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How does Ratushinskaya depict her suffering?

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How does Ratushinskaya depict her suffering?

Discuss with reference to two poems

Irina Georgina Ratushinskaya was born in Odessa, Ukraine on the 4th march 1954. She grew up in Soviet Russia and came in conflict with it at an early age unable to adapt to the lack of freedom. Ratushinskaya spent many years of her life in soviet labour camps for the manufacture and dissemination of her poems. Although Irina Ratushinskaya suffered beatings, force feeding and solitary confinement in brutal, freezing conditions. She never stopped believing that what she was doing was right. Irina Ratushinskaya had read western books which threatened the soviet regime because it showed a more accurate picture of history than what Russian books portrayed.

She once said that

“The calling of a true poet is to speak the truth even though it may not be a subjective truth”

This shows her determination to survive the regime. She never allowed the regime to stop her writing poetry.

Her poetry tells us the suffering she went through in the labour camps, but also how the regime could never bring her to defeat. Two examples of her poetry which show this well are “I will live and survive” and “I will travel through the land”. Both poems are different as they explain different aspects of being in a labour camp, however they both show the same themes and issues.

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Another example of the ordeal she went through within the walls of the camp is in “I will live and survive” when she tells of

“How I had to freeze at nights,

How my hair started to turn grey”

The word “freeze” in the first line is effective as it shows the harshness of the cold giving the reader an insight into the agony she went through. In the second line of the extract it shows the stress and deprivation Ratushinskaya had to fight which was making her look old. We know she was young when she wrote this poem so this line gives a vivid contradiction to the idea of your hair turning grey as you get older. Instead, in this instance it’s the stress of the situation which has turned her hair grey.

Although the physical torture is the main focus in “I will live and survive” in “I will travel through the land” it is the mental suffering which is talked about

“I will study the human eyes of suffering,

I will see what no one has seen before,

But will I be able to describe it?”

These extracts from the poem give us the strong sense of emotion, which Ratushinskaya was feeling. It is effective as she is picking up on the idea that the eyes are the window to the soul.

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“Can’t be taken apart’

And forged in land”

Ratushinskaya is explaining the love she has for her family and suggests that the regime was trying to take them apart. This shows the suffering and heart ache she went through. The second line shows the unbreakable love she has for her family and no matter what the regime does this will not be broken.

Both thee poems depict Ratushinskaya’s suffering in the camp she went through in the camps. This is mainly shown by the use of strong adjectives and powerful verbs as we can see in the lines

                                           “Forever sounds in answer

That most ancient of words”

“Forever” suggests that everyone has always has always had a companion and that it is the most ancient of traditions even though words cannot be ancient. This is a good use of metaphorical techniques.

The tone of the poem is very serious and uses a semantic field of words which depict violence and which overload you with inhumane images.

Overall throughout both poems Irina Ratushinskaya shows the harshness and heart aches in the camps. In “I will travel through the land” it is the mental suffering and how she misses her family, which is depicted. It is the physical suffering that is described in “I will live and survive”. Although they talk about different aspects of life in the camps they give us as readers an insight. Her determination and persistence to fight the regime plays a big part in both poems giving the reader hope that this type of regime can be beaten.

Sinead Morgan

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