I couldn’t find much information about Vadim Strelchenko (1912-1942), whose life, like the lives of so many talented poets of his generation, was cut short by the Second World War. He was born in Kherson but grew up in Odessa, where he went to work at a factory and began publishing poems in local newspapers. Some of these early efforts reached Sterlchenko’s fellow Odessan, Eduard Bagritsky, who was by then one of the best known poets in the Soviet Union. Bagritsky helped his younger colleague place poems in more prominent journals, and in 1936 Strelchenko moved to Moscow and was enrolled at the Literary Institute. He saw two collections into print, The Poems of a Comrade (1937) and My Photograph (1941), before enlisting in the army. He disappeared at the front at the age of 29. The poem below, written in 1940, evokes a rare moment of stillness on a bustling square in the Soviet capital. Much of Strelchenko’s verse can be described as patriotic, and I see a certain kind of patriotism in “A Flash,” but it is in no way jingoistic. What Strelchenko expresses is a sense of genuine comradeship, of total unity, with the citizens all around him. This sense of total unity lasts only a moment, but it leaves a trace, a barely perceptible pulse, as the poet goes on with his day.
At times there are, on Moscow squares,
flashes of quiet, fleeting islands:
no horses and no trolley-cars —
only unfathomable silence.
As if a moment’s thought were granted
to every person passing through;
as if what every heart had wanted
would, in a moment, all come true;
as if these people — perfect strangers —
were meant to meet that afternoon,
were meant to recognize each other,
to walk together,
Yes, yes: it’s happening, it’s starting!
(… A distant hail, a cheerful cry …)
… But suddenly, without a warning,
a lorry thunders by.
Again, the sound of engines revving —
ribbons of wind float through the air.
But what’s that blowing through my hair?
Not wind — but people, breathing.
Есть, порой, на московской площади
Тихий промельк, секунда одна:
Ни троллейбуса вдруг, ни лошади —
Словно время на размышление
Всем идущим на миг дано,
Словно сбудется во мгновение
Все, чем сердце порой полно.
Словно всех незнакомых ранее
В этот полдень сошлись пути,
Узнаванье пойдет, братание
С кем вместе жить и идти.
Вот уж кажется: начинается!
(…Дальний оклик, веселый вскрик…)
…Но вот тут-то и появляется
Вновь машин легковых мелькание,
Ветра легкая полоса.
Но не ветер, людей дыхание
Овевает мои волоса.