Belarusian Poet Ryhor Krushyna

Born near Slucak, Belarus, on December 3, 1907, Ryhor Krushyna [pseud. of Ryhor Kazak] was the first Belarusian writer-poet to become a member of the International PEN Club in 1966.  Before that achievement, the poet had to leave his homeland, endure life in forced labor camps in Germany during the war, and to become a displaced person in post-war Europe prior to coming to the United States.

In the early 1920s, he and his older brother, Mikola, participated as  teenagers in the Sluck Uprising against the Bolshevik regime led by Juri Listapad.  Because of his age, the newly founded Soviet regime did not pursue his conviction.  One poem, “Paustan’!”  [“Rebel!”] which he published in his underground newsletter and is ascribed to his brother (under the pseudonym Maly Jazep), has been preserved. 

Later he joined the literary avant-garde movement “Maladnjak,” which was soon disbanded by the government.  Ultimately, his poetic talent was muzzled and he had to write “for the desk drawer,” which was the common saying then for works by politically unacceptable and unpublished poets and writers.

During WWII he was able to come to the West, and this is where the poet’s activity and his fame as Ryhor Krushyna began.  Starting with his first book of poetry, The Black Swan, which symbolized through this metaphor the life of an émigré, he created another six additional books during his lifetime; two works were posthumously published in Belarus after the break-up of the Soviet Union.  He has also translated from the Polish, German, Russian, and Ukrainian.  He was among the first founders of the Belarusian Institute of the Sciences and Art in North America.

Truly innovative, Krushyna was first to introduce the concept of hyper-dactylic rhyme in Belarusian poetry.  He could easily write verse with all the words starting with the same letter, was able to have inter-rhyme capability of all stanzas up to twenty, could write verse that was read from front and back (palindromes), and was a forerunner in and experimented with haiku, canzone, sextain and other forms, which were only later picked up by Belarusian poets.  His poetry is lyrical and universal, yet it is alive with the Belarusian spirit and love for his Homeland.  His poetry is imbued with a tender and all encompassing love for a tortured land and its suffering people.


Lebedz’ chornaja [ The Black Swan] (Regensburg, Germany: Pahonja, 1947);  Vybranyja tvory [Selected Works] (New York-Munich: Verlag Backauscyna, 1957); Vjacornaja liryka [Evening Lyrics] (New York-Munich: Vydan’ne autara, 1963);  Hvilina rozdumu [A Moment of Reflection] (New York-Munich: np,1968);  Vjasna uvosen’ [Springtime in Autumn] (New York-Munich, np, 1972);  Darohi [The Ways] (New York-Munich: np, 1974); Sny i mary  [Dreams and Reveries] (New York-Munich: Logos, 1975); Cymbalist [Cymbalist] (Minsk: Belaruski knihazbor, 2003); and Vybranyja tvory [Selected Works] (Minsk: Belaruski knihazbor, 2005), and the Centennial Edition:  Kantata samotnych  [Cantata of the Lonely] (Minsk: 2007).  

The centennial of the poet will be marked by publishing a new book of his poems. The book should be out on December 10, 2007. Below is the cover of the book:


English language translations by Vera Rich, a British poet and scholar, and his son, Ihar Kazak, are currently in progress. Please see some translations sent by the son of the poet Ihar Kazak to us below:

Awake, my brother-villager!
Rebel against the foreign power!
Your only choice is a rebellion,
‘cause you’re your Homeland’s son,
You won’t lose your life’s path,
But don’t you seek the sympathy of others!
Take up your arms! Fight! Destroy the vermin!
Rebel! Have courage, have no fear!
Let’s rescue our Belarus!

  Maly Jazep 1925

Ня сьпі, мой любы селянін!
Паўстань супроць чужой улады!
Паўстаньне - сродак твой адзін,
Ты роднай Бацькаўшчыны сын,
Сваіх ня згубіш пуцявін,
Дык не шукай чужых спагады!
За зброю! Бі! Хай гінуць гады!
Паўстань! Ня бойся і ня трусь!
Ратуйма нашу Беларусь!

Малы Язэп                            1925 г.


Give me, Lord, health and strength,
Give Belarus a divine spring.
May one’s soul not yearn the grave
In the torment of forlornness and sorrow.

                Give our people a rich harvest,
                Save it for us, Lord!

Protect our loved ones and kin,
And our country in its liberating struggle,
And those punished by incarceration and hunger,
And all those who suffer in  exile.

                 Protect us from enemies’ attacks;
                Help us find the right road.

  Lord, give a bright destiny to Man:
May the weak not perish in bondage.
Make our age-old dreams come true,
Give Belarus a divine spring.

                I do believe: such an hour will come
                For a mother to see her son.


[Translated by Ihar Kazak on December 8, 1999,
 and in consideration of the poem’s  prophecy]


Дай мне, Божа, здароўя і сілы,
Дай прыгожай вясны Беларусі.
Хай ня ные душа да магілы
У пакутнай самоце і скрусе.

Дай народу ўмалотнага збожжа,
Захавай яго ў засеках, Божа!

Барані нашых блізкіх і родных,
I наш край у вызвольным змаганьні,
I скараных няволяй, галодных,
I ўсіх тых, хто цярпіць на выгнаньні.

Барані ад напасьці варожай,
Памажы нам зыйсьці з раздарожжа.

Божа, дай сьветлы шлях чалавеку,
Каб ня гінуў слабейшы ў прымусе.
Спраўдзі мары, што носім спрадвеку,
Дай прыгожай вясны Беларусі.

Веру: прыдзе такая часіна --
Маці ўбачыць радзімага сына.



Joyous laughter, cap askew,
And a collar loosely opened.
Youth did peek at me before
In the mirror—oh, but now…

Someone else’s image unappealing shows,
Happiness is gone forever.
Stylish hat, alluring colors…
Ashen face, not young at all.

Cheerful necktie, not too plain,
But no joy within me.
Withered look and rancid smile,
Beg one’s fate, but all in vain:

Give me back that former mirror!
Let again repeat
My youth, my laughter, cap askew
And a collar loosely opened.

Translation of Ryhor Krushyna’s
“Perad liusterkam” (1954)
from his
Selected Works (NY-Munich: 1957)
Translation  © by Ihar Kazak


Сьмех вясёлы, і магерка,
І расшпілены каўнер.
Маладосьць мая ў люстэрка
Загладала, а цяпер…

Нехта іншы ў шкле няветлым,
Шчасьця згінулі сьляды.
Капялюш.  Пад фэтрам сьветлым
Цёмны твар немалады.

Гальштук вязаны вясёлкай,
А вясёласьці няма.
Жухнуць вочы ўсьмешкай ёлкай,
Моляць долі, а дарма:

Дайце даўнае люстэрка!
Хай паўторацца цяпер
Маладосьць, мой сьмех, магерка
І расшпілены каўнер.



Within the spectrum wide with intuition
I recognize you, my word.
Its taste, its odor, and play of sounds for definition,
And my creative happiness I heard.

The colors gamut and its play,
The elixir of youth,
And golden dreams of yesterday,
The fervor and the restless whirl of truth.

I see it all, I feel it all,
With words creating all anew,
I hear the voice of my country’s call,
The war of emotions that I knew.

For instance, take such a word for taste
Such bitter word is “absinth” to be sure.
It seems along the village street there’s waste
Of weed that crawls along the paling ever more.

Some though are straining words as castor oil,
Though surely there are others honey sweet…
My word!  I’ll not desert you in my toil,
I love your flight of fancy in this feat.

Mankind you do enrich so much
To prompt them to come forth in life.
You’ll cure the ailing with your touch,
And beat the evil enemy in strife.

You’re flashing with a lightning sheath,
And wafting with the warmth of spring and spree.
Upon my death you’ll meander as a wreath
To be consumed by life and me.

   Шырокім спэктрам вычуваньня
   Цябе я, слова, пазнаю.
   I смак, і пах, і гукаў граньне,
   I радасьць творчую маю,
   I розных хварбаў пералівы,
   I маладосьці эліксір,
   I залатыя нашы нівы,
   I жар, і неспакойны вір --
   Я ўсё тут бачу, адчуваю,
   Ствараю словам навіну.
Я чую голас майго краю,
   Жывых эмоцыяў вайну.
   Узяць на смак, напрыклад, слова
   Такое горкае -- «палын».
   Здаецца, вуліцай вясковай
   Настой травы паўзе паўз тын.
   А нехта цэдзіць слоў рыцыну.
Ды ёсьць салодкія, як мёд...
   Цябе я, слова, не пакіну, --
   Люблю я твой крылаты ўзьлёт:
   Ты падымаеш чалавека
   I ў сьвет загадваеш ісьці.
   Ты лечыш хворага спрадвеку,
   Б'еш злога ворага ў жыцьці.
   I зьзяеш яснай бліскавіцай,
   I вееш цёплаю вясной...
   Вянком па сьмерці будзеш віцца,
   Гарэць агнём, жыцьцём і мной.

The Other Love

I’m so happy to meet with you,
Once again this’ll change my mood.
Don’t you fear an imaginary infidelity
That I’m friends with another one.

That one sings to me very calmly
Late unto the night.
When she’s absent—I look for her
While on my way to see you.

I laugh with her, and am sad,
And I raise my head high.
You must know:  the other love
I call my Poetry.

April 24, 1944
(From his unpublished poetry)


 з табой спаткацца рады,
 зьмяняецца настрой.
 ня бойся ўяўнай здрады,
 сябрую я з другой.

 цiха мне сьпявае
 глыбокае начы.
 няма яе -- шукаю,
 цябе я iдучы.

 ёй сьмяюся, i смуткую,
ўздымаю галаву.
 любую другую
Я Паэзiяй заву.


(ь ненадрукаваных вершаў)

*  *  *

When you’re in love—
You get to know
Both beauty
And a daring flight.
One can believe
That even cayenne pepper
Will become as sweet
As honey.

But where debauchery there is—
It’s filth and emptiness.
And Eros is there
Like a prodigal son.
No beauty,
No dreams,
No flight.
And honey—
Is like hellebore,
Like wormwood.


  *  *  *

Калі кахаеш,—
Ты пазнаеш
І хараство,
І сьмелы ўзьлёт.
І можна верыць,
Што і перац
Салодкім станецца,
Як мёд.

А дзе распуста—
Брудна, пуста.
І там Эрот,
Як блудны сын.
Ні хараства,
Ні сноў,
Ні ўзьлёту.
І мёд—
Як чэмэр,
Як палын. 

15.Х.70 г.

I’ve placed a ladder and upwards I climbed
I am Achilles
With a pierced vulnerable heel.
(The poem had been written in my sleep.)

December 26, 1976                                                  
Tenerife, Canary Islands
Tr.© Ihar Kazak


Other web references:

Radio Freedom   

Radio Freedom 2

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