Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Girl in Black

Who is the “girl in black” that appears in several of my Ukrainian-setting poems? It interesting to me she almost always appears in places of transportation: a taxi girl in an airport, a girl smoking a cigarette outside a subway, running across a street, or a girl at a train station.

The taxi girl was based on a real person who I encountered in the old A terminal of the Boryspol Airport of Kyiv. Although she didn’t actually wear a “black Tegin dress”—she wore a black pants suit— still,  she was quite a stylish young lady. The others just seemed to appear in my poems almost by accident if that were possible. I am not certain who they are or whom they represent. Perhaps they are Ukraine herself: hopeful, cynical, frightened. Perhaps she is Lybid, still hopeful but still cynical as she witnesses her namesake dry up. Perhaps she is the poet, Lesya Ukrainka[1], who died at the early age of 42 (making her forever young).

 As the girl in black appears more often in my poetry, I hope to make her acquaintance and perhaps learn the mystery she would reveal to me.

Perhaps she is the future of Ukraine—always on the move…or at least in places where movement is possible, but she really isn’t moving. She seems to be waiting for something to happen. Will someone take her away? She’s looking into the eyes of passers-by with a dead look at times—has she given up or not? She is insular and self-contained—at times cynical—but I think she wants to be open and vulnerable. But she has been so abused in the past.

The girl in black is not a Cossack, nor is she a Hutzul. She is not a Tatar. She is not of the warrior caste. She is someone who has been helpless—a woman of antiquity. Yet, she has been resourceful. She has survived. She is nobody’s fool, either—while she is none of the above groups, she is all of them, too. 

I think the women of Eastern Europe have shown incredible strength and resilience. She is no victim or helpless damsel in distress. She is savvy and strong. But yet, she cannot seem make it on her own, either (at least she doesn’t believe she can). As much as she wishes to appear strong and confident, she also needs assistance.

I love this girl in black for all that she represents. The pain and abuse she has suffered in the past and the hope she represents for the future. I love her resilience, perseverance, and yes, her strength. 

Will the future be kind to Ukraine? I don’t know. But I know Lybid has been around for centuries. And although she has been bruised, she has never been broken beyond repair. She still remains.

[1] Lesya Ukrainka is the pen name of Layrissa Kosach-Kvitka (1871-1913). Her mother suggested the pen name which means literally “woman of Ukraine”). Lesya was one of the three pillars of Ukrainian literature. Her first published poem was titled, “Nadiya” (Hope). I find that appropriate.

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