерта на шматки,
та вже, крута і непокірна,
ти випросталася для волі,

ти гнівом виросла. Тепер
не матимеш од нього спокою,
йому ж рости і рости, допоки
не упадуть тюремні двері.

І радісним буремним громом
спадають з неба блискавиці,
Тарасові провісні птиці —
слова шугають над Дніпром.

About the Author:

Vasyl Stus
Vasyl Stus
born in Rakhnivka, Ukrainian SSR. died in Perm-36, Kuchino, Russian SFSR

Vasyl Semenovych Stus (Ukrainian: Василь Семенович Стус; 1938, Rakhnivka, Ukrainian SSR – 1985, Perm-36, Kuchino, Russian SFSR) was a Ukrainian poet, translator, literary critic, journalist, and an active member of the Ukrainian dissident movement. For his political convictions, his works were banned by the Soviet regime and he spent 13 years in detention until his death in Perm-36—then a Soviet forced labor camp for political prisoners, subsequently The Museum of the History of Political Repression—after having declared a hunger strike on September 4, 1985. Stus is widely regarded as one of Ukraine’s foremost poets.

About the Translator:

Alex Foreman
Alex Foreman

Alex Foreman (aka A.Z. Foreman) is a linguist and translator of poetry from Arabic, Catalan, Chinese, Dutch, French, Greek, German, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Occitan, Persian, Polish, Spanish, Serbian, Russian, Romanian, Romani, Ugaritic, Ukrainian, Urdu, Welsh, and Yiddish.
A blog of his translations: https://poemsintranslation.blogspot.com/p/my-poetry-translations.html

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