Siberia Burns: A Poem from Russia

By Daria SerenkoAugust 12, 2021

    Siberia Burns: A Poem from Russia

    As another unprecedented wildfire season spreads across and beyond Siberia, conversations about the climate and ecological crisis have reached new but tentative heights in Russia, a major fossil fuel exporter. These shifts were heralded in 2018-2019 by activists who now face a broad governmental crackdown on civil society. During the 2019 fire season, which accompanied mass police suppression of election protests in public squares, Russian feminist Daria Serenko composed this lyric. Rachel Brasier, Serena Clapp-Clark, Paige MacKinnon, Helen Poe, and Elizabeth Tolley created a collective translation during online seminars held by Hilah Kohen at Middlebury College’s Davis School of Russian.


    ¤


    Siberia burns


    and from the fires my family


    emerges: in mama’s arms lies


    a silent hare


    on papa’s shoulder,


    a dead fox


    i am not there, in the smoke


    it’s impossible to see


    how many we are, as we stand —


    an unhewn forest


    in the square —


    people, charred


    in the square


    encircle us


    i see no faces: all is darkness


    approaching us,


    breaking branches, they too are afraid


    of what they hear


    as though that crackle


    is their own bones breaking


    but it is us


    i am a tree and a daughter all at once


    i see the hare with mama in his arms


    i see the fox with papa on her shoulder


    we all scream and exhale smoke


    and we breathe in


    what’s left of the others


    ¤


    Daria Serenko is a feminist activist, poetess, and public artist. After graduating from the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute, she created Quiet Picket (#тихийпикет), a grassroots action whose participants carried placards on Russia’s urban transit systems to spark daily conversations about topics such as relationship violence and political imprisonment in public space. Serenko has organized support networks for women facing persecution and led solidarity projects such as Femdacha, a safe haven and resting space for activists. Her work has appeared in numerous Russophone publications and in English through the anthology F Letter: New Russian Feminist Poetry (isolarii, 2020).


    Rachel Brasier is a recent graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas and a former volunteer with the Peace Corps in Ukraine.


    Serena Clapp-Clark is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College.


    Paige MacKinnon is a student at Smith College pursuing majors in Government and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. Her academic interests include international security, labor relations, and Russian literature, and she plans to pursue a career in translation and international relations upon graduating in 2022.


    Helen Poe is a student at Georgetown University studying Russian and German.


    Elizabeth Tolley is a freelance Russian interpreter and translator. She holds a BA in Political Science and Russian from Swarthmore College and an MA in Conference Interpretation from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.


    ¤


    Photograph by the European Space Agency of Siberia blanketed in smoke.

    LARB Contributor

    Daria Serenko is a feminist activist, poetess, and public artist. After graduating from the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute, she created Quiet Picket (#тихийпикет), a grassroots action whose participants carried placards on Russia’s urban transit systems to spark daily conversations about topics such as relationship violence and political imprisonment in public space. Serenko has organized support networks for women facing persecution and led solidarity projects such as Femdacha, a safe haven and resting space for activists. Her work has appeared in numerous Russophone publications and in English through the anthology F Letter: New Russian Feminist Poetry (isolarii, 2020).

    Share

    Did you know LARB is a reader-supported nonprofit?


    LARB publishes daily without a paywall as part of our mission to make rigorous, incisive, and engaging writing on every aspect of literature, culture, and the arts freely accessible to the public. Help us continue this work with your tax-deductible donation today!