Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva was born on 8 October 1892, a terrible time to be alive in Russia but it would seem as if this extraordinary Russian poet was made for such a time in history. Turmoil, war and revolution would be the legacy of her homeland in those years and her personal life would be marked with much the same.
Her father was the famous Ivan Vladimirovich Tsvetaev, a professor of Fine Art at Moscow State University. It was he who later founded the Alexander III Museum, now known as the Pushkin Museum of Fine Art. Her mother, Maria Alexandrovna Meyn, was a talented concert pianist.
Those were hard years for the intelligentsia in Russia and when the Bolshevik revolution came in 1917, the economic hardship on the family became even greater. After her daughter Irina died during the famine that followed the Communist revolution, Tsvetaeva fled to Western Europe but life in those days was no better for an immigrant from the East and so in 1939 she returned with her husband and daughter Ariadna to Russia.
Any Russian who had lived overseas was suspect in the eyes of the madman Joseph Stalin and soon after returning her husband was arrested. Tsvetaeva committed suicide on 31 August 1941, ending her tormented life but leaving Russia with a legacy of beautiful poetry like this:
I Know the Truth
I know the truth – forget all other truths!
No need for anyone on earth to struggle.
Look – it is evening, look, it is nearly night:
what will you say, poets, lovers, generals?
The wind is level now, the earth is wet with dew,
the storm of stars in the sky will turn to quiet.
And soon all of us will sleep beneath the earth, we
who never let each other sleep above it.
“I know the truth” Tsvetaeva (1915). (Trans. by Elaine Feinstein)
Her husband and daughter were exonerated after the death of Stalin and in 1992 a Soviet postage stamp was commemorated in her honour.
He смейтесь вы над юным поколеньем!
Вы не поймете никогда,
Как можно жить одним стремленьем,
Отвагой бранной грудь бойца,
Как свято отрок умирает,
Девизу верный до конца!
Так не зовите их домой
И не мешайте их стремленьям, —
Ведь каждый из бойцов — герой!
Гордитесь юным поколеньем!
Memory eternal. Вечная память.