Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Most Enigmatic: Larysa Andriejewska

Tall and shy, Larysa wins the prize for Biggest Enigma. She levitated through the house like a ghost. She would appear in the kitchen late at night, nod and say "hello," one of the few English words she knew, and make tea, and then you would turn around and she was gone again. Leaving lots of speculation behind. Was she shy or did she just hates us all? I asked her to dance with me once – it happens once in a while when I am in a very good mood – but she declined, citing a cold.
She tended to have breakfast around 2pm and dinner after midnight. One morning around 5am I came down to the kitchen to get coffee so I could wake up and found Larysa and Tanja, both being Ukrainian, wrapped up in conversation. But Tania refused later to tell us what it was about. On another occasion, she poured some kind of vodka into a pan and lit it on fire and served us all a warm, spicey drink. After she won the Nobel Prize wager (see below), she cooked us a heaping, steaming platter of Turkish rice-and-chicken-dish and thereafter would dare to come among us on some occasions and sit and drink or smoke and nod at certain points in the conversation. It was then we began to notice a beautiful smile.
Larysa, it turns out, is a translator. I could not figure out what she translates, other than from the Polish into the Ukrainian, but I did learn that her husband is a famous Ukrainian poet and her daughter has already translated Stephen King short stories into Ukrainian. Somehow, both facts made her very cool. Here is a poem by her famous husband:

by Ihor Rymaruk

Keep talking, keep talking.
You’ve managed to utter just one word —
while hundreds of words keep disappearing,
keep getting lost forever, with no return,
the eyes needlessly
leap over the cemetery gate.
Keep talking.
Why do you keep silent?
Perhaps for years you’ve shuddered
at every knock on the door?
Or, perhaps, like a movie camera,
glory closes in on you now —
for that one word?
And so — to ennoble the film,
you’re scrubbing away everything else from your memory,
like blood from the floor.
Is this not why your spirit
is so silent and stubborn?
Just like the wax figure of Karmeluk*
standing in a refurbished museum tower —
holding a sign: “Do not touch.”

*(Ustym Karmeluk (1787–1835) was a Ukrainian rebel leader who fought against social and national injustice. A wax figure of him is at the Kamianets-Podilsk fortress.)
Unbeknownst to us, she was secretly famous in her own right. One day, Katja came back from an expedition into town and announced that she had seen Larysa outside the university surrounded by eager students. Apparently she had given a lecture there on translating, but when confronted directly about it, she admitted nothing, but instead only nodded and smiled and retreated into her room. Leaving us to speculate in an almost jealous, admiring way.

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