Esperanto
Author: David Poulson


Eroshenko

Author: David Poulson
Published on: December 22, 2000

In my last article I told how Cai Yuanpei (T?sai Yuan-pei) brought to Peking University a young Russian Esperantist whose life and works are much better known and remembered in China and Japan than they are in the West. I think that it?s time that he was better known to Esperantists in the West and I hope that these articles will help to introduce him to a new generation of Esperantists.

My own information, not surprisingly, has been obtained from articles written by a Japanese and two Chinese writers. I will provide full references to my sources later, but now I want to introduce the subject of the next two or three topic articles: VASILIJ EROSHENKO.

He was born on the 12th of January 1890 in a small town in south Russia, close to the Ukraine, and he died shortly before his 63rd birthday on the 23rd of December, 1952. When he was four years old, he fell sick with the measles and the illness was so severe that he lost the sight of both of his eyes. Despite his handicap, he lived a full, productive and even adventurous life and In his autobiographical sketch, Unu pagxeto en mia lerneja vivo he wrote:

I am blind and I have been blind since I was four years old. With tears and lamentations, I left behind the kingdom of bright sunshine. Whether it was a good thing or a bad thing for me, I still don't know. Night lasts for a long time, and for me it will last as long as I live."

?A good thing or a bad thing?? Those of us fortunate to be blessed with good eyesight can only be very surprised at those words. A few years ago, I suffered an attack of shingles in the eye which left me completely blind for several days and partially sighted for weeks after. (Fortunately, the permanent damage is negligible). It made me appreciate the gift of sight even more. But perhaps the thoughtful words of a Japanese journalist, can give us an insight into Eroshenko?s mind. In 1921, Hasegawa Nyozekan wrote:

?(Eroshenko?s) sightless eyes could not make him unhappy. That world which he had seen with the eyes of a young child was the only world which he was ever to see. For him, everybody in the world had the same coloured skin. And, likewise, his world map was also of one colour. In the world through which he wandered there was only one country. He easily made friends with people from many nations because, for him, they all had skin of the same colour and they all belonged to the same country. His eyes were unable to erect barriers of race, colour and nationality between other people and himself.?

Those words are very touching but I suspect that Eroshenko?s attitude to the world and his ability to make friends was not the result of his loss of sight but of something very special in his own make-up. Although he only learned Esperanto in his late teens, you might say that he was a born Esperantist.

And he did travel widely, as far west as Great Britain and as far east as Japan. He reached the far north of Europe and the southern part of India. And in every country he visited, his heart showed more to him than many people can see with their eyes. As well as in his own language, he was able to write creatively in Japanese and in Esperanto. And he became a friend of many Asian intellectuals including the popular Chinese fiction writer Lusin.

(And I want to mention here the fact that, in Australia at least, the short stories of Lusin, translated into Esperanto, are available in a handsome, illustrated hard cover volume. Almost 500 pages of fascinating reading for the ridiculously low price of $8.10! A new street directory of Perth costs $35.00!! I hope that this book is also available through the Esperanto book services of other countries. Buy a copy and give yourself a belated Christmas present!)

Next week, I will tell you more about Eroshenko?s early life. But now I will leave your for a while with sincere good wishes for the festive season and many thanks for your support during this (for me) difficult year.

I hope to see you back on the 29th of December.

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