May 9, 2013
Hooray! Today is the day I get to write a happy post! I love Victory Day. I love those sweet old WWII veterans that walk around Moscow carrying flowers and getting kissed on the cheek by pretty young girls. If I were in Moscow today I would be kissing them all! On days like this I remember why I love Russia and Ukraine(and I’m sure I would love Belarus too) so much. Because they have been through so much–tragedy after tragedy and they are still the most wonderful, loving and open-hearted people you will ever meet in your life.
They deserve this day. They deserve a day to celebrate after all that they’ve been through.
Here are a series of happy photos to lighten your mood after my previous two posts(on the Destruction of War and the Faces of War. The modern pictures come from this awesome article from Boston.com about Victory Day. There are many more beautiful photos. I didn’t include them all in my post. They made my heart swell with love.
Please push play on this song and listen as you look at the pictures.
Поздравляю всех с Днем ВЕЛИКОЙ Победы!!!
Victory Then and Now
These beautiful present day pictures come from this article from The Boston Globe.
I hope this day will continue to be a celebration for people of all ages for centuries to come. May we always remember these heroes’ sacrifice!
May 7, 2013
It’s easy for us (especially in America) to think of war as something that happens far away with tanks and soldiers. But for Europeans, and specifically the Soviets during World War II, it was by no means something that was happening far away.
Today I’ve compiled several pictures from World War II from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus to help us remember the human part of war. As I look at these pictures I just can’t imagine what it would be like to have to be a mother or a wife during this war.
Today the focus is on the faces of the people who lived in the middle of this terror. I purposely want today’s post to be depressing so that tomorrow when I post about the victory and the celebration you can really understand why May 9th is such a joyous day in these countries now–because it meant an end to this…
May 6, 2013
Victory day was one of my most favorite days in Russia. It is celebrated on May 9th but I thought I’d do a couple of posts remembering World War II leading up to the actual holiday, to help you better appreciate why this day is so important in Russian culture.
Somewhere in my collection of DVC tapes is a treasure box of memories that I captured with my video camera on this day eight years ago. One of my favorite things I witnessed on Victory Day was the WWII veterans dressed in their uniforms, adorned with medals walking around Moscow. They got to be recognized as the heroes they truly are. Young people would shake hands with them, pretty young girls would kiss them on the cheek, all thanking them for their service. We watched the parade on TV, went to Sparrow Hills to watch a firework show (Салют) and afterward danced and sang old songs on the street while an old veteran played the accordion.
I was so touched by this. It is impossible for us Americans to comprehend what the Soviet Union, specifically Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltics went through in that horrific war. We Americans talk about Pearl Harbor and September 11 as being horrific, and they were indeed. Imagine such tragedies happening everywhere for a four year period and then you can begin to understand the beginning of the suffering these countries faced. Populations, communities, industry and families were entirely torn apart.
So I will do a couple of posts this week about this beautiful holiday that makes me feel so proud of Russia and those Eastern countries, even though I’m not a native. That war may have ended differently if it weren’t for all the sacrifices on the Eastern Front.
When studying World War II in America we typically focus on the fight in Japan and the concentration camps. Not a whole lot gets mentioned about the devastation and loss in Eastern Europe. So today I will show some pictures to help illustrate that, so that we can understand why May 9th represents the end of an unimaginable nightmare.
I don’t claim to be a historian, nor do I claim to have fully accounted for all the suffering and details of that time. I recognize that all of Europe suffered greatly during those times as well as our American soldiers. I just wanted to gather a few pictures to help you imagine what came to be every day scenes for people living in Ukraine and Russia and Belarus during those years.
The Siege of Leningrad (informative link here)
The Nazis took control of Leningrad and cut it off from all supplies. Meanwhile, residents died by the hundreds of thousands (anywhere from 600 thousand to 1.5 million) due to constant bombardments from the Germans and starvation that resulted from the blockade.
There was so much death over the 900 day period that dead bodies had to simply be taken to mass graves. These scenes of dead bodies either left in the street or being dragged on sleds was a common one during the siege.
In addition to witnessing death and suffering daily, imagine seeing your homeland and your own home in shambles.
Kiev also suffered greatly. Kiev, was also cut off from food supplies and starved. The city, with all of its beautiful ancient churches and sacred relics and places of Holy Rus was plundered. The Germans hauled off anything of value and emptied entire libraries and burned books.
The number or losses in Ukraine during WWII range from 7 million to 13 million, which would mean losing almost a quarter of your population. (More on this here)
And the suffering in countless other cities:
The stories of destruction and suffering are endless. I wanted to post these pictures to help us Westerners comprehend that suffering that people in that part of the world have endured and why May 9th deserves to be a happy and meaningful day, because it represents the end of this.
May 2, 2013
So, I am now a Master of Arts. I have my Master’s degree and I’ve already got a teaching job lined up for the fall, so I was feeling good. Then I took the OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview) in Russian. Ahhhhh, nothing will take you down a notch like doing horribly on a test. Let me first explain that I DON’T TEST WELL. Something about the pressure just makes my brain buckle. I, for some reason, was feeling really nervous about the OPI, so this anxiety did not help my performance. I really just took it because I took a class on Language Testing, where we talked in great depth about the OPI so I was curious to experience. Additionally, I wanted my official score so that I can put my level down on my resume or CV. I still don’t know my score, and I don’t know that I want to know.
Here are a couple of my observations:
-To establish that you speak on the Superior level you are supposed to be able to speak at the discourse level(page length). Well, the interview is only 30 minutes, so they’re cutting you off to start on the next topic before you can neatly make your argument.
That rush just contributed to my anxiety and made me stutter. Moreover, I did the stupid thing that I always do when I’m speaking (in any language) in a high pressure situation. I start to talk about really random things that, in my head, perfectly relate to the topic, but usually I don’t end up tying them into what I’m talking about (this is why I always use Powerpoints when I teach. They keep me on track).
The interview went so fast and I was so stressed out that I couldn’t really remember what exactly I had said about things. I had this vague memory that I had mentioned at some point the bible and the end of the world. He (and probably you) must have thought I was wacko. Well, in my head this tied in perfectly to the question he asked me about citizens’ responsibility to improve the ecological situation of our planet. What I WANTED to explain was that I live in a state of very religious people who believe the worsening of conditions on earth is a sign of the end of the world… and since you can’t stop the end of the world why try and keep the world in good shape. Although I am religious, I think we need to respect the earth and do our part. Well, that makes sense, right? But I don’t think I ended up saying the part after the ellipses. So to my interviewer it just sounded like I was ranting about the end of the world.
Ahhhh, but what can you do. It is what it is.
In preparation for my OPI I was trying to search on the internet to know what to expect as far as format and possible topics go. So I thought I’d do a blog post in case there’s anyone else out there who wants to get a feel for possible topics that might come up.
1. I talked about myself, my areas of interest and so on.
2. He, upon finding out that I have trained to be come a teacher, asked me (in Russian, obviously) “What should teacher’s raises be based on? Grades? Student Ratings?”
3. He then asked me my opinion of online learning, whether it is an effective method and so on.
4. He then asked me “Some people are complaining that the money spent on the Sochi olympics might have been better spent on developing social programs or improving infrastructure. Do you think that that money would have been better spent and if so, on what?”
We kind of danced around in circles on this topic and I concluded, “Ну, мы зря обсуждаем эту тему–все уже решенно. Эти деньги уже трачены” (We’re discussing this topic in vain. Everything is already decided. That money is already spent)
Looking back I realize he was trying to get me to hypothesize, (a grammatical skill needed at the advanced and superior levels) which I can do in terms of the language but couldn’t in that moment in terms of imagination.
But I did explain that if the goal of these games is to make a good impression they might want to start with some of their recent political policies that seem to be pushing parts of the world further away and are by no means making a good impression.
Or if the goal is to develop tourism they might want to start with simplification of the visa process (which I’m doing right now for my trip this summer and it’s a pain) and eliminating bureaucracy and corruption.
And the last question, which I already mentioned, was about our responsibility to take care of our planet.
Maybe I’m overly talkative but I felt like he was interrupting me and not letting me finish up my argument.
Anyway, I have major issues with the system of assessment if they’re rushing you to try and elicit very specific grammar structures. Maybe if I take it again(which most people do) I’ll have a better experience.
But if you’re taking it anytime soon. Good luck to you. Just relax (which I didn’t do) and enjoy the ride.
March 8, 2013
As you’re congratulating all the wonderful women in your life I thought I would give you a lovely background song to do it to. Since I’ve been posting lots about music lately I thought this beautiful love song by Okean Elzi, a Ukrainian group, would be very appropriate for this holiday.
In Russian you say “поздравляю тебя/вас с днём женщин!”
If you have a special Ukrainian speaking lady in mind you would say “Вітаю тебе/вас з днем жінок!” And if you really want to be romantic you can recite the lyrics of this song to them.
March 7, 2013
As many of you might remember, I also love Ukraine and Ukrainian. In fact, some of my most favorite music comes from Ukrainian artists. So I think it’s only fair to include a few of my favorite Ukrainian songs.
Boombox sings in both Russian and Ukrainian. I absolutely adore their music. It is so creative and the lead singer, Andrey Khvylnyuk has an awesome voice.
Today’s song always tugs at my heart strings. I noticed while in Ukraine that everyone seems to have someone they know or have loved that works “за кордоном” (abroad). It seems like everyone is trying to get out of Ukraine. Although these opportunities have helped the economic prospects of many people it has made relationships for many young people kind of complicated. This was an issue for almost every young person I met there. Many of whom had had someone they were in love with but the relationship fell apart when one of them went to live and work abroad.
This song is about how young love too often falls victim to the complications of real life and geography. I hope you love it and learn a little Ukrainian while you’re at it.
March 1, 2013
Several years ago I posted about my like for Mummy Troll, and I how I attended their concert here in my city a couple of years ago. Well, it was my friend Pasha who introduced me to their music. He was the one that introduced me to good Russian rock.
Today’s song is one I use in my Russian class. Of all the cases Instrumental is my favorite. Wait, did I just say that I have a favorite case? Wow, I’m a nerd. But it is my favorite.
It can be used to convey a few things. For the purpose of this song we’ll discuss two of its meaning that first year Russian students learn. With the preposition ‘c’ it means ‘together with’ without the preposition and with just the instrumental declension it typically means ‘by means of’.
I like to have students listen to this case and see if they can count all the instrumental plural endings both of nouns and adjectives.
This song would also be good to teach the word ‘ли’ in Russian, which means ‘whether’.
Underlined are the words in my FAVORITE case.
Some other songs that seemed to be very popular based on the crowd’s excitement and singing along at the concert are:
My favorite: “Невеста”
February 27, 2013
One of my favorite types of Russian song is when they put famous poems to music. This is one area that I feel English music is lacking. Why has no one done this in English to the great poems of Robert Frost? John Donne?
This poem/song is by the poetess Marina Tsvetaeva, a contemporary of one of my favorite poets, Anna Akhmatova. Tsvetaeva, like Akhmatova, suffered many tragedies in her life. Her husband was suspected of being a spy in 1941 and was executed. She hanged herself in 1941.
On a lighter note, this song comes from the soundtrack of one of the most famous Soviet era romantic comedies “Ирония судьбы или с легким паром”, “The Irony of Fate or Enjoy Your Bath”. It is to New Year’s Day in Russia what “A Christmas Story” is to our Christmas day. Meaning, they play it over and over. The Tsvetaeva poem is beautifully put to music (one verse was subtracted) and song by the beautiful
This movie is so popular I plan to dedicate a series of posts to it this year at the holiday season. I know, that’s so cruel of me to make you wait so long.
Many beloved songs came from this film. I’ll link to them at the bottom of the post. Mosfilm prohibits me from showing the clip on my blog so just click on the link it gives you to watch it.
An interesting fact: Because Nadya (the film character singing in this clip) was from Poland and had a strong accent in Russian she had two voice doubles. The famous singer Alla Pugacheva is the singing voice and Valentina Talyzina as the speaking voice.
Other songs from this film include:
February 25, 2013
I have so many favorite Russian songs. It’s so hard to choose. I could do post after post of all the great music that I have grown so fond of and has given me such pleasant nostalgia for these past 9 years.
Today’s artists is one of my favorites. I love his voice and his nostalgic themes. His songs are full of scenery of the Russian countryside and everyday life in a subtle way.
Here’s a little background information on the band, Любэ from the Wikipedia article. The band has been around since the 1980′s and people of all ages love Lyubeh. The lyrics and songwriting are beautiful. I use many songs in my classroom activities. Today’s song I use for beginning students to show all the various forms (gender and number) of Russian nouns and adjectives in the nominative case(or at least look the same as nominative). So, for you Russian learners: see if you can pick out all the nouns and adjectives and see if you know what the singular/plural versions of them are! Forget Farmville and Words with Friends. THIS is fun!
So, are you just dying to know the answers? Which are female nouns? Masculine? Neuter? Well, that would be just cruel to leave you hanging so here are the answers:
Feminine nouns and adjectives: Река, моя краса, ночка темная, речка быстрая, одинокая луна, ночь, она
Masculine nouns/adjectives: огонек, ветер, он
Masculine plural: крутые берега–берег is singular and this is an irregular masculine plural. Same with глаза. Глаз=singular
Neuter plural: мои поля (мое поле=singular), родные места (родное место=singular).
Was that fun or what?!!!!
I read that this was the theme song for a TV series but I couldn’t figure out what series. If anyone knows that please tell me!
Other Lyubeh songs that I recommend:
February 22, 2013
My first introduction to this song was at the sweet little slapdash dinner that my Russian host-grandmother had thrown together for me when she found out it was my 20th birthday. She invited her son, his wife and daughter as well as me and some of my American friends. After dinner they insisted that we sing songs, which is customary at a Russian celebratory dinner. This was the first song they sang. I was so impressed that they knew all the verses. I didn’t really know Russian at the time but this song stuck with me because I heard it all over the place.
You can read more about the song in English at the Wikipedia page.
What was really pathetic is that they then asked us American girls to sing a song for them we couldn’t think of a single song that we all knew. I think we may have stumbled through a single verse of ‘You are my Sunshine’ or something, but we all felt ashamed that we didn’t have any traditional American songs to share with them.
Russia has a rich tradition of folk songs, народные песни, and застольные песни (songs you sing around the table). I would recommend learning some of them so you can participate in the fun. Not to mention, Russians will be VERY IMPRESSED if you can sing all the verses of a Russian folk song, and since Катюша is one of the most favorite, I suggest it be this one.
History of the Song: This is a wartime song written about what was a common wartime theme; the man going off to war, leaving his sweetheart behind.
This song is especially popular on May 9th, or Victory Day and also on день защитников отчества, which is February 23. On TV you can watch all sorts of variety shows with folk singing and dancing and always, on this day, Катюша is sung.
I’ve always said that if you’re going to learn Russian you at least need to know two things about the culture and history: Pushkin and WWII. If you go to Russia ignorant of either, or heaven forbid, both of these things you’re going to make an осёл of yourself.
In the video below you can see very moving pictures of WWII and veterans. It’s impossible for us Americans to comprehend what a war, let alone multiple successive wars can do to a nation. WWII still tugs at many Russian emotions, even those in the younger generation because they know how much their people and their country suffered. This song evokes those emotions. I’m not even a Russian and I get choked up when I watch this video.
|Расцветали яблони и груши,||Apple and pear trees were a-blooming,|
|Rastsvetali iabloni i grushi,|
|Поплыли туманы над рекой.||Mist (was) creeping on the river.|
|Poplyli tumany nad rekoj.|
|Выходила на берег Катюша,||Katyusha set out on the banks,|
|Vykhodila na bereg Katyusha,|
|На высокий берег на крутой.||On the steep and lofty bank.|
|Na vysokij bereg na krutoj.|
|Выходила, песню заводила||She was walking, singing a song|
|Vykhodila, pesniu zavodila|
|Про степного, сизого орла,||About a grey steppe eagle,|
|Pro stepnogo, sizogo orla,|
|Про того, которого любила,||About her true love,|
|Pro togo, kotorogo liubila,|
|Про того, чьи письма берегла.||Whose letters she was keeping.|
|Pro togo, chi pisma beregla.|
|Ой ты, песня, песенка девичья,||Oh you song! Little song of a maiden,|
|Oj ty, pesnia, pesenka devichia,|
|Ты лети за ясным солнцем вслед.||Head for the bright sun.|
|Ty leti za iasnym solntsem vsled.|
|И бойцу на дальнем пограничье||And reach for the soldier on the far-away border|
|I bojtsu na dalnem pograniche|
|От Катюши передай привет.||Along with greetings from Katyusha.|
|Ot Katyushi peredaj privet.|
|Пусть он вспомнит девушку простую,||Let him remember an ordinary girl,|
|Pust on vspomnit devushku prostuiu,|
|Пусть услышит, как она поет,||And hear how she sings,|
|Pust uslyshit, kak ona poet,|
|Пусть он землю бережет родную,||Let him preserve the Motherland,|
|Pust on zemliu berezhet rodnuiu,|
|А любовь Катюша сбережет.||Same as Katyusha preserves their love.|
|A liubov Katyusha sberezhet.|
That translation of the lyrics is from this website, where you can also download the mp3
Some other wartime songs with the same theme that I like are: “Темная ночь” and “Синий платочек”