To Ukraine

Reminiscing on life in Ukraine.

Vocabulary:

"the three Cs and the entire P": CCCP/USSR

борщ: borscht

хлеб: bread

блины: pancakes

варе́ники: Ukrainian dumplings

Дунай: the Danube River

березы: birch

черт: damn

молодцы: well done!

балкон: balcony

дом: home


By Arlyce Menzies - Peace Corps Volunteer, Ukraine (2004 - 2006)


I raise my glass to you, Ukraine

To your grandparents in the village

milking the quiet eyed cows

jarring the butchered sow

To your thin singing father

drunk in the street with sorrow

To your nostalgia for each of the three

Cs and the entire P

To your children performing Pushkin

reciting ancestors’ dreams

To the suffering

intermittent between glowing toasts

the quick empty glass and refilling

To red борщ and fresh хлеб

delicate блины and plump варе́ники

To the swelling Дунай pushing between

stands of shrouded березы

to the Black Sea

To the bread and salt you brought me

the place at your table you gave me

and taught me to say черт and молодцы

To the fuchsine stained eggs

in the light of the dawn of Spring

molting cold-broken skin

rising new, green

And to my friend

smoking on the балкон

making her дом my home

who can hear through my broken tongue

what the hot heart presses

up into the world.


This poem was entered in the returned Volunteer category for the 2015 Peace Corps Poetry Contest. The contest received more than 1,000 submissions, representing over 50 years of Peace Corps service in more than 100 countries.

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