27 November 2010

‘It would be her sud’ba’

The Atlantic Ocean.
Image via Wikipedia

Little things…

make the difference between a good and bad society… not grandiose programs. 
Stray dogs, abandoned cars, mess on sidewalks, pedestrian drinking, rudeness, unguarded pits, snow covered store entrances, little fire safety, no school crossing guards.

But instead … 

of taking care of obvious problems, governments tend to focus on rocket trains, organization schemes, the Olympics… anything flashy and impressive.

Government needs to first deal with everyday problems.

Our nine-year-old Olya,  our granddaughter nuchka, внучка, must cross wide streets with no crossing guards.   Many drivers are reckless, and don’t stop if pedestrians are on the crosswalk, but just whip around them. I see children her age running to get to the other side before the traffic starts, knowing it isn’t safe no matter if the light is red or green.

One mother was asked, “Are you worried about your child’s safety between home and school?  Suppose she is attacked, or hit by a speeding car?”  Her answer… It would be her sud’ba.

Sud’ba is fate…

A sea story which illustrates fate…

I reported in early January 1969 to the USS Bordelon DD881, homeport Charleston South Carolina.  We left the next day on a cruise that started with a North Atlantic crossing.

Sailors say, There’s always that 10% that don’t get the word.  The speaker announced that all hands were to stay inside the skin of the ship due to heavy waves. Well, three raw seamen continued their usual duty of dumping garbage over the side. 

A huge wave hit them. One was able to hold on, two were swept away, but one of these two was swept back to the rails of the ship. Seaman Moyers, a little 17 year old from Pennsylvania Dutch country, was lost at sea in monstrous waves.

Bells, whistles, the 1MC all sounded Man Overboard!  The Executive Officer grabbed the wheel, made some violent maneuvers and miraculously got the ship within life buoy distance, saving young Moyers.  This guy was a tough little roster… and after a few days in sick bay with lots of warm blankets and some brandy, he lived to enjoy the rest of the cruise.

Moyers stopped by the Ship’s Office sometimes and talked about his ambition to get a South Carolina drivers license.  He  wanted to drive to Pennsy in a car he had purchased.  I said I would help him if I could. 

When the Bordelon returned in June, I was transferred within a few days to  the USS Wainwright DLG28, also in harbor.  Around a month later I bumped into some old Bordelon friends.  Over a beer, they told me that Moyers fulfilled his fate by driving a car under a tractor trailer on his way to Pennsylvania.

Sailors are a superstitious lot, and that’s how they viewed Moyer’s fate.

Americans may talk about fate, but Russians are likely to believe in sud’ba

Some scholars believe a language has keywords, impossible to translate simply, that help explain a people’s unique culture.  In Russian the basic words are sud’ba, dusa, toska… fate, soul, hopelessness.  For instance, Anna Wierzbicka insists that the French destin(y) is different in nuance from the Russian sud’ba.*

*A Wierzbicka article.

Americans typically believe things can be changed, but Russians are more likely to be fatalistic

People here feel they have little control over their lives after a history of tyrants, famine, and war.    When they talk about despredel, meaning the anarchy that has continued since 1991, they tend to accept it as their destiny... their sud’ba.  Much of what happens is written before, so why resist?

We come back to the problems in Russian life…

The result of this Russian thinking is that it is much harder to make needed changes, such as making pedestrian crossings safer.  So every school day Olya, along with mothers pushing baby carriages, old ladies, stray dogs, and older men such as I, have to face crazy streets with no guards.  We just hope we don’t meet our sud’ba!


Happy to hear from you!

Do you believe in fate?
Can you give an example of a good fate, as when you met someone?
How is pedestrian safety where you live?

Just click comments on the next to last line below.

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  1. It is not "нучка" but "внучка". I hope your granddaughter will be safe

  2. Thanks Anonymous!

    In Russian, mispronouncing causes misspellings. I have been saying внучка wrong. Thanks for getting me back on track, and also for the good wishes.

  3. You're right about the attitude toward fate and that Russians are sometimes fatalistic. I've heard this before but, to be honest, can't think of any examples in my interactions with Russians to illustrate it. So you gave a cool example!

  4. Fantastic post, American, and dead-on to the reality. The story of the sailor fulfilling his fate is excellent and I think Russians would understand that better than most people!

  5. Hi Joanne,

    Yes, superstition is stronger than religion in Russia. Dreams are taken very seriously. Stay tuned, as some of the interpretations of dream meanings are wild to a Western ear such as mine!


  6. Hi there, Ate the Paint!

    Seems like Sud'ba struck a chord. Sort of like a good ghost story. I feel sure your sud'ba is positive, but you are fated to keep your clothes off the floor for the rest of your life!


  7. I was on the Bordelon during the "man overboard" incident and my memory is that two guys, Moyer & Engleking, were swept overboard and Moyer was deposited back on the ship and grabbed by someone at the aft engine room portal. Engleking spent more than an hour in the water before being rescued. Both of these sailors were out of the forward fire room.


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