Rybczynski Channels Tolstoy: What is a Man’s Life Worth?

Dear Readers:

Merci beaucoup, Monsieur. J’ai mal à la tête.

My post for today is somewhat biographical.  It is about a man named Eugene Rybczynski.  But instead of translating from Russian I will be translating (mostly) from French.  Which was almost like a first language for Russian mega-writer and philosopher Leo Tolstoy.  Alas, for me, my French is not so good, hence please forgive me in advance for any errata or mistranslations.  Back in my school days, I learned French mainly from reading Victor Hugo.  My greatest feat, as a human being, was to read the entire, unabridged Les Misérables – all 10 million pages of it, in the original French.  It took me two years.  As a result, my reading knowledge of French is somewhat imprinted on the language of Hugo.  I am very fluent in reading sentences such as, for example, “The little Cosette was carrying her bucket of water from the stream when a grubby but kindly man appeared and offered to help her.”

Tolstoy: Is Life all it’s cracked up to be?

Just for the record, during those same two years, I also read Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” — also 10 million pages or so — in Russian, of course, although some goodly chunks of it are written in French, as well.  Especially the really good bits, namely the battle scenes.

But still all 19th-century French, which has not prepared me well to read current material.

Anyhow, I didn’t know I would need French when, this story leaped out at me from the pages of my favorite Russian newspaper, VZGLIAD.  The headline reads:

People’s Deputy (Ukrainian Rada):  All the Dutch people combined are not worth the life of a single dead Euro-Maidan activist.

And that was when I realized that this story is an exercise in philosophy.  What is a man’s life worth?  What about the lives of 100 people?  What about the lives of the entire nation of Holland?  As the story goes on to say:

“Excuse me for my emotionality.  But all of the (citizens of) Holland combined together, are not worth (the life of) even one Ukrainian, who died in the winter of 2014, and died in fact on the Euro-Maidan!  And we lost not just one life, but a whole heavenly hundred.”

These words were penned by a man named Eugene Rybczynski, on his blog; here it is.

Rybczynski is the guy on the left.

But Rybcynski is not just any emotional man.  He is a People’s Deputy, a member of the Ukrainian parliament.  He is obviously upset and anguished about the results of the Netherlands Referendum, whose results were published yesterday:  By a vote of 61.1% to 38.1% (with a turnout of 32.2% which is low-ish, but met the official standards of viability), the Dutch people rejected the idea of Ukraine joining the EU.  This vote was a massive bitch-slap to Ukrainian nationalists, who had killed, and died, and risked all, to join a club which did not want them as members.

But Who Is This Broken Man?

Returning to Rybczynski, when I tried to learn more about this bitter, broken man, the only useful thing I could find, was this source, which happens to be in French.  So here goes with my attempt at a translation/summary:

Eugene Rybczynski.  Born 21 December 1969, in Kiev.  Ukrainian businessman, media manager, editor, poet, composer, producer, and concept-editor (?).  Composes (music) for many famous Ukrainian artists.  Member of Ukrainian Parliament (Upper Rada).  Belongs to the “Poroshenko Bloc” political party.

Rybczynski’s father is the famous poet and playwright Yuri Rybczynski (born in 1945).  His mother, Alexandra (born in 1948) was a rhythmic gymnastics coach emeritus of the USSR national team.  As a child, Eugene engaged in several sports:  swimming, basketball, athletics, boxing.   Attended the Taras Shevchenko State University of Kiev (1986-1991), graduated with a degree in Journalism.

Work experience:  While still a university student, Eugene started producing radio and television shows.  [goes on to list some shows].  In 1993 Eugene opened a music studio.  1995-1997 he composed several musical albums for notable Ukrainian musicians.  He created and registered a project called “Nashe Radio” (“Our Radio”), the rights to which he later sold to Andrei Volkov.  In 1999 he created “Radio Nostalgia”, which played on the radio frequency 99.0 FM.  In 2003, along with Sergei Gorov, he bought the publishing house “Babylon”, and also acquired the ladies fashion magazine “Eve”.  In 2011 he was forced to close “Eve”, due to pressure from people close to the family of (President)   Viktor Yanukovych.  [lists some other literary works and publishing ventures].

Moving on to his civic and political life…

The first Maidan Coup in 2004 brought to power Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko.

Not quite sure how to translate this sentence:

En 1996, il a organisé une action de grande envergure au Temple Road, grâce à qui a été achevée cathédrale de l’Assomption de la CPL. Il a recueilli plus de 200 000 $.

Google translate says:

In 1996, he organized a large-scale action in Temple Road, through which was completed at Cathedral of the Assumption of the CPL. It has raised more than $ 200,000.

Moving on to something easier:

Was an active participant in the Orange Revolution of 2004.  Provided financial and organizational support to the participants.  Mobile kitchens and other necessary infrastructure.

[Maidan II]:

On 31 July 2014 in Mariinski Park, Eugene organized a charity event consisting of poetry, to raise funds to help the victims of [l’UTA ???].  Continued to raise money via charity events during the summer of 2014.  Raised money for the Ukrainian army and the families of those who died [fighting in] in Eastern Ukraine.

Continues to be a popular writer, blogger.

His family:  Wife Julia (born 1982).  Has 4 sons:  Nikita (born 1989), Daniel (2003), George (2011) and Ivan (2014).

An Interesting Life

In conclusion:  As his biography shows, Eugene Rybczynski has led an interesting life, and done many things.  Perhaps his greatest accomplishment:  He helped organize and foment two Ukrainian coup d’états.  Both directed at the goal of integrating the Ukraine into the European Union and NATO.  But alas, after the Netherlands Referendum, it has all proved to be in vain.  The ungrateful Hollanders, flying away from their responsibility to sustain the illusions of Ukrainian nationalists, have proved to Eugene Rybczynski, that their miserable Dutch lives are not worth so much as a tulip.  As Tolstoy’s character Ivan Ilyich suddenly realized, during his final epiphany:

Maybe I did not live as I ought to have done, it suddenly occurred to him. But how could that be, when I did everything properly? he replied, and immediately dismissed from his mind this, the sole solution of all the riddles of life and death, as something quite impossible.


This entry was posted in Breaking News, Russian Literature and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Rybczynski Channels Tolstoy: What is a Man’s Life Worth?

  1. Cortes says:

    The oddly phrased sentence looks like parts of two separate sentences which don’t belong together. The ending looks like ” He picked up $200k”.

    Thanks for posting.


  2. marknesop says:

    The French are flowery writers, but I agree the sentence is awkwardly structured; “grâce à qui a été achevée ” literally says, “Thanks to which (or “owing to which”) was achieved (or “was realized”) “.

    I assume Julia is his second or subsequent wife. Either that, or she delivered their first son when she was seven years old. That could explain a lot about his emotional state. But really, his attitude is astonishingly childish for such a supposedly worldly man – what, realistically, did he expect? This is where the arts and the sciences frequently collide, and artsy people often have funny ideas about what is and is not possible. Yanukovych’s economists warned him that committing to the agreement would involve an immediate and significant catastrophe in the country’s finances, and based on what had been offered to that date in the way of concrete, measurable offsets by the western powers left a yawning deficit. On that perfectly reasonable and factual advice, Yanukovych elected not to go ahead with it. But romantic fools like Rybczynski are chronically driven to let’s-do-it-and-the-problems-will-resolve-themselves. And they paper over all the unknowns with soaring rhetoric about freedom and democracy and human rights. Those people make the worst sort of leaders, because when the whole project comes crashing down they never have a Plan B, unless Plan B is “Burst into tears”.


    • yalensis says:

      Plan A = “Allons-y!”
      Plan B = “Burst into tears.”
      Plan C = “Crap your pants.”


    • Jen says:

      Two birth-year dates seem to be out of order. It would make more sense for Julia to have been born in 1972 and the first child Nikita in 1999. Then Julia would have been at least 26 years old when she had her first child.


      • yalensis says:

        Because I was short on time, I omitted to translate the second sentence in that paragraph:

        “Famille Il dispose de 4 fils: Nikita (1989), Daniel (2003), George (2011) et Ivan (2014). Pour la première fois en 19 ans je me suis marié. Maintenant marié Ã Julia Rybczynski (1982).

        “Family, he has 4 sons: Nikita (1989), Daniel (2003), George (2011), and Ivan (2014).
        For the first time in 19 years, I am married. Currently married to Julia Rybczynski (1982).”

        The way I read this: 19 years ago was 1997. Between 1997 and (recently), Eugene was a lonely unmarried guy. Then at last he found Love.
        Eugene just recently married Julia. Possibly she is not the mother of any of his sons. Or she could be the mother of some of them, and maybe he is the stepdad of some of them.

        Julia was born in 1982, which makes her about 34 years old. If my math is correct, then Eugene just turned 46 last December. My guess is he is the father of Nikita, at the very least.


    • Cortes says:

      Grace a cela or laquelle…
      Peut etre
      The way it’s expressed seems to be the proverbial croc de merde

      I’m sticking with two unrelated sentences merged into one.


    • Cortes says:

      Completed is the most likely translation.


  3. Pavlo Svolochenko says:

    Would you like to bet on how long Rybchinsky’s cri de coeur stays up before he or somebody else tries to scrub it from the internet?


  4. Lyttenburgh says:

    Meanwhile Ukraine fight backs Hollandian zrada:

    1) An official petition on the site of the President of the Ukraine:

    to introduce visa regime with klyataia Holland.

    2) Killer Wabbit Senya Yatsenyuk:

    said that the Dutch will be sorry – no one like traitors in the EU! Those who voted “against” have commited a crime! Stronk and powerful Ukraine will never forgive them!


    • yalensis says:

      Yeah, some weeks prior to the referendum Ukry nationalists tried to scare the Hollanders with threats of terrorist attacks. Probably one of the factors, along with MH-17, which ensured at least a minimalistic turn-out among the Dutch voters.

      Der Fliegende Holländer says:
      “I been round the world a bunch of times, and weathered a bunch of storms.
      These colors don’t run! Nee!”


  5. Dutch truth says:

    The Ukrainians should watch out. We are currently dealing with short-fused Arabs and we don’t hesitate to fight against anyone else who poses a threat to our people. To hell with EU, to hell with East European national socialists.Je maintiendrai!


  6. yalensis says:

    Okay…. But hopefully keep on fighting at the ballot box, that seems to work sometimes…


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