“Oh, when will we go back to Russia” (“Когда мы в Россию вернемся”), Georgy Adamovich

Does Abramovich idealise Russia only because he will never return? Or is he faking it? Either way, the imagery is powerful.

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Here’s the poem to which Yevtushenko’s “A Letter to Paris” is a response. The exile laments the loss of his home; Yevtushenko’s response tells him that in his pain he will find Russia: “There’s no return to Russia for thee/You can’t escape the pain belonging brings.”

Some explanation may be necessary. It seems clear that Adamovich wrote this when he was sick – I’ve taken the liberty of using the first person throughout. Adamovich uses the third person singular of the hospital patient, but I’m pretty sure it is him. “Kol’ Slaven” is a reference to Dmitry Bortniansky’s much-loved setting of the Tantum Ergo. The copper coins on the eyelids is a reference to a Jewish burial tradition.

It’s clear that Adamovich knew he’d never return.

Oh when will we go back to Russia? Oh, Hamlet of east, tell me when.
In fog and on…

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