Thursday, November 01, 2012

Two Words in Ukrainian

This morning I awoke, as usual, so tired that it was an agony to get out of bed and go to work. But I did it, I got out of bed.
Had a shower, made a breakfast, packed my lunch, filled my coffee mug, and got in the elevator for the descent to my car. Yawning all the way!
When the doors opened at the parking garage level, I sort of let out a great gasp of tiredness. A sort of audible grand-moan of inner fatigue escaped me.
The door to the custodian's office was open and there sat Maria.
She is a sweet sweet lady who takes care of our place, and does a fantastic job of it. Maria heard me and laughed and said, in her broken English, "Ohhh, how you are today?"
Maria is from the Ukraine. Like, as in, recently from the Ukraine.
And I myself am 100% Ukrainian, but have never been there. I know just a wee smattering of the Ukrainian language [I have a more thorough grasp of all the best swear words] and as I passed her office, where she was taking a break, I said to her, "Hochesh spateh," which, being interpreted, roughly means, "I need sleep."
Please forgive me, all other actual Ukrainians out there who may know the better phonetically-correct English spelling of this phrase. It's a bit of a tongue-twister.
What was so remarkable though, was her response. I thought she was going to fall right off her chair. She was so surprised… someone speaking to her in Ukrainian!
Her hands went up to her face and her eyes got all big and bright -- in a word, she was tickled pink! 

And she kept laughing and repeating what I had said to her, as I wished her a good day [in English] and kept walking out to my car.
I recount this little vignette just to illustrate how you can so quickly shed such joy in an immigrant's life by saying just a few words to them in their native tongue. I made her feel happy, and I myself also felt a lot better. Without this little boost, I may have turned around and got back in the elevator, pressed 14, and went back to my bed.



Melwyk said...

Lovely story! I can relate to knowing just a spattering, but it's so wonderful that you knew just the words for the occasion :)

Stefanie said...

Are you sure you said you needed sleep and not something else? ;)

Cipriano said...

Melwyk -- I have a very fluent-challenged grasp of the Ukrainian language -- but it's so neat to know the odd phrase.

Stefanie -- good point. What if what I thought meant "I need sleep" actually meant, "Frig you, Maria!"

Anonymous said...

Such a True heart warming day actually went somewhat better than planned after hearing your true message of hope for the future, immigrants and cast aways. Don't stop the message.