Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1932-2017) was a charismatic, internationally known Russian poet, actor, director and political activist. This is a translation by Boris Dralyuk of one of Yevtushenko’s poems. It came to mind because as the year winds down, many people, including me, struggle with the bittersweet, emotionally loaded nature of the holidays. We may love the lights and decorations, the get-togethers and presents, but we also miss the loved ones we will never see again. I miss my parents, who both loved Christmas, intensely. I honor them by baking Mom’s holiday cookies, putting old family ornaments on my tree, and looking at photos of Christmases past. But none of that negates their absence.
This poem is about how each person is irreplaceable, no matter how quiet or anonymous a life they may have led.
There are no boring people in the world
There are no boring people in this world.
Each fate is like the history of a planet.
And no two planets are alike at all.
Each is distinct – you simply can’t compare it.
If someone lived without attracting notice
and made a friend of their obscurity –
then their uniqueness was precisely this.
Their very plainness made them interesting.
Each person has a world that’s all their own.
Each of those worlds must have its finest moment
and each must have its hour of bitter torment –
and yet, to us, both hours remain unknown.
When people die, they do not die alone.
They die along with their first kiss, first combat.
They take away their first day in the snow…
All gone, all gone – there’s just no way to stop it.
There may be much that’s fated to remain,
but something – something leaves us all the same.
The rules are cruel, the game nightmarish –
it isn’t people but whole worlds that perish.