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Vasilii Yakovlevich Eroshenko (1890-1952)

Vasilii Yakovlevich Eroshenko (1890-1952)

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Published by kalwisti
Translation of an article written by Julija Patlanj, originally published in Esperanto in Kontakto magazine. Mar. 2005. 11 p.

(Translated with the author's permission)
Translation of an article written by Julija Patlanj, originally published in Esperanto in Kontakto magazine. Mar. 2005. 11 p.

(Translated with the author's permission)

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Published by: kalwisti on Nov 29, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Vasilii Yakovlevich Eroshenko
Vasilii kovleviq Eroxenko
By Julija Patlanj
March 2005
This is a translation, with slight modifications and additions, of theauthor’s article “Mi venis el Rusio, fabelojn mi verkas japane, kaj miajamikoj nomas min japana poeto.”
Figure 1: Eroshenko in Japan, 1916Eroshenko once told a man who was blinded in war: “I hazily rememberseeing only four things: the sky, pigeons, the church where they roosted, and
Jan. 12, 1890–Dec. 23, 1952.
Philologist, Ukrainian Roerich Society (Kiev).
my mother’s face. Not too much ...But that always inspired and inspires meto seek out pure thoughts—thoughts as pure as the sky—and always mademe remember my homeland as well as my mother’s face, in whichever cornerof the world Fate cast me.” Eroshenko’s blindness did not prevent him fromliving an adventurous and productive life. He was known by several names.In Japan they called him Ero-san; in China, Ailuoxianke. Blind Burmesechildren called him “elder brother,” and astonished Chukchis called him
Although one can find Vasilii Eroshenko’s name inJapanese encyclopedias, few people in his native country or the West knowhis name. Why is this so?There are several reasons. First, his multifaceted activity and interests,which opposed the official Communist party line. Second, repeated andoften intentional destruction of his personal papers. Third, the inevitablelanguage barriers, which Vasilii Eroshenko overcame so successfully duringhis life. Research on Eroshenko’s life and works began in his homeland fiveyears after his death, but even now there is no complete collection of hisfables and stories either in Russia or the Ukraine.Eroshenko once wrote about the visit of Li Hongzhang,
a Chinese diplo-mat, to the Moscow school for the blind where he was learning handicraftsand music. The instructors taught the children to believe that “the whiterace alone is superior.” However, despite belonging to an “inferior” race,the visitor kindly permitted the children to touch not only his Manchu-style clothing but even his queue. He seemed much nicer to the childrenthan their school guardian, who belonged to the “superior race.” Eroshenkowill describe—with biting irony—how the children told the teachers of theirdiscovery and of their subsequent cruel punishment in “Unu paˆgeto en mialerneja vivo” (‘A Page from My School Days’), first published in Shanghai in1923.
Perhaps that first meeting with an Oriental sowed in him an interest
Eroshenko’s Turkmen students called him
(‘Russian father’), a name notlightly bestowed on everyone (Pershin, “El la libro” 143).
Li Hung-chang [in Wade-Giles romanization] (1823–1901). Chinese general and aleading statesman of the late Qing Empire, who was best known in the West for hisdiplomatic negogiation skills.
This account is collected in Vol. 1 of Eroshenko’s selected works, edited by MineYositaka (
Lumo kaj ombro
[‘Light and Shadow’], p. 5–18). Mine’s careful efforts to compilethese volumes have saved Eroshenko from oblivion and made his works readily availableto modern readers of Esperanto literature.For many years, researchers believed that “Unu paˆgeto” was an autobiographical work.However, the facts do not support this interpretation: Li Hongzhang visited Moscow in1896, when he attended the coronation of Czar Nicholas II. Eroshenko studied at theschool for the blind from 1899 until 1908. So he and Li never met in real life. It nowseems that this story is allegorical—the product of a mature, 33-year-old writer who had
in East Asia ...After finishing school, Eroshenko played the violin in a special orchestraof blind musicians at the “Yakor” (
) restaurant on Tverskaya Street inMoscow. Then he met Anna Sharapova—an English teacher and promoterof Esperanto.
She informed him of the Royal National College for the Blindnear London, where he could continue his studies. Eroshenko soon spokeEsperanto fluently and Sharapova prepared him for the long trip.In 1912 an article entitled “A Blind Russian’s Trip to London” (
Putex-estvie russkogo slepca v London
) appeared in the magazines
Vokrug sveta 
Vokrug sveta
). There it said that Vasilii Eroshenko, age22, had learned Esperanto so thoroughly—mainly from a braille English-Esperanto dictionary, magazines and books from London, and from corre-spondence with British Esperantists—that he also quickly learned English.He even amazed the British with his knowledge of English braille shorthand.The article also points out that on his way to London, he was greatly helpednot only by sighted people but also by the blind. “Aladdin’s lamp could nothave helped me more than the green Esperanto star. I am certain that nogenie from Arabian tales could have done more for me than the real-lifegenius: Dr. Zamenhof, the creator of Esperanto,” Eroshenko wrote in hissketch “La unua eksterlanda vojaˆgo” (‘My First Trip Abroad’).
In London he began studying Pali, the language of Buddhism’s sacredbooks. Perhaps it was then that he decided to travel to Japan. So he re-turned home and prepared himself for the trip; he studied Japanese, corre-sponded with Esperantists from Japan, Korea, Burma. He may have knownthat in Japan the blind are accorded great respect, and that since pre-modern times they have had exclusive rights to play the koto and samisenas well as being masseurs or acupuncturists. Furthermore, Esperanto en- joyed great favor and respect in the Orient at that time.In April 1914, Eroshenko reached Tokyo by ship from Vladivostok. ThereNakamura Kijo (an Esperantist and member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences) met him and gave him lodging. Vasilii wrote: “Tired from the longtrip and the novel impressions, I fell asleep immediately. I awoke at 7:00
lived extensively in the Orient.
Anna Sharapova (
Anna Xarapova
, 1863–1923). Sister-in-law of Pavel IvanovichBiriukov, the disciple and biographer of Leo Tolstoy. She translated several of Tolstoy’sworks into Esperanto. When Sharapova began teaching Eroshenko Esperanto, she foundthat he had an exceptional memory; after hearing something only once, he would neverforget it. He quickly became more fluent than his teacher (Kalocsay 75).
Reprinted in Vol. 5 of Eroshenko’s selected works,
Krco da saˆgeco
[‘A Jug of Wis-dom’], p. 59–68.

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