KIRDZHALI
Твори О.С. Пушкіна.Переклад англійською мовою.>KIRDZHALI

 

KIRDZHALI

(1834)

KIRDZHALI was a Bulgarian by birth. The word Kirdzhali in Turkish means warrior, daredevil. Kirdzhali terrorized the whole of Moldavia with his robberies. Let me recount one of his exploits, just to give an idea of them. One night he and the Albanian Mihajllaki between the two of them attacked a Bulgarian village. They set it on fire from either end, and went from hut to hut. Kirdzhali murdered while Mihajllaki carried the loot. They both shouted, "Kirdzhali! Kirdzhali!" The villagers scattered in all directions.
When Alexander Ypsilanti proclaimed his uprising and began to recruit troops, Kirdzhali joined up with several of his old comrades. They had no clear notion of what the Hetairia was actually striving for, but they could plainly see that the war presented an opportunity to get rich at the expense of the Turks, and possibly of the Moldavians.
Alexander Ypsilanti was a courageous individual, but he did not possess the qualities required for the role he had so fervently and rashly undertaken. He could not cope with the men he was supposed to lead. They neither respected nor trusted him. After the unfortunate battle in which the flower of Greek youth perished, Yorghakis Olympios advised him to step down and took his place. Ypsilanti rode off to the borders of Austria and sent back a curse on his men, calling them insubordinate cowards and scoundrels. Most of these cowards and scoundrels had perished either within the walls of the Seku Monastery or on the banks of the Prut, desperately trying to fight off an enemy that outnumbered them ten to one.
Kirdzhali served in the detachment of Georgii Kantakuzen, about whom one could repeat what has already been said of Ypsilanti. On the eve of the battle near Skuliany, Kantakuzen asked the Russian authorities for permission to enter our compound. The detachment remained without a com-mander, but Kirdzhali, Saphianos, Kantagoni, and their comrades did not see any need for a commander.
No one, it seems, has described the battle near Skuliany in its full pathetic reality. Imagine seven hundred men - Arnauts, Albanians, Greeks, Bulgarians, and every other kind of rabble - who had no concept of military art and were retreating in the face of a Turkish cavalry of fifteen thousand. This detachment drew back to the bank of the Prut and set up two tiny cannon, brought along from the hospodar's courtyard at Jassy, where they had been used for firing salvos during dinner parties on the hospodar's saint's day. The Turks would have no doubt liked to fire grapeshot, but did not dare to without permission from the Russian authorities, for some would have inevitably hit our side of the river. The commander of the compound (deceased by now), who had served in the military for forty years but had never heard a bullet whistle, at last had a God-given opportunity to hear some. Several whizzed by his ears. The old man lost his temper and gave the major of the Okhotsk Infantry Regiment, guarding the compound, a thorough dressing-down. The major, not knowing what to do, ran down to the river, on the other side of which the Turkish cavalrymen were wheeling their horses, and shook his finger at them. Seeing his gesture, the Turkish cavalry turned around and galloped off, followed by the whole detachment. The major who shook his finger at them was called Khorchevskii. I do not know what became of him later.
Nevertheless, the next day the Turks attacked the Hetairists. Afraid to use either grapeshot or ball, as they normally would, they decided to use cold steel. The battle was ruthless. Both sides fought chiefly with yataghans. On the Turkish side, however, some spears could be seen as well, though the Turks had not been known to use that weapon. They turned out to be Russian spears: Nekrasa's descendants were fighting in the Turks' ranks. The Hetairists had our Emperor's permission to cross the Prut and seek asylum in our compound. They began to move across. Kantagoni and Saphianos were the last ones to stay on the Turkish side. Kirdzhali, who had been wounded the evening before, was already abed in the compound station. Saphianos was killed. Kantagoni, a very fat man, was stabbed in the stomach by a spear. He raised his saber with one hand, and he grasped his enemy's spear and thrust it deeper into himself; in this way he was able to reach his murderer with his saber, and the two of them fell together.
It was all over. The Turks were the victors. Moldavia was cleared of the Hetairists. About six hundred Albanians were scattered throughout Bessarabia; although they had no livelihood, they were nevertheless grateful to Russia for her protection. They led an idle but by no means reprobate existence. One could always see them in the coffee-houses of semi-Turkish Bessarabia, with their long-stemmed pipes in their mouths, sipping thick coffee from tiny cups. Their embroidered jackets and red pointed slippers were beginning to look worn, but their tufted calots still sat on their heads aslant, and their yataghans and pistols still protruded from their wide belts. Nobody had any complaints against them. It was impossible even to think that these poor, peaceful people had been the most notorious brigands of Moldavia, comrades of the ferocious Kirdzhali, and that he himself was among them.
The pasha serving as governor of Jassy learned of this fact and, citing the provisions of the peace treaty, demanded the extradition of the brigand.
The police began an investigation. They learned that Kirdzhali was indeed in Kishinev, and captured him at the house of a runaway monk one evening when he was eating his supper, sitting in the dark with seven comrades.
He was put under arrest. Without the slightest attempt to conceal the truth, he admitted he was Kirdzhali.
"But," he added, "since the time I crossed the Prut I have not touched a grain of anyone else's property, have not harmed the lowliest Gypsy. To the Turks, the Moldavians, and the Wallachians I am, of course, a brigand, but among the Russians I am a guest. When Saphianos, having used up all his grapeshot, came into the compound to take the buttons, nails, chains, and yataghan handles from the wounded to be used for the last shots, I gave him twenty besliks and was left without any money. God is my witness that I, Kirdzhali, have been living on alms! Why, then, are the Russians handing me over to my enemies?"
From then on Kirdzhali kept silent and calmly awaited the resolution of his fate.
He did not have to wait long. The authorities, not obliged to regard brigands in their romantic aspect and convinced that the demand for extradition was just, gave orders to transport Kirdzhali to Jassy.
A man of intelligence and sensitivity - at that time an unknown young civil servant, today an important official - has described to me in vivid colors Kirdzhali's departure.
А mail căruţă stood by the prison gate... (Perhaps you do not know what a căruţă is. It is a low wicker-covered cart, to which even recently six or eight jades were usually harnessed. A mustachioed Moldavian, wearing a sheepskin hat, would sit astride one of them, constantly shouting and cracking his whip, and the little jades would run at quite a lively trot. If one of them began to lag behind, he would unharness it with horrible oaths and abandon it on the road, not caring what became of it. On his way back he would be sure to find it calmly grazing in a green pasture near the same place. It happened quite frequently that a traveler who had left one post station with eight horses would arrive at another with only a pair. Nowadays, in Russified Bessarabia, Russian harness and Russian carts have taken over.)
Such a căruţă stood by the prison gate one day toward the end of September 1821. Jewesses, nonchalantly flopping their slippers, Albanians in their tattered colorful costumes, and shapely Moldavian women with black-eyed babies in their arms surrounded the căruţă. The men were silent, the women eagerly waited for something to happen.
The gate opened, and several police officers came into the street; two soldiers followed them, bringing out Kirdzhali in fetters.
He seemed to be about thirty years old. The features of his swarthy face were regular and stern. He was tall and broad-shouldered, and in general appeared to possess uncommon physical strength. A colorful turban sat obliquely on his head; a wide belt hugged his narrow waist; a dolman of thick blue cloth, a shirt with ample folds that hung almost to his knees, and handsome slippers made up the rest of his costume. The expression on his face was dignified and calm.
One of the officials, a red-faced little old man in a faded uniform with only three buttons dangling on it, pinched with his nickel-framed glasses the purple lump that passed as his nose, unfolded a document, and began reading it in Moldavian with a nasal twang. From time to time he cast a haughty glance at the fettered Kirdzhali, to whom the document evidently referred. Kirdzhali listened attentively. The official finished his reading, folded the document, bellowed menacingly at the crowd, commanding it to make way, and ordered the căruţă to be brought up. At this time Kirdzhali turned to him and said a few words in Moldavian; his voice trembled and the expression on his face changed; he burst into tears and, clanking his chains, threw himself at the police official's feet. The official, frightened, jumped back; the soldiers were about to lift Kirdzhali up, but he rose to his feet himself, gathered up his shackles, stepped into the căruţă, and cried out, "Go!" A gendarme got in next to him, the Moldavian cracked his whip, and the căruţă rolled off.
"What was it Kirdzhali said to you?" the young civil servant asked the police official.
"He asked me, my dear sir," replied the official laughing, "if I would protect his wife and child, who live not far from Kilia in a Bulgarian settlement: he is afraid that they will suffer because of him. Stupid people, my dear sir."
The scene the young civil servant had related profoundly moved me. I felt sorry for poor Kirdzhali. For some time I knew nothing about his subsequent fate. It was several years later that I met the young civil servant again. We started talking about the past.
"And what about your friend Kirdzhali?" I asked. "Do you know what has become of him?"
"I do indeed," he answered, and told me the following.
Brought to Jassy, Kirdzhali was delivered over to the pasha, who sentenced him to be impaled. The execution was postponed until some holiday. For the time being he was locked up in a prison.
The captive was guarded by seven Turks (simple people, and brigands at heart, just like Kirdzhali); they respected him and listened to his marvelous stories with the characteristic eagerness of people of the East.
A close friendship developed between the guards and the captive. One day Kirdzhali said to them, "Brothers! My hour is drawing close. No one can escape his fate. I shall soon part with you. I would like to leave something to you to remember me by."
The Turks pricked up their ears.
"Brothers," continued Kirdzhali, "three years ago, when I was marauding with the late Mihajllaki, we buried in the steppe, not far from Jassy, a pot full of galbens. It is evident that neither of us is destined to make use of that pot. Since that can't be helped, you take it for yourselves and divide it with brotherly love."
The Turks practically went out of their minds. There began a discussion of how they could find the hidden place. They considered, and considered, and resolved that Kirdzhali himself should lead them there.
Night fell. The Turks took the fetters off the captive's feet, tied his hands with a rope, and decamped with him, heading for the steppe.
Kirdzhali led them, keeping to the same direction, from one burial mound to the next. They walked for a long time. At last Kirdzhali stopped by a wide rock, measured off twenty paces to the south, stamped his foot, and said, "Here."
The Turks set about the task. Four of them drew out their yataghans and began digging. Three of them kept guard. Kirdzhali sat on the rock and watched their work.
"Well, and how much longer?" he kept asking. "Haven't you reached it yet?"
"Not yet," answered the Turks, and labored so hard that sweat came pouring off them.
Kirdzhali began to show impatience.
"What dumb people," he said. "They don't even know how to dig properly. I would have finished the whole business in two minutes. Look here, lads! Untie my hands and give me a yataghan!"
The Turks pondered and debated the matter.
"Why not?" they decided. "Let us untie his hands and give him a yataghan. What harm could there be? He is just one man, and there are seven of us." And they untied his hands and gave him a yataghan.
Kirdzhali was at last free and armed. What a feeling it must have been! He began to dig briskly, with the guards helping ... Suddenly he stuck his yataghan into one of them, left the blade in his chest, and grabbed the two pistols from the man's belt.
The other six, seeing Kirdzhali armed with two pistols, ran away.
Nowadays Kirdzhali preys upon the environs of Jassy. Not long ago he wrote to the hospodar, demanding five thousand lei and threatening, in case the payment should not be forthcoming, to burn Jassy and lay his hands on the hospodar himself. The five thousand lei were delivered to him.
Isn't Kirdzhali something?



 

Оригінал твору

Бібліотека ім. О. С. Пушкіна (м. Київ).
А.С. Пушкин. Полное собрание сочинений в десяти томах