Tango de Bucha

Vlad Molodid
I have translated a poem from Ukrainian, a poetic reflection on the current grave events. Its subject is a trip from Kyiv by a young poet (Vlad Molodid) delivering supplies to the town of Bucha, the site of a massacre by the Russian invaders, on the day of the Eastern Orthodox Easter. "Bella Ciao" is an Italian song popular in Ukraine in the form of a tango.

Я бачив танго в знеструмленій Бучі,
у тому квітні, коли не до танцю,
коли вечори холодні й тягучі,
брудні і численні, як війни і шанці.

Я бачив, як він підійшов і мовив:
“Я паску привіз, і скажи, що треба”.
Вона не зронила ні звуку, ні слова,
вона не хотіла ні хліба, ні неба.

Я бачив, як він запитав про ковдри,
про воду, ліхтар і насіння мальви.
Хитнула бровою, що тільки бовдур
повернеться знову, везтиме зайве.

Вона показала у двір рукою,
де двоє котів полювали мишу,
сказала, що гріє вночі собою
обох, аж ніяк не інше.

Коли він спитав: “А чого чекала,
і як розрубати печалі ланцюг?”,-
сказала: “Танго під Bella ciao
в знеструмленій Бучі, коли не до танцю”.

I saw them tango in that danceless April,
In Bucha stripped of light, deprived of power,
When countless evenings rolled by like a war reel,
Like endless trenches, dirty, cold and dour.

I saw how he came up to her and asked her:
“I brought you paska*, tell me what is needed”
Yet not a sound, not a word she uttered.
Neither for bread nor skies above she pleaded.

I saw him ask her if she needed blankets,
Some bottled water, malva seeds or flashlights.
With knitted brow she said: such useless trinkets
Would bring to this forsaken place just halfwits.

She pointed through the door into the courtyard,
Where two tomcats a scared mouse were chasing.
She said she had to warm them close to her heart,
Through long and freezing nights them both embracing.

How could he break her chain of sorrows now?
What was she waiting for in this dark hour?
We’ll dance, she said, that tango “Bella Ciao”
In danceless Bucha stripped of light and power!

* “Paska” is a traditional Ukrainian Easter cake.