Featured Foreign Writer

Olga Kobilyanskaya

Olga Kobylanska Editor's Notes: I received the following story from Iryna Prysyazhnyuk (a Ukrainian student) in response to my call for translations of Olga Kobylanska's work. I was fascinated by the way Olga wove her love of nature into the thoughts of an old man. To quote Iryna, ‘Olga Kobilyanskaya was a brave and honest fighter for humanity...always able to carry the troubles of her people. Putting aside her own personal misfortunes in order to work toward the betterment of her people, she expressed her dreams and desires in her masterpieces. Olga's stories were her attempt to waken her people to the possibility of a beautiful future*. Every new story helped her to better understand men and women, and penetrate their inner world.

Iryna Prysyazhnyuk Iryna was so serious (she actually had more translations of Olga's work!) she helped materialize my dreams to make Olga's words known to the world. Due to its length, we are presenting only an excerpt of An Old Man's Thoughts. Please send us your comments and thoughts and we will forward them to Iryna. We hope to continue with the next excerpt in the Spring edition of this web site.

* At the time of this work, the region of Bukovyna had been ruled by corrupt Austrian and Hungarian governments.


An Old Man's Thoughts

by Olga Kobilyanskaya
as translated by Iryna Prysyazhnyuk
and edited by Cora Schwartz

My precious children!

You don't notice me but I can see you all. I remain among you as a lonely oak in a woods of young trees where I can behold all movements, even the slightest changes in the mild waves of life.

I tell you that I can see throughout; what happens in front of you, what happens to you now, and what has happened behind you.

Confined to this chair due to my longtime illness, my only job now is to watch you, think about you, your past, your present, your future. I can see the consequences as I watch you grow.

You, seven sons of mine (the biblical number) and three daughters, having entered my life so long ago, are now just in the middle of yours. I've outlived seven of you while I am here. But over there, where we will all meet, I will always have you. That is why when I address you, I mean all of you

My precious children!

You don't notice me but I can see you all. Until recently your mother's eyes had watched you too though lately I've been watching you with my eyes only. You made us laugh and cry as we watched you mature.

Your mother's soul was a pure as one from the Holy Bible. She too loved her work. She was as the white blossom of a tree I had dug out of her families garden and replanted in my own. It was a garden filled with sharp rocks that she made beautiful for you, dear children, so that you could have the right place to develop. That was your mother. Gentle, energetic, kind, meek yet strict... and wise as that grass snake.

And so you grew.

At first you were flowers we carefully tended, then birds when you grouped with others like yourselves. And we continued to watch you, how you grew and lived.

Don't ever think, my sweet children, that an old man can not see anything or understand youth or that his soul lives in the past, indifferent to the present, out of touch with the future!

My precious children!

Man must not only keep up his species, but mature too. That was our purpose as we brought you up. Seven sons and three daughters, ours.

We tried to instill in you a sense of nationality and to curve and sculpt your characters. We wished to make you models, examples for the generations to come. This was the most difficult part of our work. In order to bring you up we had to turn into children ourselves at times, then philosophers or actors, even into saints or sufferers. After all, ones offspring must be better than oneself. That which we lacked, had to be made perfect in you, with your help of course and that of your friends in your own generation.

Yet we remained still "biblical" and primeval.

We obeyed the saints, feared God's anger, believed in wonders, in fortune. Our souls were childish, naOve at times. We knew only holy writings; you managed to know more.

My precious children!

You don't notice me but I can see you all. Without knowledge, tricks, new colour or the new philosophy, I see you with the eyes of my soul. These eyes have learned to envision the hues of the human character, of life throughout the years.

I will start with you my oldest son. My first-born son! I want to tell you only just a few words and to remember your mother too.

She had lived and shivered for you before you were even born.

Only mothers can understand a mother's feelings. So how else can I tell you anything else about her?

It seems to me there hasn't been a better child in all the world than you. Your mother told me this so many times. Once when you were a small boy you ran out of the cottage into the street. She ran after you just for the fun of catching you and to become your Angel Savior. A rich man was riding down the road in a cab and you ran in the way of his cab.

Your mother screamed as if insane and the cab stopped. The man got out and lifted you in the air. He looked with wonder into your face, into your eyes that were clear as the sky. Your mother was scared stiff and could not move.

The noble man took you to your mother and said, "I don't know who you are woman but if I had such a child, I would be as proud as a king. I am only a beggar for my only child has died. So bring this child up to be your glory. "

Then he rode away.

And we wanted to bring you up to be our glory.

I was a king among you. Strict and kind, I had ears and eyes for each and everyone of you. My hand praised and punished you and I used my head all day and night, seeing your future all the time.

I planned your growing years and prepared your minds for the future. Because you are forerunners for your people' I would say sometimes, "keep your smile, be models for your great, grandchildren. Be like your people before you."

We did everything for the future. Do you think, my precious children, we were trying for ourselves only? Oh no! We tried for our native land, for our people, our miserable people who can only hope for a future they can not get.


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