"Little Russian Stories" (So true, that they look invented)
When Sophia Loren landed to the airport of that small town of Southern Siberia, she found, as always, a small welcome committee waiting for her with an evident effervescence. The actress was perfectly made up and her hairstyle was fluffily voluminous and impeccable at once–a wig; a practical solution she had adopted for several years already. The four hour flight from Moscow had been enjoyable, even though not completely relaxing. The hostesses and the stewards were thrilled by the presence aboard of such a famous passenger. They had kept on offering all kinds of drinks and food and every service, both possible and impossible, throughout the flight, until the great actress had asked her secretary to explain firmly that she needed a rest and would prefer not to be constantly disturbed, After all she was well over seventy, even though she was still in remarkably good health, and she looked much younger. We'll ignore, obviously, all the gossip about probable or improbable interventions of talented plastic surgeons. Then there had been the other passengers in first class, all Russian businessman, who had asked her for permission to take a photo in her company or simply had congratulated her for her career, her charm, everything. Sophia Loren liked Russians and knew their way fairly well. They were spontaneous, emotional and hearty, not too different from Southern Italians. It was not by chance that she had chosen to reach that remote destination for a charity project, destined to collect funds for a local children's hospital. She would put up for auction one of her handbags. An elegant little thing of red, soft leather, created especially for her by Giorgio Armani. The star caracoled out from the last sliding door at the head of her personal staff and dedicated one of her world-famous smiles to the small group of people–all men, she noticed–who immediately submerged her with bouquets of flowers, which she kept as long as she could in her arms and then was obliged to pass to her personal make-up artist, who was the closest at her side. In Moscow and on the plane, the greatest majority of Russians she had met were able to speak English rather fluently; but she realized that the thrilled and excited stout man, who appeared to be the most important of local authorities present to welcome her, could speak only Russian. He seized the actress' hand, as soon as she managed to get rid of all the bunch of flowers, and bent over it in an old-fashioned and a bit clumsy hand-kissing, overwhelming her at the same time with an incomprehensible flood of words. A rather short man popped out from the back of Mrs Loren's enthusiastic admirer and nodded politely and soberly. He wore a plain grey suit, amazingly enhanced by a loud tie, which stood out on the white shirt in a triumph of golden and red patterns. "Benvenuta, Signora Loren, sono Ildar, il suo interprete personale. Siamo onorati di accoglierla nella nostra bella regione. Sarò a sua completa disposizione per tutto il periodo del suo soggiorno. "
The following evening, during the official banquet, Sophia Loren, who once again had showed her incredible physical energy, facing nonchalantly several interviews, official mee-tings, visits to the hospital and to schools and still looked impeccably elegant and fresh in her smart formal dress, realized with a certain relief that the governor, sitting at her right, was able to speak English properly. "We deeply hope, madam, that everything has gone according to your wishes so far…" The man got maybe a little too close to the actress, probably to be sure that she could hear his words amidst the general noise, where loud conversations were mixed up with deafening traditional music played energetically by a willing small band. She perceived the intense scent of Bleu de Chanel amalgamated with a light, but identi-fiable, smell of vodka. "I'm always touched by the warm welcome which Russians render to me every time I've the pleasure to visit your wonderful country. Everything has been fine…Just a little detail…" She gratified him with a shining smile, to mitigate the light complaint which she was adding, "I had expressly asked for a Rus-sian interpreter who could speak Italian. I always prefer to deal with local people. I cannot complain about my interpreter, of course. He's competent and very polite. But it's evident that he's Italian, not Russian. I'm Italian and I can recognize if my native language is spoken by a foreigner or not. I'm of lower-class origin, you know, a woman of the people," She smiled again, charmingly and apologetically, "It's nearly impossible to dupe me." The short interpreter, who was sitting at her left, wearing always the same, formal grey suit, or maybe another one, quite similar, but had changed his tie, choosing this time an even more colourful one, if ever it were possible, had grasped the brief conversation and intervened calmly and politely. "Mi duole infinitamente di contraddirla, signora, ma vede, io non sono per nulla italiano. Non ho ascendenze italiane di nessun tipo. Sono effettivamente di madre lingua russa e…" Apparently effortlessly he switched suddenly to French, "Si je ne fais pas erreur, vous habitez, Genève, Madame, et vous connaissez très bien l'accent genevois, qui n'est pas exactement le même des Parisiens. D'ailleurs je suis sûr que vous savez remarquer très bien les différences lexicales.." And he continued fluidly in English with the most refined and posh Oxfordian accent, "I was told you had asked for an interpreter speaking Italian, but if you prefer, I can speak either French of English with you, knowing you are equally fluent in those languages. In any case I reassure you that nobody has ever had the intention to take you in, madam. Only a fool could consider it to be possible." And he slightly bowed his head with a gesture of old-fashioned courtesy, which seemed absolutely spontaneous. Sophia Loren had gone through so many different and extraordinary experiences during her entire life that she rarely could be caught off-guard. Nevertheless she remained aston-ished realizing that the short interpreter was able to speak three languages with such a perfect accent. She knew what she was speaking of, because she had spoken the same languages daily for so many years, but she had never acquired such perfection. She turned to the interpreter also to avoid the effluvia which exhaled from the governor. All smells seemed to be enhanced by the heat. It was awfully warm in the banquet hall. It was always too hot indoors in Russia. Her head was spinning a little. Suddenly she realized that she was unbearably tired, but her sense of duty and professionalism would keep her at that table until it would be necessary. "I sincerely thought you were Italian and I had tried in vain to guess from what region of Italy you might be. Usually I'm very good at guessing every faint hint of dialects. It's clear now that I had no chance." She laughed charmingly and straightened her large glasses, which had slipped down a little. She had the unpleasant impression of perspiring copiously under her wig. "I'm curious and intrigued by now…I wonder if you can speak other languages so remarkably well…" The interpreter nodded in assent, apparently shyly, as if he thought that the great actress might be deeply bored by the details of his banal life. "I can speak fourteen, no, fifteen languages and a few dialects…" He sheepishly didn't list the languages and the dialects, "It's my work, you see, madam." "But it's wonderful! You, you have a gift. You cannot waste your talents in this remote corner of the world. With all the due respect to your wonderful region and your whole country, which I deeply love, as you know. I have many contacts, and it will be my pleasure to point out your skills as soon as I return to Europe." "Oh, thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart, madam. You are so thoughtful. A great woman, not only a great artist, if you allow me to say so. But I have already been to Europe, many times. I was invited by foreign Universities. I had worked in Paris, at La Sorbonne University, as Adjunct Professor, for a whole year, but then…" "Then, what did happen then?" Sophia Loren forgot for a moment the unpleasant heat and the loud songs performed by a kind of local baritone, who had taken the place of the folk group on the small stage. She was curious; she wanted to know. "You see, madam, I have told you that I was born here and I'm of Russian mother tongue. I'm Tatar and my birthplace is not exactly here in town. I come from a nearby village, called Uporovka." He pointed vaguely to a direction over the left shoulder of the actress, as if she could see the place he was speaking of. "It's a very small village in the taiga. Have you ever been in our taiga, madam? It's the most beautiful place in the world. I like Europe. I have visited many countries and I have learnt so many things. I have met interesting people, made new friends. But when I lived in Paris, I thought all the time of my country. Life was too hectic there. So I submitted my resignation, and I came back home. People would laugh at me knowing that I chose to leave Paris to live in Uporovka. But it's so calm here. It's my home. I'm happy." Sophia Loren stared at the short interpreter with fondness. She was not disturbed by his tie anymore. She felt sympathy for him. She had the impression that nobody could understand him better than her in that large, flashy hall. And it was probably really like that.
Russian language is extraordinarily rich. There are words which cannot be literally translated into other languages. Verbs of motion are an example of this amazing richness. Every verb is full of implications, meanings and information. It's impossible to translate the verb "to go" with a generic Russian verb, for example. This is one of the most refined tortures which the foreign students of Russian must endure. To choose the right Russian verb of motion you must be sure not only of the means of transport you choose (either a vehicle on wheels or a boat or an airplane. Just to give a rough first indication), but you must also consider if you are going to a destination to remain there or if you are planning a return trip, if you go there every day and it's a regular route, and in case of a vehicle on wheels if you are pushed by someone or dragged by a horse…All that is included in every specific verb, only one word. Are you going to feel lost? I know. It happens easily with Russia and Russians. On the other hand, they are totally deprived of the present tense of the verb "to be" and they don't feel any lack because of that. If a Russian must say "I'm Boris", he would say simply "I Boris". If you ask if they don't have the impression that a verb is missing, they simply answer that no, they don’t. One of the main Romantic Russian poets, Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev, who did not gain the same fame as Pushkin, of whom he was a contemporary, was able to sum up in a short poem, extremely popular, the essence of Russia.
"Russia cannot be understood with the mind alone, No ordinary yardstick can span her greatness: She stands alone, unique – In Russia, one can only believe."
There is a Russian word which is compli-cated to translate with just a single word in English.
Тупик – Tupik
If we chose to translate it with "dead-end", we would not be too far from the real meaning, notwithstanding that there are more nuances. In Russian there are always nuances. Try to imagine walking and walking and walking, for a long time, to a casual destination and finally, when you reach it, you realise that there is no way to get farther, that everything ends there, without ending concretely maybe....