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