Leon Retief. Oor kerke en ikone

про церкви і Ікони

(PRO TSRKVEH E IKONEH)

OFTEWEL: OOR KERKE EN IKONE

[Foto bo: Oekraïnse kerk in Saskatoon, Kanada]
 

The Master Builder 1926

“Unless the Lord built the house,

they labour in vain who built it.” (Psalm 127)

 

How lovely is your dwelling place

O Lord of hosts!

Like those Ukrainian churches of northern Alberta

that stand on high places in the countryside,

their great domes gleaming quicksilver in the sun;

a confirmation of

a thousand years of

Byzantine Christian tradition.

 

White, orange, yellow,

they stand out against the cobalt prairie sky,

brilliant as Christ,

the Light of the World.

Like great ships they cruise

toward eternity.

 

Their builder was an unlettered man and a drunk.

He had no blueprints,

so he stowed the plan for each church in his head.

 

Every morning

he’d arrive at the building site with a jar of moonshine.

And taking a smooth scrap of lumber

he’d sketch out the day’s work

for his carpenters.

Then he’d fade into the woods

for a ration of homebrew.

 

Emerging at lunch,

he’d assess the work, encourage his crew

and recede back into the bush

for a further sip and a nap;

after which he’d work with his men

till quitting time.

 

Though he worked by eye,

never measuring

and mostly drunk,

he cut the flawless circle for the central dome,

launched the cooperage for its windowed drum,

and formed the ribs for its hemisphere

of heavenly space.

All these he set over the perfect cube

of the New Jerusalem

coming down out of heaven from God

prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

 

Now when we enter these tabernacles

framed by that drunkard

we’re heartened to ask

to dwell in the house of the Lord

all the days of our lives

that we might gaze upon the beauty of the Lord

and contemplate his temple.

 

© Harvey Spak

Smith, Brown, Jones, Campbell en O’Brien is sulke algemene vanne, nie net in die prêries nie maar ook elders in Kanada dat mens nie eers twee keer daaroor nadink nie. Dan is daar natuurlik ook vanne soos Majid, Ramadan, El-Hadi, Mandalupa, Carretero, Cheddie, Oyenubi, Adewumi, Li, Yip, Botha en van der Merwe (wat hier uitgespreek word as van de Meeh) en so voorts. Hierdie land is ʼn ware hutspot van nasionaliteite en kulture – en dan praat ek nie eers van Frans-Kanadese nie – en is waarskynlik een van die beste voorbeelde van multikulturalisme in die Weste, ʼn fenomeen wat na my mening nie sonder sy probleme is nie maar dit nou daar gelaat. Nie lank na ons aankoms in 2008 het ek dikwels ook in aanraking gekom met mense met vanne soos Sevchenko, Boyko, Shevchuk, Bondarchuk, Yatsenko, Yuzuk, Radiuk en so aan. By navraag het ek vasgestel dat al hierdie vanne, en baie wat soortgelyk is, hul oorsprong in die Oekraïne het, ʼn land waarvan ek maar bitter min geweet het.

Oekraïnse immigrante, op soek na vryheid en ekonomiese welvaart, het in die 1890’s in betekenisvolle getalle in Kanada begin arriveer alhoewel daar onbevestigde gerugte is dat die eerste mense vanaf hierdie land reeds hier arriveer het na die oorlog tussen Amerika en Kanada in 1812. Arm, dikwels ongeletterd maar harde werkers en destyds meestal landbouers het baie van hulle aanvanklik in die prêries met sy wrede klimaat gaan vestig. Volgehoue immigrasie oor die daaropvolgende dekades het meegebring dat hul getalle gegroei het tot sowat 1 200 000 en hul invloed is deesdae te sien in elke sfeer van die Kanadese samelewing. Vandag is hulle die derde grootste etniese groep in Kanada en hierdie land huisves tans die grootste populasie Oekraïnsprekendes buite die Oekraïne self en Rusland.

Dit wil my voorkom asof immigrante vanaf Engelssprekende lande baie vinnig in die groter Engels-Kanadese gemeenskap verdwyn en min oorhou van die spesifieke kultuur van die land van herkoms van hul ouers of grootouers. Ongetwyfeld hang dit af van die land van waar hulle vandaan kom, hoe lank hul ouers of voorouers al hier is sowel as die mate van ooreenstemming tussen die religieuse en sosiale struktuur in die land van herkoms en die situasie in Kanada. Ten spyte van die verskille in taal en kultuur tussen Kanada en die Oekraïne het immigrante van daardie land egter baie goed aangepas en is daar op die oog af nie enige merkbare verskil tussen hulle en Kanadese wat uit huis uit Engelssprekend is. Nogtans, in hul binnekamers het baie van hulle ʼn sterk band met hul kulturele agtergrond – hul taal, die Oekraïnse Katolieke en Ortodokse kerke (meer daaroor later) sowel as ander kulturele aktiwiteite soos danse en letterkunde.

Oekraïnse kerk interieur

Oekraïnse kerk interieur

Die trajek van mens se lewe kan soms onverwagte en aangename interseksies tot gevolg hê.  So ʼn jaar of drie gelede het ek ʼn inskrywing vir Versindaba gelewer oor die prêriedigter Andy Suknaski, die kind van Pools en Oekraïnse ouers. Ek het die stuk vertaal en gestuur aan Glen Sorestad, wie se gedigte ek ook al hier geplaas het. Later ontvang ek heel onverwags ʼn e-pos van Harvey Spak, dokumentêre filmmaker, digter, jagter, skrywer van ikone en gemeenskaplike vriend van Glen en Andy Suknaski.

Harvey Spak

The Field

 

To live your life is not as simple as to cross a field.

And to cross a field is to die.

Every death is of consequence.

Notice its legalities.

A doctor must pronounce a person dead

to make it legal.

A suspicious death must be

investigated by police.

A coroner must call an inquest.

Human death is cloaked in officiousness.

But the death of a deer

crossing Adam’s pea field

and felled by a shot

from my rifle

is of no import;

except for the deer

and for me.

To the deer it was the substance

of searing pain from a torn heart and lungs.

For me it signified a sense of

accomplishment.

It added up to the sweet smell

of thick yellow fat

beneath the skin of the doe’s belly;

the earthy perfume

of blood and viscera

spilled out on yellow stubble.

All these things accompanied

by a musical score

of croaking ravens and

yapping coyotes who’ve

smelled the deer’s blood

on the sharp morning air.

How sweet the flesh of this

elegant creature

slain

in a pea field.

To live your life is not as simple as to cross a field.

Soos Harvey  aan my verduidelik  het, mense wat ikone maak verkies om te sê dat hulle dit skryf en nie skilder nie omdat die agtervoegsel “grafie” in die woord ikonografie afgelei is van die Griekse woord vir skryf. Nou ja, wie is ek om te stry? Spak is in aanvraag as ikoonskrywer en het al 123 ikone geskryf. Hier is twee.

Ikoon van die profeet Elia

Ikoon van St. Michael

Dalk net eers ʼn kort stukkie oor die geskiedenis van die Oekraïne. In 988 het Vladimir die Grote, die prins van Kyiv, in die huwelik getree met die dogter (of moontlik suster) van die Bisantynse keiser Basil II, op voorwaarde dat hy en die hele populasie van Rus Oekraïne tot die Christendom bekeer. Vladimir het sy woord gestand gedoen maar in die elfde eeu het daar ʼn skeuring plaasgevind. Christene in die ooste het hulself as Ortodoks bestempel en hulle onder die beskerming van die patriarg van Konstantinopel geplaas. Christene in die weste het getrou gebly aan die pous en hulself Katolieke Oekraïniërs genoem alhoewel die liturgie, tradisies, kuns en argitektuur van beide groepe steeds teruggevoer kan word na Bisantium, die Oostelike Romeinse ryk wat in die vierde eeu deur Konstantyn die Grote tot stand gebring is.

Toe Konstantinopel in 1453 deur die Turke ingeneem is het die patriarg van Moskou sy stad as die nuwe Rome proklameer, die Tsaar beskou as die nuwe Christelike keiser en die Rooms-Katolieke kerk en pous bestempel as die hoer van Babilon. Baie Oekraïnse Christene het egter getrou gebly aan Rome en was glad nie daarmee gediend om onder die hiel van die Russiese patriarg hul godsdiens te beoefen nie. Rome het dit besef en in die ooreenkoms van Brest-Litovsk in 1596 (dit moet nie verwar word met die ooreenkoms van Brest-Litovsk van 1917 nie) is hulle uitgenooi om weer met Rome te herenig. Rusland het net mooi niks hiervan gehou nie en hul militêre mag gebruik om meeste biskoppe te dwing om aan die Russies-Ortodokse kerk getrou te bly. ʼn Paar dosyn biskoppe in die Westerse deel van die Oekraïne het egter voet by stuk gehou en hul nasate is vandag versprei deur die wêreld, bekend as die Oekraïnse Katolieke kerk.

Hierdie Katolieke kerk het natuurlik ook in die Oekraïne bly voortbestaan maar in 1944 het Stalin die Oekraïnse Katolieke biskoppe en hul volgelinge begin uitmoor omdat hy als wat Westers was wantrou het en hul kerkgeboue is aan die Russiese Ortodokse kerk oorhandig. Diegene wat gelukkig genoeg was om te oorleef is ʼn eenvoudige keuse gegee: sluit aan by die Russiese Ortodokse kerk of word tereggestel. Dit het natuurlik gebeur nadat Stalin tussen 1934-1936 ongeveer sewe miljoen mense in die Oekraïne doelbewus aan verhongering laat sterf het. Tussen 1944 en 1989 het die Oekraïnse Katolieke kerk net ondergronds bestaan en tot vandag nog weier die patriarg van Moskou om daardie kerk te erken. Mens kan dus verstaan dat baie Oekraïniërs nie juis lief vir die Russe is nie en dat hulle in groot getalle hul land verlaat het. Meeste van die wat verhuis het na Kanada, die VSA en Brasilië was afkomstig van die Westerse deel van hul land, dus Katolieke Oekraïniërs en hul kerk het in daardie lande floreer. Omdat die Oekraïne op ʼn stadium van haar geskiedenis deel was van Austro-Hongaarse ryk was hierdie kerk in die diaspora ironies genoeg tot aan die einde van die Eerste Wêreld-Oorlog onder die beskerming van keiser Franz Josef.

Hier is Harvey in sy eie woorde aan my: “Where do I stand in all of this? My grandparents emigrated from Western Ukraine in 1900. They took homesteads in northern Alberta. They wanted woodland for fuel and timber. Thus they had to clear and burn before they could cultivate the land. It was a hard life, but better than life in Ukraine. My mother and father were born in Canada. I remember life on the homesteads from when I was a boy. I grew up in a village in northern Alberta. My father was a sheet metal worker and a plumber. My mother kept house. We lived a rural life and we were poor for starters, but life became financially better as the years went by. We spoke Ukrainian at home and I learned English when I went to school. I think my poems speak of my origins and the people and the situations I knew. We were and are Christian people tied to the religion, traditions, language and art of our forefathers; in spite of ourselves. We are tied inexorably to our geography, to the land, the seasons, seeking beauty and love in all things.”

 

Some Thoughts in the Two Hills Country Cemetery

“Eternal Memory!

Dream comrade dream

About a better life and freedom

About a victorious battle

A dream of working people.”

 

This is the epitaph of a young man

from a local communist family

who was accidentally shot.

It happened in 1934

while he was playing

in some Marxist amateur theatrical

at the Labour Temple.

The property master made a mistake.

He removed the lead shot

from a 12 gauge cartridge and replaced it

with a wad of crumpled newspaper.

When another actor levelled the shotgun

at the young man and fired,

the wad of newspaper

tore a hole in his stomach.

Ihor, a TV cameraman, who was born and raised

in the Soviet Ukraine, laughs at the epitaph.

“What nonsense! Only Marxists could write such nonsense!

These atheists pretend there’s an after-life.

Look here, etched in the headstone,

The Gates of Paradise opening to reveal a Red Star

with Hammer and Sickle in its bosom.

Absurd! Marxists bleating about Eternal Memory.

Eternal Nothingness might be more their style.”

Me, I rather liked the epitaph,

and the iconography

Perhaps the Marxists didn’t abandon hope after all.

There’s an apocryphal story

in contemporary Orthodox Tradition

which says that Stalin on his death bed,

summoned a holy priest

to hear his confession.

Sadly, after the priest granted absolution

to the man of steel, Beria had him shot.

I like this story.

It teaches us something

about the ineffable mercy of God.

Egypt

Accordingly, task masters were set over the Israelites to oppress them with forced labour. The Egyptians reduced them to cruel slavery making life bitter for them… (Ex 1.11)

 

We were deer hunting that November morning,

in the sand hills and jack pine

somewhere south of the river

and our old 1972 Plymouth Fury

hit a rough patch in the dunes and began to spin out.

And you said: “Son, we’re in the desert here

just like the Israelites in Egypt.

Get us out!”

I’ve been watching your body come apart.

Four years ago, when you were 86,

gangrene blackened your toes

and your right leg was taken off below the knee,

then two weeks later, because the circulation

could not be restored, the surgeons

cut once more, this time at mid-thigh.

But you came back with resolve.

After four months of physiotherapy

you gained weight and got stronger.

And they strapped on a stainless steel leg

and you began to walk.

First with the help of a walker

while Ibo, the Nigerian physiotherapist

with the ritual scars on his cheeks,

urged you on.

“Now I’m the slave driver,” he said

as he made you sweat up and down

the corridors of the long term care wing.

Then Mother died in her bed

while you were in the cafeteria having lunch,

and a black cloud of grief overtook you,

setting the course for your dissolution.

You spurned Ibo’s therapy sessions.

Your eyes began to fail.

One by one your gold crowned teeth broke away.

When your one good knee failed

and you could no longer transfer yourself

from bed to wheelchair without falling

they nailed you to your hospital bed,

and you entered into the bitterness of captivity

and the slavery of a new Egypt.

One day just before Christmas,

when we were in the cafeteria for lunch,

you confessed that food

had acquired the taste of ashes.

So your body instinctively began to feed on itself,

reducing the muscles of your arms, legs and pelvis

until you looked like an Auschwitz man.

A skeleton with skin.

A skeleton with fire in its eyes

forced to depend on others

for a sip of water or a spoonful of food.

A skeleton whose face I’d shave each morning

and anoint with Aqua-Velva.

A skeleton who in a hushed voice

would ask the day of the week.

On one such day while I read to you from

the Easter Liturgy in Old Slavonic:

“All who have been baptised into Christ

have put on Christ”

you leaned forward on your elbows

took three breaths and were taken out of

the bitter captivity of Egypt.

And at that moment, the demented woman

in the wheelchair outside your room

began to sing:
“Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

The nurses hurried to take your pulse

and found none.

With great kindness

they cleaned you up and wrapped you

in a fresh hospital gown.

When they left, a profound silence

filled the room and an inexplicable peace

settled upon you.

So I lit a candle before your icon of Christ

and read the psalms.

And as the word of your death spread

the housekeeping ladies and the maintenance men

came into your room to embrace me

and pay their respects.

“Your dad was a great man,” said one.

“He was my buddy,” I answered.

So I waited for my sister and her husband to come

To see you once more before the undertaker arrived.

“When Israel was a child I loved him

and I called my son out of Egypt.

He will follow behind the Lord;

he will be roaring like a lion –

how he will roar

and his sons shall come speeding from the west;

they will come speeding from Egypt like a bird

speeding from Assyria like a dove,

and I will settle them in their homes

it is the Lord who speaks.” (Hosea 11:1, 10-11)

 

The Black Prince (Uittreksel)

You heard about that guy in Andrew, Jackson’s his name.

He had a girlfriend, a half breed girl from Mundare.

Blond hair, nice boobs.

Well, Jackson finds out she’s entertaining in her bed,

that young Perpeletza.

He’s the one recently charged with impaired driving.

His court dates were in Vegreville but he didn’t show up

because he was in hospital with ammonia.

Now Jackson’s pissed about Perpeletza’s

visits so he rigs a booby trap: a loaded shotgun at his front door

with a string and pulley system leading to the door knob.

Perpeletza means partridge in Ukrainian,

so you could say Jackson’s partridge hunting.

Now when Jackson’s gone, the half breed girl, she lets Perpeletza

into the house through the bedroom window.

They have a good fuck and call the police.

The Mounties charge Jackson with attempted murder.

That Jackson’s a two time loser ain’t he?

Harvey het ʼn baie treffende dokumentêre film oor Andy Suknaski gemaak. Dit is die moeite werd om te kyk en nie te lank nie. Dit is te vinde by onderstaande skakel, maar net eers ʼn woord van waarskuwing: die skakel lei nie direk na die film nie maar na die webwerf van die National Film Board of Canada. Om die film te sien, tik “Wood Mountain Poems” in die hokkie maar moet dan nie op die vergrootglasteken kliek nie, druk net “enter” op jou rekenaar.

www.nfb.ca

My thanks to Harvey Spak for the information about the Ukraine and the Ukrainian community in Canada.

(© Leon Retief)

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7 Kommentare op “Leon Retief. Oor kerke en ikone”

  1. Buiteblaf Breytenbach :

    Fassinerende informasie, Dr Retief – en dankie dat jy sommer so terloops ook veel meer tekstuur en vandaar diepte gee aan Kanada. Ek het dit nog altyd as die gemeenplasigheid van nice-nice gesig- en karakterloosheid ervaar, en dis duidelik nie so nie.

    Skeptikus synde is ek egter oortuig ‘Harvey Spark’ is net ‘n dubbelganger van Leon Retief.

    Lieflike gedigte, Spaarwiel Lark!

  2. Buiteblaf Breytenbach :

    En wou ook nog noem hoe opvallend dit is dat Hennie Aucamp se Skulp – ek verwys nou na die omslag – en Oliver Hardy se Oekraïnse kerk in dieselfde vorm gegiet is.

  3. Leon Retief :

    Giegie… Nee Breyten, Harvey Spak bestaan werklik en dis hy wat die gedigte en ikone geskryf het en nie ek nie. En watse “Dr.” is dit met jou?

  4. Buiteblaf Breytenbach :

    Ek het eers agterna gesien die “Dr.” kan miskien verkeerd gelees word as ‘n Jekyll & Hyde storie – of ‘n Spak & Retief. Dit was darem nie so bedoel nie. Maar ek dog dan jy is ‘n hoeghene kokkedoor met allerlei grade! Dis seker maar omdat jy sulke moeilike konsepte hier so maklik hanteer en rangeer.
    En mens wil nie onwetend oneerbiedig wees nie. Wie weet wat se kodes nie alles geaktiveer kan word as straf nie… Ek koes al by voorbaat vir die Derridarygery!
    Hulle sê mos in die ou dae was daar so baie De Villierse in die Paarl dat jy, as jy nou ietwat aangeklam in ‘n lamppal sou vasloop, sommer as voorsorgmaatreël “askies, meneer Deviljee” gesê het.
    Wat nou weer verkeerdelik die indruk mag skep mens het nie respekte vir die dokters en doktore en hoorhore en ander grootgoggas nie. Eisj…

    Hoe dan ook, gedokter of te not – nogmaals dank vir die simpatieke toeligting van ‘n minder bekende aspek van Oekraïne, veral noudat ons (so lyk dit) weer op pad is na ‘n Krim-oorlog – en dié keer sonder Florence Nightingale om te help dekonstrueer.

    Groete!

  5. Desmond :

    Leon, ek het nog altyd gedink daar skuil, agter daardie streng wetenskaplike blik, ‘n kerkman! Baie lekker gelees hieraan; dankie.

  6. Leon Retief :

    @Desmond: Gmf! 🙂

  7. Rita Grobler :

    Dankie Leon Retief. Dit was ‘n insiggewende stuk om te lees! Die foto’s van die kerke lieflik.

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