Mother Tongue

I have no idea how Rafeyenko managed to switch so completely into Ukrainian after the age of 45. He’s from Donetsk, which hasn’t been Ukrainian-speaking in two generations. He speaks like a native speaker. What’s more stunning, he writes works of literature in Ukrainian.

Rafeyenko says that hearing Russian in the street or on TV is physically painful. Hating your mother tongue – literally, the language your mother spoke to you in infancy – is a wound that doesn’t heal. Rafeyenko lived under occupation. After escaping, he settled in Bucha. Then he saw what Russians did to Bucha. I can’t begin to imagine how that must feel.

I’ve been listening to the talk in my office, and now I’ve blown up like a balloon after crying for 1,5 hours.

Bad Interpreter

Speaking about interpreting, I’m watching a talk by the Ukrainian writer Volodymyr Rafeyenko organized by the Harvard Ukrainian Institute, and the interpreter is slaughtering the translation.

The writer says, “I hated myself, I hated everything I was because I felt that the war was being waged in my name.” I start crying and then hear the interpreter translate this as, “I objected to that because I thought it wasn’t OK.”

It’s particularly irksome that the interpreter constantly confuses “Russian” and “Russian-speaking.” It makes zero sense to say that Rafeyenko used to be a Russian writer. Russian speakers aren’t Russian. Hello, there’s a war going on over that very issue.

I’m an Interpreter

The interpreting job consisted of translating orally legal documents from English to Spanish for a Hispanic client who speaks no English. I really enjoyed it. It’s kind of a relief not to have to write out all the endless legal sentences. The client, being Hispanic, used this opportunity to tell me her life story, which I didn’t mind because this work is paid by half-hour increments.

Unorthodox Teaching Methods

If my father had a chance, he’d be one of those unschooling people. He thought that school was a waste of time and drove my mother – a schoolteacher – nuts with long, passionate speeches on the evils of schooling.

Once I got an F in math and another in behavior. The teacher said I needed a parent to sign my gradebook to demonstrate awareness of the problem. I showed the gradebook to my Dad.

“Good!” he said. “I’m very glad. Why did you get these Fs?”

I explained that I was reading a novel during my math class.

“That’s excellent!” my father said. “I’m so happy you aren’t wasting your time in these stupid classes.”

He taught in college, and his teaching methods were as unorthodox as his parenting. On the first day of class, he’d tell the group of 100+ students, “Everybody gets an A. Give me your gradebooks, and I’ll sign them. Now, if you are here for the grade, please clear out. Only stay if you want to learn.”

All but 4 students happily cleared out. My father taught the course to the remaining four and then hired them all to work for his company. They worked for him for the next 20 years, making outlandishly good salaries because he had contracts with US clients.

He was like this. Completely oblivious to how things were supposed to be done.

Mocking the Ill

I did not think much of John Fetterman as a candidate, to say the least. But watching him debate Dr. Oz tonight excited my pity for him, and my anger for everyone around him — his partner, his campaign operation, the Democratic Party of Pennsylvania, and any national party figures who were aware of his condition before this debate. John Fetterman should not have been on a debate stage tonight. He should be at home, recovering from his stroke. He looked and sounded like the victim of a stroke — unable to form coherent responses to questions asked of him, unsteady in reaching for his rehearsed lines.

I am very angered by this spectacle of a seriously ill man being subjected to what amounts to physical abuse for political reasons. This whole idea that after suffering a stroke you need to be able to go back to work at once as if nothing happened is inhuman and wrong. I don’t care what this man’s politics are, I don’t care about his party affiliation, or anything of the kind. I care that he is a human being in distress and he is being trotted out in public for everybody to gape at his physical limitations.

I was particularly stunned to find out that Fetterman is married. We are mocking the wives of the Russian soldiers who are eager to send them to die in hopes of getting a payout as widows. But those are miserable, uneducated, piss-poor women with no options. What is the excuse of Fetterman’s wife? It’s almost physically painful for me to watch clips from this debate, and I don’t know Fetterman. What kind of utter inhumanity is needed to put a victim of a very recent stroke in a high-pressure situation of a political debate?