Back in 2007 I posted about an old Russian epithet for Greeks, пиндос [pindós], that has come to be directed at Americans; in reading Serafimovich (see this post) I’ve run across another one, грекос [grekós], which is obviously straight from Greek γραικός [γrekós]. The ragged elements of the Red Army (with associated sailors, families, and livestock) are making their hungry way south along the Black Sea coast, and when they run across potential supplies they’re not shy about availing themselves of them. They happen on a colony of Greeks: “За то, что это не свои, а грекосы, позабрали всех коз, как ни кричали черноглазые гречанки [Since they weren’t their own kind but grekósy, they grabbed all the goats, however much the dark-eyed Greek women hollered].” The kicker comes a couple of paragraphs later, when they enter a Russian village: “и хоть и жалко было, ну, да ведь свои – и позабрали всех кур, гусей, уток под вой и причитанье баб [and even though they felt sorry for them – after all, they were their own kind – they grabbed all the chickens, geese, and ducks amid the howling and lamentation of the women].” Serafimovich knew humankind pretty well.
He also had my attitude toward landscape. A couple of pages earlier he mentions that the straggling column was passing the remnants of old Circassian villages, and says:
Лет семьдесят назад царское правительство выгнало черкесов в Турцию. С тех пор дремуче заросли тропинки, одичали черкесские сады, на сотни верст распростерлась голодная горная пустыня, жилье зверя.
Seventy years earlier the tsarist government had expelled the Circassians to Turkey. Since then, the backwoods paths had been overgrown, the Circassian gardens had gone wild, for hundreds of versts there spread a hungry mountain wilderness, the abode of beasts.
But when the column relaxes by the shore:
И взрывы такого же солнечно-искрящегося смеха, визг, крики, восклицания, живой человеческий гомон, – берег осмыслился.
And the bursts of such sunny-sparkling laughter, yelping, shouts, exclamations, living human hubbub — the shore was given meaning.
I like scenery as much as the next person, but it is indeed humanity that gives it meaning as far as I’m concerned.