Im from Rostov, a foundling and orphan, But I could hail from any other place. God in my life would not help me too often, But, nonetheless, I count on his grace! I dont possess a house of my own, I move around and live wherever I go. An orphanage had been my only home In Chechnya half a century ago. No child they ever victimized or busted, We shared bread whatever was the cost, Life traveled in a truck, so old and rusted, And, snarling, flew away through the exhaust! I couldnt brag of my distinguished morals, My friends and pot made up my reckless life. Just with a knife I settled any quarrels, But luckily I carry no knife! I strolled around, the wind gave me directions, What I thought good turned out to be bad: Smiles might veneer ugly, evil actions And stone may be given you as bread! I was like many homeless and needy, With folks like these my roads often crossed; Life traveled in a truck, so bad and seedy, And, snarling, flew away through the exhaust! That cozy Chechnya made us discontented, New challenges a people must withstand; The Caucasus was hurriedly abandoned As Chechens rushed away to Kazakhstan! And then - Siberia! You see unshaven faces Around you among the trunks of spruce. A mess of different languages and races Including Greeks, Uzbeks and even Jews! They beat us hard when we slaved on a placer, My back with scars is thoroughly crisscrossed. Life traveled in a truck, a limping racer, And, snarling, flew away through the exhaust! We drank all stuff - including glues and thinners, With gentle movements - not to stir the dregs; By means of booze we turned out to be winners - We swindled bullets, guards and prison tags! We drank bad vodka always, everywhere With nuts as appetizers for that swill! And in a foundry one day - to God I swear! - We tried to drink the molten liquid steel! The holes in teeth we filled with pure gold (Its my reserve - Im ready for the worst!); Life traveled in a truck, so bad and old, And, snarling, flew away through the exhaust! With Chechen pals on mossy cliffs wed trotted, Wed played and sung, enjoying fun and jest! Before my life was awfully distorted Id claimed to be a Chechen, like the rest! Our destinies were sarsed through many sifters, Each one received his meagre piece of pie When came Siberia - the land of bums and drifters, With odds to live but, basically, to die! On my bald skull there are some hairs scattered, My former curls forever have been lost! Life traveled in a truck, so old and battered, And, snarling, flew away through the exhaust! Embedded in my memory like etching The scenes of fights - that time with them was full! I saw the Volga Germans beat the Chechens, The battle taking place in Barnaul! Who started first - for that I didnt care, I came to help my childhood highland friends! Two nations were the aliens in there, But fought as if for their own lands! The ones who turned our life into disaster Are now dead - their memory be cursed! And the mustached satanic evil Master, Disgraced, has flown away through the exhaust!!
George Tokarev. Translation, 2018
Edited by Robert Titterton