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Syndic Literary Journal

Living Land

Written by Dmytro Chystiak

Translated from the Ukranian by the poet

Narrated by Bill Wolak

Kiev Ukraine


For Anastassiya Kobzina and Ilia Solovyov, in memoriam


My grandfather died without a word about the war.

Without a word about the war my grandmother died.

On starvation and labor for the front,

They let out a few harsh words, no more.

May 9 was the greatest of their holidays,

Their songs, their tears, without a word about the war.

“I will not talk, My Lord!

Never again, never again. We throw you

On the cart, and then, in the mass grave.”

The words of my grandmother, near her grave.



In my bookshelves, under the bombardments,

My grandfather’s medal-covered uniform,

His dagger (17 years old, Shcholkovo near Moscow,

Then the North Sea, many killed

In this land of ice, then, the singing,

Football, Kakhovka and Kyiv, the love of his life

Who makes me smile, even today),

The medals of my grandmother, daughter of war

(Childhood in the kolkhoz,* everything for the front,

And a friendly German says “hide!”

In the Vinnytsa region a whole winter,

In the attic she hides, and ostarbeiters ** are taken away.

Then, the singing, and the socialism, and the crash,

And his research on Stalin’s Great Famine),

They still stay together, with

Two sister republics, in the bookshelves,

Under the bombardments, then explode.



This winter land is alive, deep.

Not a word about the war, in their common grave.

The missile wakes them up as it did on the Babi Yar’s *** sanctuary,

And they come out of the other world, but I know,

They are not on the other side, they join

Ours. And my grandmother persists

With the volunteers, and my grandfather, with the sailors,

On our side, those who follow the Cossacks,

Those who ignore fear and throw themselves

Unprotected on tanks, in the steppes,

As in the time of the Hellenes, on this old land

Where “Glory!” falls, thunder after thunder.



This winter land is still alive, so far away.

My grandfather from Shcholkovo fights,

My grandmother from Haysyn persists,

Behind them, darkness upon darkness,

Lights upon lights, worlds after worlds,

Resound, bloodied, on the crosses grow

The roses of Heavenly Jerusalem,

Their blood unites Constantinople and Kyiv,

The Rubedo**** of resurrected cities,

Century after century, temple after temple,

To water our common tree,

Towards a spring, finally recognizable.

7.ІІІ.22, Kyiv


**  Ostarbeiters is German foreastern workers.” This is the German term for several million civilians from the “conquered eastern territories” taken to Germany for forced labor during the Second World War.

*** Babi Yar refers to a ravine (“Yar” means ravine in Russian and Ukrainian) in the suburbs of Kyiv where, starting on September 29, 1941, and continuing into the following day, more than 33,000 Jews were murdered by Nazi forces during World War II.

**** Rubedo is a Latin word meaning “redness” that was adopted by alchemists to define the fourth and final major stage in their magnum opus, where the prima materia becomes ultima materia or the Philosopher’s Stone. The Philosopher’s Stone, essential to transform base metals into precious ones, especially gold and silver, was also believed to provide an elixir of life, and  inasmuch as alchemy was concerned with the perfection of the human soul, the Philosopher’s Stone was thought to cure illnesses, prolong life, and bring about spiritual revitalization.







Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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