Lera Yanysheva: The Sense of the Father (From Russian Romani)

The Sense of the Father
By Lera Yanysheva
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

(Set in the 1890s)

I grew up in a camp, a traveling Rom.
I'm living in St. Petersburg today,
The city of His Majesty the Tsar.
Is there a finer city? I can't say.

Now Russian gentlemen pay me good money
To entertain them in a restaurant chorus. 
The good Lord even blessed me with good daughters
Born in the moneyed home I had built for us.

My daughters grew and blossomed into beauties.
The men went crazy for them at a glance.
The Russian soul finds freedom in a gypsy song
And nobody could dance like my girls danced. 

Then a disaster. My own blood betrayed me.
Now I'm afraid to bloody show my face.
Those two sang their last number to run off
With noble "men" and dropped me in disgrace.

They will give birth — good Lord — to halfblood freaks.
In camp they say that I have sold myself. 
"Too good for us" they stab me as they speak
"But couldn't join the gadjo gents. Well, well..."

It's true...I live a Russian gadjo life.
Where's my Romanipen? My free Rom will?
Those stupid girls have done a number on me.
But I was blessed with one more daughter still.

My Masha — a real Romni of the tents!
Thinking of her, my heart is melted snow. 
She stopped by yesterday, a traveling Rom.
It truly warmed my eyes to see her so

With her red coral beads, her well-worn blouse, 
The headscarf that a proper wife should wear,
Her ear-rings and her flower-pattern skirt. 
The day was cold...and yet her feet were bare!  

The horse-monger I gave her to appraised her,
Knowing she was a towngirl. Didn't care! 
Just said "she's pretty as a doll" and took her
To a kept life of tents and open air. 

No poshness for my Masha. Woods and roads...
She'll learn to work the cards, tell fortunes well.  
She'll bear him children, and they will be men
Who profit by the horses that they sell. 

Nobody wants a towngirl in their family.
I had to cut a deal with an old friend of mine.  
He took the gamble, and became her in-law. 
So now my son-in-law keeps her in line.

A father knows much better than his daughters. 
My Masha sobbed. But she had best make do.
She will not be some lordly Russian's tramp.
She lives the way the good Lord willed her to.


Stanza 2

One is, I think, to understand that the man is not actually wealthy by the standards of the Russian ruling class. Rather, he is unusually wealthy for a Rom.

Stanza 3:

L3, literally reads quite simply "the gadje want/love Romani songs." My translation, which makes explicit a bit of what I think implicit, is rather circumlocutory. It seemed called for, given that an English-speaking reader might not necessarily be aware of the role "gypsy songs" have had in Russian culture. Yanysheva self-translates this line in Russian as им песня вольная — отрада для душы "To them [Russian gentry], the free-[spirited] song is a joy to the soul."

Stanza 6

Romanipen: a key concept of Rom culture. (Also known as: Romanimos, Romanija, Romanšago.) This is not necessarily a matter of ancestry, so much as how one behaves, how one lives, and what one does. The quality of being in touch with Rom ways.

Stanza 8

On the phrase "de šatra rogožîtko" (into a burlap tent) c.f. the song which begins, in one version:

Aj de šatrica rogožîtko
Ande šatrica čaj bidîtko.
(Oh in a little burlap tent, in the little tent is a hapless girl.)


The Original:

Дадэ́скири ду́ма
Лера Янышева

Семьяке Панково, дэ лэнгири патыв

Нэ, бияндёмпэ мэ дрэ та́боро баро,
Тэ акана до Петербу́рго мэ джива́ва.
Одо́й дживэл тага́ри кокоро!
А сы ли фо́ро гожэды́р? Мэ на джина́ва.

Рая плэски́рна ма́нгэ бут ловэ.
Ваш господэ́нгэ мэ до хо́ро багандём,
Лаче чяен дыя мангэ Дэвэл.
Мэ кхэр ваш се́мья барвало киндём.

Выбаринэ сыр цвэ́тицы чяя,
Пал лэ́ндэ о барэ рая мэрэ́нас.
Гадже камэ́на романэ гиля.
Фэдыр сарэ́ндыр о чяя кхэлэ́нас.

Э би́да подгэя! Ёнэ́ жэ рат миро!
Да мэ о штэ́то пэ́скэ на латха́вас…
Добагандлэ́пэс! Сыр же ладжяво!
Екх палэ екх э госпадэ́нца упраста́нас.

Авэ́на чяворэ — мэём! — по паш гадже.
О та́борна мурша ґара амэн обкха́рна:
«Шатра́тыр угэнэ, а кэ рая на пригэнэ́!
Тумэ пэс бикиндлэ», — ёнэ́ лавэ́са ма́рна.        

Аи́. Гаджиканэс дживав дэ фо́ро мэ.
Кай сы романыпэ? Кай во́ля романы?
Скэрдэ пэ ма́ндэ би́да — дылынэ…
Пэ бахт, сы ма́ндэ три́то чяёри́.

Вот мири Ма́шка — ёй шатры́тко чяй.
Коли мэ зрипирав, ило татёла.
Сыр атася ромэ́са ёй явья,
Пэ ла́тэ мэ дыкхав — якха хачёна!

Лолэ кора́ли, ко́фта риськирды,
Тэ романы пэ ла́тэ цо́ха оборкэ́нца.
Сы шылало — а ёй сы пиранги —
Барэ ченя, фарту́шка узоркэ́нца.

Пал кофари́стэ чяёрья мэ отдыём,
Лыя ла ром — хоть Ма́шка сыс фори́тко,
«Сави раны, — пхэндя, — сыр ку́кла ёй!»
Ёй лэ́са угэя дэ ша́тра рогожы́тко.

На ба́рско джиипэ! Дрома, вэша…
И пэ патря ёй тэ чюрдэл джинэ́ла.
Авэна ла́кирэ чявэ сарэ мурша,
Э грэн тэ парувэн ёнэ́ авэ́на!

Доракирдёмпэ пхуранэ друго́са,
Фори́тко чя никон дэ се́мья на камэн.
А ёв на да́рлас — ёв явья свато́са,
Тэй адава чяво́ ла стро́го рикирэл!

Кай бахт — дада́ фэдыр чяен джинэ́на.
Рундя э Ма́ша — мэк — присыклыя!
Тэ акана гаджи ёй на авэ́ла.
Дживэ́ла ёй сыр Дэвлоро пхэндя…

Dadéskiri Dúma
Lera Janîševa

Semjake Pankovo, de lengiri patîv.

Ne, bijandjom-pe me dre táboro baro,
Te akana do Peterbúrgo me dživava.
Odoj dživel tagári kokoro!
A sî li fóro gožedîr? Me na džinava.

Raja pleskírna mánge but love.
Vaš gospodénge me do xóro bagandjom,
Lače čajen dîjá mánge Devel.
Me kher vaš sémja barvalo kindjom.

Vîbariné sîr cvéticî čaja,
Pal lénde o bare raja merénas.
Gadže kaména romane gilja.
Fedîr saréndîr o čaja khelénas.

E bída podgeja! Jone že rat miro!
Da me o štéto péske na lathávas...
Dobagandle-pes! Sîr že ladžavo!
Jekh pale jekh e gospodénca uprastánas.

Avéna čavore — mejom! — po paš gadže.
O táborna murša ghara amen obkhárna:
"Šatrátîr ugene, a ke raja na prigene!
Tume pes bikindle" — jone lavésa márna.

Ai. Gadžikanes dživav de fóro me.
Kaj sî Romanîpe? Kaj vólja Romanî?
Skerde pe mánde bida — dîlîné...
Pe baxt, sî mánde tríto čajori.

Vot miri Máška — joj šatrîtko čaj.
Koli me zripirav, ilo tatjóla.
Sîr atasja romésa joj javja,
Pe láte me dîkháv — jakha xačóna!

Lole koráli, kófta risjkirdî,
Te romanî pe láte cóxa oborkénca.
Sî šîlaló — a joj sî pirangi —
Bare čenja, fartúška uzorkénca.

Pal kofaríste čajorja me otdîjóm,
Lîjá la rom — xotj Maška sîs forítko,
"Savi ranî" phendja "sîr kúkla joj!"
Joj lésa ugeja de šátra rogožîtko.

Na bársko džiipe! Droma, veša...
I pe patrja joj te čurdel džinéla.
Avéna lákire čave sare murša,
E gren te paruven jone avéna!

Dorakirdjóm-pe phurane drugósa,
Forítko ča nikon de sémja na kamén.
A jov na dárlas — jov javja svatósa,
Tej adava čavo la strógo rikirel!

Kaj baxt — dada fedîr čajen džinéna.
Rundja e Maša — mek — prisîklîjá!
Te akana gadži joj ne avéla.
Dživéla joj sîr Devloro phendja...




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