I don’t speak for all Odessa

A more detailed map here
It sounds absurd that the workers’ quarter of a city is older than the city itself. However, this is how it was done in Odessa. The Moldavanka, the settlement of the Moldavian Romanians brought here to build the Ottoman fortress along the coasts of the Black Sea flourished much before Catherine the Great – or rather the Catalan admiral José de Ribas, whose name is still remembered by that of the Deribasovskaya boulevard – in 1794 founded Odessa. By the 1820s the rapidly expanding city incorporated the settlement which in the meantime had become multiethnic, and which until today (but at least until the collapse of the Soviet Union) remained the industrial and workers’ quarter of the city. Before the revolution this was also Odessa’s Jewish quarter. This was the scene of Babel’s Odessa Tales, here was king Benya Krik, that is Mishka Yaponchik, and here arose the Odessan pub or bawdy songs, the блатные песни, of which the Murka has been already quoted, but we will publish even more.

The Moldavanka is commemorated also in the song Шаланды, полные кефали, “Barges full of mullet”, which, however famous, does not belong to the original pub songs well known to Babel himself. This song was written by Nikita Bogoslovsky for Leonid Lukov’s legendary movie Два бойца (Two warriors, 1943). As the Odessan urban songs were banned at that time, this song did not figure in the script, but Lukov – obviously with a higher license – decided that at least one should feature in it, most probably to stir up the patriotic feelings towards Odessa, at that time occupied by the Romanian army. Bogoslovsky recalls that a newspaper advertisement was put up so that whoever knows any songs of Odessa should report themselves in the film studio. The next day a large number of various people came together in the studio, “from respectable doctors to such characters who themselves were surprised to be still at large.” From the songs heard on that day the author chose and stylized this one on Kostya, the sailor, performed by the lady-killer Mark Bernes in the film. And according to this song there are only two places in Odessa where it is worth being famous: the port quarter Peresyp, and of course Moldavanka.

Шаланды полные кефали
В Одессу Костя приводил,
И все биндюжники вставали
Когда в пивную он входил.
Синеет море за бульваром
Каштан над городом цветет
И Константин берет гитару
И тихим голосом поет:

“Я вам не скажу за всю Одессу,
Вся Одесса очень велика,
Но и Молдаванка и Пересыпь
Обожают Костю-моряка.”

Рыбачка Соня как-то в мае,
Направив к берегу баркас,
Ему сказала: “Все Вас знают,
А я так вижу в первый раз.”
В ответ достав “Казбека” пачку,
Сказал ей Костя с холодком:
“Вы интересная чудачка,
Но дело, видите ли, в том,

Я вам не скажу за всю Одессу,
Вся Одесса очень велика,
Но и Молдаванка и Пересыпь
Обожают Костю-моряка.”

Фонтан черемухой покрылся,
Бульвар французский был в цвету.
“Наш Костя кажется влюбился,” –
Кричали грузчики в порту.
Об этой новости неделю
Везде шумели рыбаки.
На свадьбу грузчики надели
Со страшным скрипом башмаки.

Я вам не скажу за всю Одессу,
Вся Одесса очень велика.
День и ночь гуляла вся Пересыпь
На веселой свадьбе моряка!
Barges full of mullet
were brought to Odessa by Kostya
and when he entered the pub,
all the chief dockers stood up.
Blue is the sea over the boulevard,
the chestnut trees are in blossom,
and Konstantin takes the guitar
and softly sings like this:

“I don’t speak for all Odessa,
for Odessa is a big city,
but in the Moldavanka and Peresyp
Kostya, the sailor is adored!”

Sonya, the fisher girl once in May
tying up her boat on the shore
said him: “Everyone knows you
but I see you for the first time.”
In response, by taking a pack of “Kazbek”
from his pocket, Kostya coldly said:
“What an interesting queer fish you are!
Because, you see, in fact

I don’t speak for all Odessa,
for Odessa is a big city,
but in the Moldavanka and Peresyp
Kostya, the sailor is adored!”

The Fontan is dressed in cherry pink,
the French boulevard was in bloom
“Our Kostya seems to be in love”,
the stevedores shouted to each other.
This was the news of the week
for the fishermen all around,
and the porters took up for the wedding
their terribly creaking boots.

I don’t speak for all Odessa,
for Odessa is a big city,
but Peresyp was dancing day and night
on the merry wedding of the sailor!

Mullet by barges on the fish market of Odessa

Despite its fame, you cannot find many good photos of the Moldavanka on the Russian net, we don’t know why. Maybe the photographers in search of Babel’s romance are taken aback at the sight of the ruined “long yards”, and rather turn back to downtown Odessa, where they still find something from the atmosphere of the turn of the century. The few good images available were taken by people who, rather than trying to see what they wish, photograph what they see. Just like Alexandr Belensky, the master of the Odessan New Year’s series along the short walk from the Moldavanka to the sea.


Our best greetings in the New Year!
We wish you happiness, good luck!
We wish that you had in the New Year
Gas and electricity with plenty.
May the radiator heat well,
So the children do not catch cold.
Couldn’t you too in the meantime
Compensate for our service –
By going to the GERTS cash desk?
We sincerely ask you all:
Settle and pay off all your debts!

Service centre no. 8 of Primorsk district

5 comentarios:

Nyat dijo...

I believe the meaning is "I don't speak on behalf of the entire city of Odessa" but this line wouldn't fit well into the song's rhythm :)


Studiolum dijo...

Youʻre too modest! You should not just believe it, but as a native speaker be sure of it, just as am I, because of за. But any exact translation of it would have been so unnecessarily long – both here and in the Hungarian version (за is a clever tiny word indeed!) – that I afforded myself this small poetica licentia, which, as I hoped, did not significantly alter the original meaning.

languagehat dijo...

I would render it "I don’t speak for all Odessa," which preserves both sense and rhythm.

Studiolum dijo...

Youʻre right. I correct it right now.

Effe dijo...

Odessa, voice that always calls, and sometimes sings.