"It's all the same to me" - translating poetry to combat indifference 🇺🇦

Then and now

What follows is my translation of a Ukrainian poem by a 19th century poet Taras Shevchenko - “Мені однаково“ (~= “It’s all the same to me” / “I don’t care”).

Now as it did back in the tumultuous past when it was written, the poem speaks to the experiences of Ukrainians in Ukraine, as well as those in the diaspora.

All proceeds from the NFT editions will go to a purpose-built DAO (established with https://daodao.zone). The NFT holders will receive governance tokens, and through proposals, will decide which charities supporting those displaced by instability in Ukraine’s East will get the funds.

“It’s all the same to me” (translation)

It's all the same to me, it is,
if in Ukraine I live or not
some may remember, others shall forget
me in the snow of land remote,
indeed, to me, that truly is the same

We grow up captive amidst strangers,
And, now, not even mourned by our own,
In new unfreedom we will die in tears
And take it all with us to grave
Won't leave a trace, however small,
in our once glorious Ukraine,
in ours - yet not ours land

The fathers won't beseech their sons,
won't tell them: "pray, son,
pray, for a Ukraine that was, and those
who perished for its sins"

It's quite the same to me as well
if sons will pray or not...
but, it is not at all the same,
if evilspawn will decimate the land,
the wicked robbing in their frenzy,
the place their goons have set aflame,
No, really, it is not the same

Note: This translation was done over the course of an hour, and writing poetry is not something I usually do in either the source or the target languages here. Producing this turned out to be a difficult but satisfying exercise. I took some creative license in attempting to make the translation flow as nicely as the original, and purposefully did not follow any canonical rhyme structure. In keeping with Noah Smith’s advice of writing because you need to write, publishing this right away seemed more important than pedantry.


More or less every Sunday since last December, first virtually over Zoom and then IRL, I have been writing with a group that was initially brought together by Lisa and specifically this tweet:

Since then, the club has grown and established itself as the highest signal way to spend a Sunday morning. 🌇

After hearing the poem at the Stand with Ukraine rally in San Francisco last week, and attempting to live-translate it for someone special who does not speak Ukrainian, I realized that it would be doable to attempt my own translation. A week later, on the verge of what appears to be an impending incursion by Russian military and an event with potential for significant loss of life in an already war-torn region, I am happy to share the output.

If you would like to learn more about the conflict, a lot has been written on the matter.

I urge you to form your own opinions and while you understandably could be wary of the increase in “kinetic action equipment” in an already unstable region, there are many other ways the situation can be made better.

“Мені однаково” (original)

Мені однаково, чи буду
Я жить в Україні, чи ні.
Чи хто згадає, чи забуде
Мене в снігу на чужині –
Однаковісінько мені.

В неволі виріс меж чужими,
І, не оплаканий своїми,
В неволі, плачучи, умру,
І все з собою заберу,
Малого сліду не покину
На нашій славній Україні,
На нашій – не своїй землі.

І не пом'яне батько з сином,
Не скаже синові: “Молись,
Молися, сину: за Вкраїну
Його замучили колись”.

Мені однаково, чи буде
Той син молитися, чи ні…
Та не однаково мені,
Як Україну злії люде
Присплять, лукаві, і в огні
Її, окраденую, збудять…
Ох, не однаково мені.

Subscribe to barton
Receive the latest updates directly to your inbox.
This entry has been permanently stored onchain and signed by its creator.