Category: Belarus

Sasha Filipenko: Красный крест (Red Crosses)

The latest addition to my website is Sasha Filipenko‘s Красный крест (Red Crosses). Sasha, a recently widowed young man moves to Minsk, where he buys a flat. He has one neighbour on the same floor – Tatyana Alexeyevna. Though she has Alzheimer’s, she tells him her story. She had worked in the Soviet Union during the war for the NKID. Her husband was captured by the Romanians, making both him and her a traitor. She is sent to a gulag and her daughter is sent to an orphanage. When she finally gets out, she spends her time looking for her daughter, her husband and one other man. Above all the books is about the horrors of the Soviet system – a system, Filipenko claims – is still, to a certain extent still in existence in Belarus.

Vasil Bykaŭ: Альпийская баллада (Alpine Ballad)

The latest addition to my website is Vasil Bykaŭ‘s Альпийская баллада (Alpine Ballad). This is a new translation, from the original Belarusian, a distinct improvement on the previous translation from the (censored) Russian. It tells the story of two people – the Belarusian Ivan and the Italian communist, Giulia – who escape from a prisoner-of-war camp in Austria, when Soviet prisoners detonate an unexploded bomb dropped by the US Air Force. The couple, who meet while escaping, manage to flee their initial pursuers and head into the Alps. Inevitably, the two become closer as they deal with the problems of their pursuers (inducing Alsatian dogs), the bad weather they first encounter, a mad German fellow escapee and, of course, the issue of food and where they are going. Bykaŭ tells an excellent story, with some criticism of the Soviet system (to Giulia’s horror), some lyrical description of the Alpine landscape and the burgeoning relationship of the two escaped prisoners.

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