Saturday, January 03, 2009

Friday 19th March 1943

When he awoke last night, Jock Farrell immediately began to talk about me, for I keep his cigarettes, and he feels that he can't get a smoke except through me. “Where's that bombardier or corporal or – whatever he is – Royal Artillery – he's got my fags. Ask him for a fag for me, will you?” The orderlies stalled. “The Corporal's asleep, Jock. We mustn't wake him.” Until Jock fell asleep he talked more about me than about the famous Betty Lennigan – but not in so complimentary a way! The mildest thing he said was that I was born out of wedlock!

And this morning, when he again awoke, it was the same. “Where's that bloody silly bombardier bastard – or corporal – or whatever he is? He's got my fags...”
Eventually I was allowed to give him a cigarette, and that lessened his disgust of me – for a while!

Went across to the dysentery ward to see Denny Search. They told me he had been discharged nearly two weeks ago. So the last, fragile link with 104th RHA has snapped.

I took the mad sergeant's song across to the Greek ward, nearby. I believe most Greeks are a bit crazy – even normal Greeks – when politics are in question. One soldier refused, sternly though politely, to translate the song, because it was (politically) “no good”. But when I walked down the ward, whistling the tune, another Greek eagerly raised a clenched fist. He couldn't speak English, but took me to a third man, a “social democrat” who had lived in London awhile. He laboriously translated.

By the time he'd finished, the Communist Greek had written out another quite different version of the song (the original, Russian song, apparently)
By this time, the translator – a friendly and cultured man – had worked up an enthusiasm for the job and he gave me the second version in English. It was very difficult work – for both of us! - involving much dumb show and use of synonymous phrase. I now have two more or less literal translations before me, robbed of all their original drama and poetry; just a jumble of naked words. Next I must re-construe into poetry or song-metre again.

First translation (A local song):

“Down over the white mount of Liban,
begins the war of the liberty. The
honourable road has been driven
over, there is impossible to find pity.
We send for you boys a message, you
who keep Greece strong.
The war cannot stop if the Fascists are
not wholly destroyed. The monster has
fallen down and is dying after being
struck by the workers. The flaming
swords have encircled strength.
The force and the knout have stopped.
The belief in our hearts must never be
extinguished; push our tyrant over the
precipice. From the north, the wind blows
to sweep away the Fascists.
Honour to our ASO (Military anti-Fascist association), to the chiefs, and to the pioneers who began the fight for the sweat of the slaves of the Greek people.”

Second translation (the original international):

“Black hawks with curved talons have
swooped upon the workers. They cry and
savagely demand meat to see Dimitrov
in the gallows. Daneaf, Popoof, Delma,
and other heroic anti-fascist and tens
of the brave proletariate pushed to the
gallows. Unmovable stone Dimitrov with
courage stayed before the Judge and
whipped with hardness and trampled
Goering and Hitler.
And before his judges, with courage
became the accuser of the murderers, cheats and Hitlers”

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