Irishman George Reavey at the time of Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) lived in the USSR and was editor-in-chief of the frontline newspaper “British Ally” published in the Russian language.
George Reavey was born on 1st of May 2007 at Vitebsk (Belorussia). He was the only child of a Russian mother Sofia Turchenko and her Irish husband Daniel Reavey who was in the linen business in Lisburn Co. Antrim and left Ireland for Russia in 1894. From Vitebsk little George and his family moved to Nizhny Novgorod, which is where they were for the October revolution in 1917. The family was forced to move to London.
In 1929 George graduated from Cambridge having read English and history and moved to Paris. Here Reavey starting to translate Russian poets Esenin, Mayakovsky and Pasternak to English and became acquainted with Russian émigré writers such as Bunin, Berdyaev and Pasternak.
In 1942 the British Government sent Reavey back to Russia on a diplomatic mission. On this dangerous journey his ship was torpedoed and sank near Norway. Reavey was saved by Russian fishermen.
In the USSR Reavey was on orders to conduct quite a delicate mission. The Soviet Union was calling on Britain to open a western front against the Nazis as the Soviets suspected that Churchill was intentionally stalling in order to reduce the USSR’s power and win the war with Russian soldiers’ blood.
To prove that Britain was a real ally Churchill’s government decided to run a Russian language newspaper in Moscow called “The British Ally” where George became the Editor-in- chief.
At this war time he became friends with Alexey Tolstoy, Samuil Marshak and Anna Ahmatova. Reavey met Pasternak in his dacha in Peredelkino and Boris asked him to translate some of his poems to English.
Reavey left the Soviet Union in 1945 but “The British Ally” was published until the end of 1940s.
In the 1960’s and 70’s, living in England, Reavey continued to translate Russian poetry and edited a number of Russian literary anthologies.
The most important of his publications was “New Russian Poets (1953-66)” published in both languages.
One of the new poets was Evgeny Evtushenko and Reavey’s translation of his poem “Baby Yar” is regarded as one of the best translations of this work.
Information used in article is based on Sandra O’Connell «George Reavey (1907-1976) An Irish-Russian Poet, Publisher, Translator and War-Time Diplomat».
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