Ваши чудесные истории из жизни в Киеве, когда вы были лише детка, прежде чем ты переехал сюда и почувствовал селян после богатства олигархии. Я мог бы тебя послушать говорити навсегда, о твоей новой жизни как британца и твоей старой жизни как Український Your disconnection with yourself, and who you were, лише became apparent to me, the first time you spoke of селян a hint towards a disjointed shame of which you did not говорити you were too proud, and at once not proud enough to be Український Translation Your beautiful stories of life in Kiev, when you were only a child, before you moved here, and felt like peasants after the decadence of oligarchy. I could listen to you speak forever, about your new life as British, and your old life as Ukrainian (this stanza is Russian, except the italicized text, which is in Ukrainian) Your disconnection with yourself, and who you were, only became apparent to me, the first time you spoke of peasants a hint towards a disjointed shame of which you did not speak you were too proud, and at once not proud enough to be Ukrainian (this stanza is English, except the italicized text, which is Ukrainian)
“Only peasants speak Ukrainian”
What is the significance of this work to you?
This piece is inspired by a real conversation I had with an ex-partner, over a decade ago, but which has stayed with me as reflective of a much broader experience which many of us share, where there is a disconnect between a language which is part of our heritage, and the language which we speak, and the stories we tell ourselves about how those disconnects come about.
What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?
I wanted this to be a short form, free verse piece, to reflect the flippancy and fleeting nature of the initial sentiment, and to juxtapose that with the multilingual elements which add complexity and gravity to paint a picture of a person, and a language, which is more complicated and fractured than it first feels. I was also keen to mix languages together within the lines to show how these types of interwoven ideas and identities cannot be easily separated, linguistically or psychologically. I hope I've done it justice!
What was your process for creating this work?
The first draft of this work was written entirely in English, and it was always my intention to then translate the words "only peasants speak Ukrainian" into Ukrainian itself. However, as I was editing I felt that part of the poignancy of the statement came from the power relationships between Russia and Ukraine, and the way that language shapes our relationships with our surroundings and our communities, so the added contrast of the Russian language in the first stanza felt important to me.
Helen Bowie is a writer, performer and podcaster based in London. Her work is featured or upcoming in Neuro Logical Literary Magazine, Beir Bua Journal, Daily Drunk Mag and Versification, among others. Helen has a day job at a charity, one cat, and several bafflingly strong opinions on highly trivial matters. You can find her on twitter @helensulis