Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Letter from Oleg Atbashian

Yan Martsinkevitch, Maureen Hurley & Oleg Atbashian

I created a new font Oleg Leningrad, which is the same Leningrad 24, but with the key map same as Smolensk. So, all the files we had in Smolensk, can be easily converted to Oleg Leningrad with the only problem that S-k is 12, and L-d is only 24. With the LaserWriter you can reduce it on “page setup,” as we did earlier, or use Adobe Type Manager, whatever works better.

What we have in Leningrad, let’s leave in Leningrad, and you should also leave it in your system, along with the new Oleg Leningrad. Convert only Smolensk text. It may be a little confusing, but it’s only a one-time thing.

Me, Oleg Atbashian & Yelena Buyevitch reading from Soviet Poetry Since Glasnost, Cherkassy, Ukraine. 1990-91.

I converted your poems on this disk into Oleg Leningrad, and some of the Am. kids poems translations. You’ll see. All the rest of Smolensk typeface you can convert yourself, like you do it with English fonts.

I also converted all the poems in Am. kids poems file from Draw on into Draw Off, which took me a while, but I still didn’t do this to Am.KIDS-90 file. It’s easy, you can do it yourself. Here’s the instructions:

-Press Power key + J, and you’ll get “Draw.” (let me use PK for Power key.)

-Click on “A” on the Draw menu.

-Click on the poem on the right side, and a box will appear.

-Highlight the poem in the box as usual, cut it by pressing PK + X . It’ll disappear.

(If the poem doesn’t get all on the screen, click on the beginning of it, then scroll the text to the end, press “Shift” and click at the end of the last line. It’ll work).

Then press PK + X .

-Press PK + J , and you’ll be out of “Draw”

-Click on the place you want to paste the poem, and press PK + V (paste).

-Convert the text in Smolensk into Oleg Leningrad.

-That’s it!

Sorry, I’m so busy now, I even have no time to take a shower in many days, especially now, as John leaves and I have to accomplish all the paperwork for my business etc.

I wouldn’t have been so busy, and just send stuff via modem, but — the greatest frustration I had in a while — after we payed money to GlasNet and tried the modem making local calls, the day we were supposed to make our first connection with Moscow, the modem died. To be specific, two microchips died because of some misterious reason, possibly power surges. I couldn’t believe it. I literally spent a whole week running with foam dripping from my lips from place to place trying to get the chips. Finally I got one, but the other one is not found yet. 

We sent a telegram to Paul asking to send the chip here. I hope it’ll be worked out eventually. The whole thing worked as a sudden damb across the river, crashing all of our plans, and stopping many projects for an unspecified period of time. After a week of unresultive galloping around, there occurred a real flood of papers gathering and gathering without any chance to break through to the destination, and no movement. I’m panicking because there’s still so much to be done, and John leaves soon, and there were so many unexpected things that stopped me from accomplishing our project.

I’m so sorry, and I feel really bad because I didn’t have a chance to translate poems yet. After John leaves, I’ll have more time, and poetry book will be the first project I’ll start doing. I hope, modem will eventually start working, and I’ll send you stuff e-mail (from e-male). It’ll look like bullshit because it’ll be in some English font, but after converting it into Oleg Leningrad it’ll be something.

Yan Martsinkevitch, Maureen Hurley, Oleg Atbashian,Yelena Buyevitch—we're being interviewed by a TASS reporter (I think.)  

After the modem broke I felt like I’m trapped, and I shouldn’t have taken to this job at all. It took me a while to feel better. 

You know, the work I’m doing now is also very useful for me as a writer because every day I meet new characters, and I learn a lot about people in a different context than before, and often I meet that kind of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, like high government officials, big plants directors and other types of important guys that wouldn’t have talked to me before. Now they appreciate my skills and knowledge, the things I also had before I started working for an American business person. 

All former Communists are now straight Capitalists wanting to do Big Business and make Big Money (which is actually still better than what they did before). It’s funny to work with them, it turned out that they are just naîve and greedy kids in their souls, which is even touching in a way. As for their cruelty, you know how cruel kids can be without even realizing it — they can kill an animal just from curiosity. 

Actually, “early” Communists that made the revolution were also just kids, ill-bread and not very smart. If you are an ill-bread not very smart kid, and you have good ideas in your heart, you make a good “early” Communist. As soon as you win, you provide a good basis for smart ill-bread kids with bad ideas in their hearts. That’s whom we had at power in the U.S.S.R., after all not very smart kids with good ideas were massacred by bad kids in the 1920-30s. 

Now, as they failed, all these greedy little creatures conform very quickly to the people they persecuted before, because they realized that business will satisfy their greediness much better than the former (ridiculous to a Westerner) privileges in a robbed and hungry country. After the coup when an investigation against the Communist party began, it turned out that feeling their end, the former Communist leaders illegally invested hundreds of millions of the Party money (not always earned legally) into different businesses, and made themselves the directors and managers of half private enterprises. Yepp... Luckily, those are only part of the businesses I work with. Of course, I don’t want to support them, but at the moment I just have to work with the material available, planting good seeds for the future.

The song that we recorded in Santa Rosa provides quite an impression on people who understand music here. Unfortunately, those are not the majority. Artemi Troitski whom I counted on to support our project, became a big shot on the Russian TV. He spends too much time abroad. 

There was also a scandal, when after the coup failed, he promiced publicly on TV to bring best of the world’s rock’n’roll musicians to Moscow to play in the concert to celebrate our freedom. The day was announced, a big stadium was rented, but the concert didn’t happen because nobody of the musicians showed up. 

As you understand, the public wasn’t very excited about this. Artemi got very frustrated, and left for Paris, France, to organize another concert to celebrate our freedom. This time he was a success, but it happened in France, not in the U.S.S.R. I don’t think I shall count on him any more. Now that Ukraine became independent from Russia, it’ll be even more difficult. Still, there are two local companies that said they will consider about sponsorship.

I didn’t ask any questions about your relationships with Valeri. I can’t tell you more than I’ve already said. I just hope everything will be OK, and you will let me know how it is going. I wish you the best of what I can only wish and I want to know that you are happy in the forthcoming New Year.



See also:

Ukrainian Glasnost: An Insider's View (March 28, 1991) Oleg Atbashian, the author of this essay, is a writer from the Ukrainian city of Cherkassy. He came to the United States last October on a private cultural exchange, working with poets and writers in California to translate Russian and Ukrainian poetry. In this essay, he remembers some of the events of 1990 and comments on the changes then taking place in the Ukraine under glasnost.

Note Bene: Ironic, the Soviet poetry translation project was my baby, and traces of me have been expunged, no credit, other than here on my own blog. And yet I diligently credited Oleg for his translations. When Oleg returned to Cherkassy in the summer of 1990, he went back to his wife. On emigrating to America in 1994, Oleg reinvented himself with, not one, but two right wings. But I know where the bodies lie. His wife, Nadia used to send me hate email, she hated living in New York and blamed me for their relocation, and not the fall of the USSR. After 9/11 I heard from Oleg, he was working in the American Express building, next to the Twin Towers, he was running late, missed the train to work, and lived to tell the tale. I wish him well, but we are light years apart from that fateful day I met him in August in Cherkassy. I haven't heard from him since. 

This poem is where it all began.


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