Wanda Wasilewska, Tęcza, The Rainbow
Stalin Prize Winner 1943
translated from Polish by George Hanna and Elizabeth Donnelly.
Calcutta, General Publishers LTD. 126. Viveidacanan Road
''What under the sun is that? ''
She stopped short and looked in the direction in which
Kurt was pointing. In the distance, where the blue of the
ground merged with the chill blue of the sky, a rainbow
gleaming, a glowing. column of colour rising aloft and disappearing, melting away in the infinite heights. Green, blue,
violet and rose hues,
a crystal clear, translucent vision, pure
and light, like tinted down.
," said the astonished Kurt. "A rainbow
winter. . . . Do you have such things here?"
Pusya thought for a moment.
"No, I don't think so, at least l”ve never seen one before."
Kurt was still standing there, his eyes bent on the glowing
column of colours joining heaven and earth.
“Comc on, it's cold, my feet arc frozen. . . . "
They say the rainbow is a good omen
"A rainbow is a rainbow
," said Pusya, finally losing all
patience and tugging at his sleeve.
In those few minutes the column had soared still higher
and curved round. Now the rainbow
hung over the earth in
a triumphal arch, rose, violet and green, glowing with a
luminous gold-steeped sheen
. The sky, a huge glass cupola,
covered the earth like a glass bell. On the square, the soldiers
at the guns, their heads thrown back, were staring at the
When they got home, Fedosia Kravchuk was standing in
front of the cottage. She too was looking at the rainbow
quietly, keenly, intently.
''They say the rainbow is a good omen,
'' remarked the
officer as he passed.
The elderly peasant woman shrugged her shoulders.
"Yes, yes, so they say," she answered in a strange voice,
and stood aside to let them inter. She herself remained
standing at the door. Dressed only in blouse and skirt, her
arms bare, she stood there completely oblivious of the bitter
frost, unable to take her eyes from the glowing vision, the
triumphal arch flung across the sky, iridescent, pervaded with
a soft, golden, diffuse radiance.
"Did you see the rainbow
"Yes, I saw it.
"What's it mean?".
The tall man shrugged his shoulders.
"What can it mean? I suppose they have rainbow
winter. But just look ait those columns! "
"That's from the frost."
"Of course, and the rainbow
must be from the frost, too. "
"Possibly," agreed the short German, breathing on his
hands, and looked around uneasily.
"What's there? "
"Nothing, I was just looking."
She still grasped the rifle in her hand, but she herself was
already far, far away from everything, floating in the rainbow
sheen, in the azure blue of the icy morning, in the
sparkling snow on which the sun's first rays were falling.
The first rays had awakened the rainbow
. It’s pale arch
had been visible overhead all night long, but only as an indistinct,
pearly strip, hardly noticeable in the depths of the sky.
Now the sun gave it brilliance, warmth and colour, and it
played in the heavens with a pure light, and the delicate hues
of tinted fluff. It was steeped in the glow of rosy petals,
the violet of early spring lilac, the fresh green of lettuce, in
the shades of bluebells, the brilliant purple of roses and the
gold of campion
. And over all was a warm, translucent
gleam, an undying radiance.
Malasha's eyes were turned towards this rainbow
, to the
luminous arc sweeping across the sky. Her life was fast
ebbing away, seeping out of her body with her blood. Her
fingers stiffened, her legs grew cold, her body froze. But
all the while her happy eyes looked at the rainbow
, at the
lustrous path stretching from end to end of the distant
heavens. A path of light leading to an unknown destination,
a path of happiness in the blue of the heavens which the sun
was making brighter and brighter. She was travelling the
path, she, Malasha, the prettiest girl in the village,
the best worker on the collective farm. It was about her
they had written in the newspapers, for her that the summer
nights had been filled with love.
There was no longer any ice or snow. The hay rustled
under her head, fragrant, redolent of flowers. Somewhere
nearby a spring of fresh water was gurgling. The meadow
was sweet-smelling. The sound of voices, of girls singing.
and of boys' laughter came to her from afar. The silence
of the night was broken by an accordion. Her eyes sought
in the sky, but, no, how could there be a rainbow
it was a summer night. . . . Ivan was laughing
merrily. There were his eyes in front of her face, grey eyes
beneath black brows. The picture faded, wiped out by
nocturnal darkness. But the rainbow
had been there, had
just been there. She wanted to see it once again, to let her
eyes feast on its radiance.
With difficulty Malasha raised herself on her elbow. A
savage, inhuman pain ran through her, and she fell back
again onto the snow. She felt that she was dying, knew that
she was dying, and her hands reached up in an endeavour
to seize that gay ribband, the rainbow
thrown across the sky.
But it was only darkness that her fingers grasped. Her eyes,
turned towards the sky, became glassy. Her even, white
teeth gleamed through her parted lips. Her face set in a
strange expression in a smile filled with suffering.
He stared into the distant blue with his one eye as though
seeking an answer there. And there he saw the rainbow
great arc flung from end to end of the horizon, a gleaming
ribbon linking heaven and earth. The tender, iridescent
hues were glowing. A vague memory glimmered in his befuddled
brain: where had he seen such a rainbow
of course, before that snowstorm. . . . What was it the
woman had said then? She had claimed that the rainbow
was a good omen.
Captain Werner groaned. The rainbow
was smiling with
a joyous radiance. It was a good omen but not for him.
shone joyously, but he no longer saw it. He
had sunk into darkness.
And he saw the rainbow
, flung across the heavens in a
clear-cut, shining path, a resplendent band, iridescent, with
the hues of the tinted fluff blown from flowers, with the pale
pink of the wild rose and the crimson of the garden beauty,
with pale lilac and woodland violet. It flamed with the gold
of sunflower petals and quivered with the tender green of
uncurling birch leaves
. And all was steeped in a soft, clear
glow. From east to west the rainbow
arched, joining heaven
and earth with a lustrous ribband.
Shalov turned to his men.
With long, rhythmic strides, they marched ahead. The
villagers remained on the hilltop. Nobody spoke. The detachment
moved off along the road into the limitless expanse
of the dazzling white plain, into the glory of the rainbow
The Red Armymen were marching off towards the wisps
of smoke in the distance which marked the site of fire-ravaged
Levanevka, to villages nestling in the snow-drifts. Gripping
their rifles firmly, they marched over Ukrainian soil, trampled
on, and strangled by the German yoke. But invincible,
inflexible, fighting still.
The villagers were silent, painfully silent, as they strained
their eyes till tears blinded their vision, watching the soldiers
going farther and farther away. Waiting until the detachment
melted into the blue distance, into the snowy expanses,
into the many-hued, all-embracing glow of the rainbow