Вероника Долина

Veronika Dolina (Вероника Долина) is a Russian singer, poet, and bard—one of the few women in that male-dominated genre. She was born and raised in Moscow, in a family of an aircraft-designer father and a doctor mother. She studied at music school when she was young and then entered the French department at university, training to be a French teacher, but she started her musical career even before graduating.

Dolina started writing songs in 1971, and her debut performance was that same year. She accompanied herself on the guitar—the one she plays now was made by master Evgeny Yermakov, and she has named it Lyutera (Лютера)—and performed songs she wrote herself. She joined the Club of Self-Written Songs (Клуб самодеятельной песни), an informal union for Soviet bards. However, she did not achieve the same stunning popularity as some of the other bards who were active during that time. One reason given for that is that her lyrics focused on “womanly” subjects, and her performances were “sharp”—unusual for a woman singer.

Though Dolina performed frequently, her first record was not released until 1986, when perestroika had started and the Soviet Union was loosening up. After this, though, she released many albums—five alone between 1986 and 1990, and an additional twenty after that. She also began getting her collections of poetry published, and to date has published more than twenty collections of her song lyrics and poems.

Dolina has toured all over the world and written more than 500 songs. She has won the Venets (Венец, “wreath”), a Russian literature prize given out by the Moscow Writers’ Union. These days, she is still performing concerts and releasing records and books. While her political activities are not well-publicized, it is perhaps telling that she proudly posted a birthday letter of congratulations from the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights (Московское бюро по правам человекам—an NGO supported by the European Commission) on her personal website, which wishes her “new achievements in her important work, unfailing and vital optimism, happiness and goodness” and hopes for further cooperation with her. In addition, Radio Free Liberty has made a video program about her.

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“A Woman Flying with Difficulty” (“О, женщина, летающая трудно”), 1986:

 

Lyrics for “О, женщина, летающая трудно”:

О, женщина, летающая трудно!
Лицо твое светло, жилище скудно,
На улице темно, но многолюдно,
Ты смотришься в оконное стекло.

О, женщина, глядящая тоскливо!
Мужчина нехорош, дитя сопливо…
Часы на кухне тикают сонливо –
Неужто твоё время истекло?

О, женщина, чьи крылья не жалели!
Они намокли и отяжелели…
Ты тащишь их с натугой еле-еле,
Ты сбросить хочешь их к его ногам…

Но погоди бросать еще, чудачка, –
Окончится твоя земная спячка,
О, погоди, кухарка, нянька, прачка –
Ты полетишь к сладчайшим берегам!

Ты полетишь над домом и над дымом.
Ты полетишь над Прагой и над Римом.
И тот еще окажется счастливым,
Кто издали приметит твой полёт…

Пусть в комнатке твоей сегодня душно,
Запомни – ты прекрасна, ты воздушна,
Ты только струям воздуха послушна –
Не бойся, всё с тобой произойдёт!

 

“Air Travel” (“Воздушный транспорт”)—a recent performance that shows that her powerful, sincere voice has not faded over time:

 

Lyrics for “Воздушный транспорт”:

Этот воздушный транспорт,
Тот равнодушный голос,
Караганда-Франкфурт –
С полюса на полюс.

Женщины, дети, старцы,
Рвутся в свою Итаку,
Страшно, мин херц, страшно,
Хоть и не по этапу.

Птичий язык вьётся
В детском чумном крике,
Их позабыл Гёте,
Бросил в беде Рильке.

Выучили казахский,
Выучили б ненецкий,
И всё это по-хозяйски,
И всё это по-немецки.

Бледные эти маски,
Скудные эти тряпки
Надо бы сбросить в Москве
На шереметьевском трапе

И прочитать победно
Буковки на билете.
Жили темно и бедно,
Но всё же рождались дети.

Смолкнет дурная брань, хоть
Щёлкает ещё таймер,
Караганда-Франкфурт –
Пусть улетит лайнер.

И хоть я держусь в рамках,
Но сбился и мой компас:
Караганда-Франкфурт,
Караганда-космос.

 

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Julie is currently studying Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk (and before that, Bishkek) with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.