позоp was a word and feeling unrelenting. позоp, a comet which has been swimming about my tea, my head, translates to “shame” or “infamy.”
“oй, какой позор!” “oh what shame/what humiliation/ what disgrace”
“оля, не позорься” “olga, do not disgrace yourself.”
oohing and aaahing. one of the certainties of my childhood was such.
that the ohhh and the ahhh would double fare into mounting shame and sweet encouragement.
позоp — (поp) (зоp)
To be on sight.
To behave in an infamous, virile manner is to break the common code of sightliness. Unwomanly. The word позоp derives from public punishment. To be on sight was to be publicly punished by the state in front of the common people. To be an example for wrongdoing. In a contemporary sense, the subject of позоp attenuates autonomy; shame is brought onto oneself by a lack of discretion and quietude.
In Bosno-Serbian, позоp means to bring attention to. “Attention! Warning!” Signs cautioned me of electrocution, deep pits, chasms, unstable buildings, while a traveler.
In Bosno-Serbian позориште translates to theatre. A place, an enactment.
In Russian, позориште is the ultimate embarrassment. An enlargement of позоp.
In short, позоp is the shaming of oneself in spectating. Or rather, in being the spectacle, the spectated upon.
In short, no amount of flowers nor geraniums, nor bouquets of lilacs could possibly relinquish the shame brought upon oneself through public displays of emotions. Or, being seen.
My mother, as a child in a Soviet school, once spoke up, giving her own opinion on a text read. Her teacher, scowling, told her to never say such nonsense again and to sit down. In Kiev, we were taught to be quiet, talk when talked to, and to raise one hand at a ninety-degree angle. The elbow of the hand raised must stay perfectly still atop the left arm.
I was told my opinions didn’t matter. To listen to elders. To speak quietly in public. To look clean and put together. Scuffed boots, ripped tights ruptured order.
To be seen: all becomes an act, or a warning of dangerous maneuvers.
+My grandmother,Galina Simionavna, turned 70 on August 7, 2015. For months, her юбилей rang through my ears. Traditionally, a jubilee is a 25th, 50th, 60th, or 100th anniversary. Somehow Russian eponymized jubilee and anniversary; jubilee traversed every 10 years.
+For the two weeks I spent in Kiev, grandmother wailed and portended of horrible things to come, such as my grandfather’s inevitable drowning in the River Dniepr. Grandfather was taking mushroom pills twice a day to cure his stomach cancer. Daily during summer, he went swimming in the River Dniepr to soothe his aching soul. As he had done for 40 years.
+At 25, I wasn’t allowed out of the apartment. For safekeeping.
+As my mother, at 22, was not allowed out of the state hospital after giving birth to me.
+My grandmother called the police on me. 102 was the number dialed for her safekeeping.
Grandmother’s jubilee took place.
At a restaurant in the Kiev center, the whole birthday celebration I was privy to at the table, turned into singing love songs and dithyrambs to my grandmother. Toasts anchoring. Uncle Vladik read a poem from the heart. Leonid spoke of her goodness.
Flatteries are the second language present within Russian, after criticisms.
And I, of the 12 people present, had nothing to say. The family and friends of my grandmother’s 70 years pressured me to recite beautiful verses. I did not succumb. Feeling I had nothing to say, but perhaps, a slight to the family decorum.
My shining moment accrued itself naturally. Uncle Vladik, with an affect of an elevated artist, flagged down the waitress. Speaking to her with both, an air of indifference, and an emphasis on poetic voice. It was during this transaction, I finally perked up and spoke out against this uncouth behavior. How dare he call the waitress over. How dare he snap his painting fingers.
Disgrace derives from Latin gratia, meaning grace, elegance. From Proto-Indo g’’ratos, to welcome, greet, praise.
In having ownership and a delectable membership, the terms used in Russian is:
наша / наш
Signifying membership of culture, language, placements, nasha/nash is often spoken when singling out a group or an individual in a foreign place. Such as, “oh that very beautiful woman over there, she is nasha.” Or, “nashi are always such a disgrace,” when describing a group of people behaving in a drunken, loud manner on a cobbled street outside of the former Soviet Union. Sometimes the term is used to signify a divide within membership. For example, “nashi are so crude!” This could be said of a store clerk who didn’t smile, did not greet you at the checkout, and then, “sent you,” as it is often said when one chastises in a demanding angry manner. After being sent for taking too long in line, or asking a question, the person yelled at, refusing to engage in such an interchange, bemoans their culture.
As if saying to the world, “keep them.”
Grandmother saw membership, not only according to law, not only according to nation states or borders, but circumspect in language, territories, proximities. Even Sef was ours. Seth, my lover of a time, whom my grandmother called Sef, was immediately noted to be Jewish, yet his Lithuanian descent rendered him наш.
The next year, after turning 71, insisting on coloring her greying hair brown and covering it with a little red hat, my grandmother, Sef, and I flew back to Kiev. I was to help her settle back home after my grandfather’s death. Performances never ceasing, a broken arm in a sling, her hankering to visit a pharmacy only grew. When I didn’t allow such a trip, grandmother asked strangers to buy her medicine. Strangers cowered, shook their heads, glanced back, whispered.
Her brittleness measured up to the scorching sun of summer.
As we returned back to the apartment, she solemnly, but vigorously, announced to Sef in English, “Olga is bad. Very bad.”
Russian’s third language is judgement.
The simmering dog days of summer are a smell. They are the stifling of heat, the ending of a seasonal passion ignited by Leo. They are the rotting of garbage circulating with air into an aroma of a time. No boundary to be had — immersed.
The woman from the second floor of my childhood apartment building leaves her window open in summer. Maybe she is allowing airflow, so she too, can melt into the atmosphere of place. Maybe she is waiting to interact with neighbors stopping by to say hi to the cats below her window. Maybe to sit and wait, in waiting, is her life. The stray cats below her window meow, outnumbering the people of summer’s mid afternoon soliloquy. The cats, sprawled about, stretched, in waiting.
Sef and I walked home from the grocery store. The supermarkets in Kiev are filled with European pastries, cheeses, meats, and cookies, only available to us in the Ukrainian Village or Brighton Beach. We brought some salami for the kitties. We threw the salami on the ground for the cats to gnaw at. We expected for them to break apart the stick of meat. The woman from the second floor suddenly popped out, instructing us to break the salami into little pieces. According to her, their teeth are small and delicate. “They are animals,” I responded.
The woman became visibly irritated. She told me I must respect animals.
Perhaps this woman is a guardian of the unclaimed, the wandering. Waiting for those wading in the anachronous breeze of day, stifled heat unmoving, redeeming illusions of an era of displacement.
I do not trust a place without strays.
We arrive at the cemetery to pay tribute to our dead, navigating a lattice of paths sprawled with graves, monuments, and hedge stones. My uncle of 70 and 5’5 stature brings his bag of magic, containing three cups, pierogies, a bottle of vodka, and a table covering, no matter if it’s plastic. He, after all, is the father of a person hidden, covered from sight out of despair and shame. His son is a drug addict. Affairs out of sight, out of mind. My uncle is a man of god. A painter, an iconographer, praying at certain hours of the day, certain days of the year, erudite of traditions, a lover of women who aren’t his wife. Walking to and fro and around Kiev, pointing out histories, corners, memories.
When I was six years old, I was continuously coming down with a cold or sickness. My grandmother finally traced it back. Once at the marketplace, when I wasn’t wearing a safety pin in the lapel of my jacket to ward off wickedness, a Roma woman must have given me the evil eye. I was taken to a healer, an egg was rolled upon my back and broken.
Born in Kiev, Olga Mikolaivna works within the mediums of photography, text, and installation. She is interested in memory, mysticism, inheritance, (dis)place, and the construction of language, translation. She is currently pursuing her MA in English from Rutgers Camden.