Monday, 16 April 2012


 My father-in-law – Andrew,
was a Ukrainian refugee fighting the Nazis,
and got frog-marched into Russia to salute Stalin
passing - on a steam train - then - also on the next
- 30 minutes later – upright and mustachioed
- and he saluted Stalin yet again - after another half an hour.
It would be cold there on the steppes waiting for the true or false
man saluting - three times - at the front.
Cold. He survived fighting the Nazis and came to England
where he learnt new words like hairdresser, bus driver,
security guard -  but it always was the drink prevented him
holding down a job – and the singing in Ukrainian – loud,
like a Cossack, and the comrades he left in the snow.

Andrew, his grandson, snoring in a bedroom next door,
equally struggles with English – to be understood –
but can lead a sing-song, get an entire bar
up on its feet in a jiffy. Likewise, he’ll never
hold down a job and he’s loud as a Cossack
drinking lemonade in a closed-eye dream,
wiping his mouth with the back of a hand.
In both men’s lives, spent and spending,
they have simply sung more notes from their heart
than other fools and magicians, genies and kings.


  1. I have Ukrainian friends, so this was charming for me. Always enjoy your offerings, John.