Esperanto
Author: David Poulson


Eroshenko Part two

Author: David Poulson
Published on: December 29, 2000

Introductory note for new visitors to the Esperanto Topic.

If you have only just begun to take an interest in Esperanto and wish to know some basic information about this fascinating subject, please start your reading at the first article of this series. Having already completed 73 articles, I am now at the stage of writing articles for those readers who have learned quite a lot about the Esperanto language and movement already, and who are now wanting to find out more than just the basic introductory information. To get to the beginning of this series

After you have read the first article, click on the link at the top of the page which says "Articles" to find the rest of the series, which is listed in reverse chronological order. _______________________________________________________

When Vasilij Eroshenko was nine years old, his well-to-do parents tried to give him a good education despite his physical handicap. All seven children in the family received a good education and when he was nine years old Eroshenko was sent to a special school for blind children in Moscow, very far away from his home. He remained there for eight years and during that time, as well as receiving a good all-round education, he learned how to play the violin. In 1907, when he was 17 years old, he left the school and joined a special orchestra for blind musicians.

At about the same time, he met an Esperantist called Anna Sharapova (1863-1923) who had translated some of Tolstoy's short pieces into Esperanto. This decisive meeting marked a real turning point in Eroshenko's life, because it was Anna who persuaded him to learn Esperanto and she also encouraged him go to England and study music there. About five years later, in 1912, Eroshenko, having become fluent in Esperanto, set off alone on the first of his many long trips to far-off countries. On the way to England, he was welcomed and looked after by Esperantists in Germany and France. And when he arrived in London he met a blind British Esperantist, W.P Merrick (1868-1956), who was to have a very long and distinguished career in the British Esperanto movement.

Perhaps Rik Dalton, who has already contributed a lot of useful information to this series of articles, could tell us more about W.P. Merrick via the Discussion Forum. How about it Rik?

After three months, Eroshenko was accepted into the Royal Normal College, a tertiary institution for the blind, but he was not able to settle down happily in England and he returned to Russia the same year. (In one autobiographical work he mentioned the fact that when he stayed with P. Blaise, a Belgian Esperantist living in England, 'it was the happiest part of my stay in England.' But since that happy time only lasted for 10 days we can draw our own conclusions!) It is interesting that Eroshenko seems to have been so much more at home in the Far East than in the West.

Back in Moscow he rejoined an orchestra and - never afraid of a challenge! - he then began to learn Japanese. After only a short period of study, he set off for Japan, reaching Tokyo in April 1914, where he was warmly welcomed by the Japanese Esperantists. Soon after his arrival, Eroshenko, always a resourceful young man, began to learn the art of massage so that he was able to earn some money while living in Japan, and he further provided for himself by teaching Esperanto. However, during his first years abroad he received financial support from his parents in Russia.

One very important friend Eroshenko made during his early years in Japan was a well-known playwright, Akita Uzyaku. Eroshenko taught him Esperanto, but was repaid many times because Akita introduced the young Russian to many progressive intellectuals in Japanese society. The Esperanto movement in Japan had developed at this time to the point where it was possible to organise a national conference there in early 1916. (This was only the third Esperanto conference held in Japan and the previous one had occurred nine years earlier). Of course, Eroshenko made a notable contribution to this conference, making speeches and playing Russian folk songs while accompanying himself on the balaika. But although happy in Japan, earning money, teaching and making friends, Eroshenko was just too restless to stay in one place for very long.

In July 1916 he went to Bangkok with the intention of founding a school for the blind in Thailand, or Siam, as it was then called. I don't know what language he used to communicate with his contacts in Bangkok, but he managed somehow and probably there were Esperantists there at that time. (Having begun to learn theThai language myself, in preparation for my own return trip to Chiang Mai in February, I can assure my readers that Thai is a very difficult language - at least to me. It has five tones and a syntactical structure completely different from any Western language with which I am acquainted. The writing system too, although beautiful to look at, is very difficult to learn.)

Eroshenko must have managed to communicate in one way or another, however, because he stayed in Bangkok for six months, before moving on to Burma for a longer stay, working as a teacher in a school for the blind. Then from Burma, he went to India but, after only a short stay in Calcutta, he returned to Japan in July 1919.

Eroshenko had been away for just 3 years and during his travels the Russian Revolution had exploded in October 1917. Shortly afterwards, the regular financial support from his parents ceased. From now on, he would have to be fully self-supporting.

(To be continued)

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