1990-1991 o




BBC radio, Bristol

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    On the Monday afternoon our regular task of break for you, and this afternoon we decided particularly to place the music from the Soviet Union, from the late nineteen century composer, brilliant composer that he was too, Nikolaj Rimskij-Korsakov. You will know many many of these pieces comes from Scheherazade ( I shall have it pronounced properly for you very shortly). This one comes from Part III, The Young Prince and The Young Princess, and it was played for you by the concert orchestra of Amsterdam, and I am sure we should play some more Sneherezade on a later date.
    But now it is the time to join in the conversation the special guest who is joining us, as I already said, from the Soviet Union. Well, once upon the time, of course as you know, we viewed them as our deadly enemies. Generations were brought up to fear "the red threat", and the "nuclear war" was the only word we were told. We would certainly be fighting the Russians. But then along came Michail Gorbachev and everything changed. Now, as we gaily bang around words like "glasnost" and "perestrojka", suddenly there is the tremendous fascination with just by anything and everything to do with the Soviet Union. And that is why this afternoon I am particularly delighted to welcome as my guest Doctor Renata Muha-I hope I got her name right, I think I did; a much-travelled teacher, writer and Doctor of Letters from the Soviet Union, from Ukraine, non the less. Doctor Muha is in the West country under the auspices of the British Council, and she is here now to join me in a little bit of the candid conversation.
    - Doctor Muha, good afternoon!
    - Good afternoon! I am glad to tell you that you have managed to pronounce my name nearly correctly. It is Muha.
    -I have been flatted, as you know, Doctor Muha, and in fact you are here under the auspices of the British Council. What are you doing here in the Western England, this afternoon, Doctor Muha?
    -Well, I am doing, I am trying to concentrate on two things, but I would love to do many things. The first thing which we discussed with the British Council is the use of the storytelling, if you know what it means.
    -Yes, I do!
    - for teaching foreign languages, something , I think , I started in Russia, but I did not know that I was doing the storytelling when I thought about it , it did not have a name. And the second thing, is something I have not yet started doing, but which I am immensely interested in, and I hope English people might have some interest in too, is letting your English people know, because I suspect they do not know that, how immensely popular your English literature for children is in our country.
    -Is it?
    -It is, and I suspect, I do not suspect, I am sure actually, and I can prove it that it is more popular, in translation, in our country than, I mean your literature for children, than it is in yours.
    -Did you mean some classic literature? I mean I heard stories before that Russian and Ukrainian schoolchildren study things, you know, somewhat great classic pieces.
    -Yes, I assume the classic pieces, or first of all folklore "Mother Goose" stories and rhymes. Then of course there are classic pieces "Winnie the Pooh", "Mary Poppins", "Peter Pen", all these things, they have been made very popular, and very liked and loved by our, well, can I tell this word, our great authors and translators.You maybe heard their names: Chukovskij, Marshak, Boris Zahoder, Vadim Levin, Tokmakova, or other people. This is the fact, and I insist it is very popular and more popular than in your country.
    -Why is that? Because you come from a country with tremendous cultural history and tremendous writers and musicians, because brilliant music of Rimskij-Korsakov.
    Why Russian people, and Ukrainian people are so keen on British literature?

    -Good question, really. I discussed this question with my friend and fellow-author last year, no, this year, I think. I do not mean to say that we do not know and we do not enjoy our literature for children. I think there is something that despite of the differences that there are between our nations, something, perhaps the sense of humor, the attitude and the quality of translation that make it very close to our personalities in stories for children.
    - Does that mean that because youngsters in your country study our literature and like this side of the West they intend to know quite a lot about this country?
    - It certainly does and when you said, beginning with this useful phrase which I also like very much because I begin my storytelling sessions with "Once upon a time ", you used to hate everything connected with RussiaIs it what you said?
    - Yes, it isbecause we were told that you can come with the communism
    - I must tell you, and I am serious now, that I do not remember a time when we had this attitude to you, and I do not remember any time when we hated English people and were afraid of them. I think, on the contrary, we have always liked them, partly because of the fact that literature was so popular.
    - Yes, of course. Things have moved down a great deal, haven't they? But it is interesting first of all to learn, with all my fright of this period of history, the people had been fascinated by our writers, by our storytellers, and you youreself are a storytelling poetess, Doctor Muha, are not you?
    - Well, to some extent
    - What a call of logic you state, you have never been published in the Soviet Union.
    - Well, I have some work published in the Soviet Union, but most of my work is in the field of research that I am doing. So, I am, perhaps, an amateur poet and try to add (to be?) a professional teacher and lecturer.
    - And now you are here, inside the West, in the Western England, meeting all sorts of people in education and in teaching. What do you think about our education system here?
    - Well, education system is something, of course, I am greatly inerested in, and during my previous stays in England, there were two as I told you, I had a chance to see what was happening in English schools. I paid a visit to a school in London, Ludlow school in London, very interesting school. That was in the Summer of 1989, and this year, oh(laughing) this Summer, last Summer, what is that now?
    - You are confused, (laughing) because it was last Summer

    - For me last Summer would be in 1989, and the Summer of 1990 would be this Summer, and the Summer of 1991 will be next Summer.
    - Oh, languages are so inprecise, you know, here
    - Right, to come back to the point of teaching, the impression I got and I shared with the people, and I told the teachers during the talks with them that your teachers impressed me as being very professional, if that is the right word to use. On the other hand, I think that they work very hard. I happened to know a lot of them, they are dedicated teachers, I liked them, and what I do not like is the state they come home after the working day - it is poor.
    - This is interesting to interview a visitor to the United Kingdom talking in this way, some of your officy involved with teachers. It is because of the great complaints of many our teachers in this country that they have too much to do, too much work, and not enough facilities to ?cure? them.
    - That is not my impression. I am not in a position to judge about the facilities ?that? have much to do, but the attitude is something that makes them work so hard. In part, I think that it is their professionalism that makes them to work so hard. I stayed with a wonderful school in Ludlow, Moor Park School, that was a private School, and I visited a London school in East End. The conditions were different, professionalism was very good in both schools, and the state of these teachers, their exhaustion when they came home, seemed the same.

    - Are you trying to say that the Ukrainian teachers do not come home being exhausted?
    - They do, they do, but in a different way. We still have time and mood for chatting, for a cup of tea, for being friendly, for seeing people. I have noticed that your people mostly have time for getting ready for next day.
    - Yes, I am sure they'll be delighted to hear you saying that!!!
    - Really?
    - Well, really!!! Because it is such a political thing in this country at the moment. Many our teachers feel they are undervalued. Some elect yourself as a professional, you see the great dedication undervalued
    - Yes, and professionalism, that is important for a teacher. What I said, I meant to say: if you are undervalueing then you should not
    - And what you were saying, I was interested just when you were talking about private school, in Ludlow, did you say?
    - In Ludlow, Moor Park School. Oh, it was very interesting visit
    - and very different concept than you have in the Soviet Union
    - Absolutely! A private school and it was arranged by the teacher there Mr. David Allott who before that came to my university as a visiting teacher, that how I met him and how I knew him. So it was an exchange visit, because I brought a group of children, of Soviet children and we had a party of Moor Park children back to the Soviet Union, and I must say that the school was exceptional, they were exceptionally kind, and they allowed us to see so many things, to meet so many people, to see things I never suspected existed, really
    - Like what?
    - Like Downside Abbay, Wells ??? Abbey. We stayed there, it's a wonderful place , to meet people there, to make friends there
    - What do you think, Doctor Muha, of the concept of private education, of paying for education?
    - That is much disputed point in our country now, and if a few years ago we rejected officialy thisidea as not really fair, then now there is a lot of talks that it should be done because a main thing is really to have a generation with all their abilities developed and so on. And people in the small talks in school, parents and teachers, I think they have a tendency to feel more strongly about this having to pay for education, they even sounded guilty which is in a way they apologize it is not quite fairly we have this sort of education, and not everybody can pay for it. What I think is this:first of all, the quality of education in your other schools, from what I saw in them, is very high. Now, if it is not quite fair, well, I may repeat to you what I told the people who were complaining about it not being fairLife is not meant to be faire, perhaps, so why should education
    - Yes, I suppose that's a point that we raise endlessly on this Now, is that the idea then, of your visit, as you just mentioned, that the children from the Soviet Union and British children will have a lot to learn from each over? Having this in terms of education, Doctor Muha?
    -In terms of education, not only in terms of education, but in terms of attitude, of human relationships I think it was very important , and I am very grateful to this school, Moore Park School, its director John Budham who arranged it.
     And the children whom I know, so many children and not only those who went with me thought of it. Now many people know what English people are like. I brought a cassette which shows a TV show, English and Russian children on TV talking about what they thought of England.
     And the Russian boy, his name was Ilyusha, when he was asked what he thinks about England coming back: "-I've never thought that England is such a big city."
    - We are of course not quite as big as the Soviet Union, because that is so immense country.
     What do you think about this country, what do you like about this contry, and what you dislike?
    - You know, to be able to tell you what I like and dislike most in your country, I have to state that I want to come here again. I mostly like the things I see, but I must say that it is a bit difficult, of course, and we are different. Perhaps, it is just the first level of communication, not a deep concept. But we are different. What I like about this country is that it is so beautiful, and so absolutely unlike anything I saw. It has a lot of character.
    - Unlike anything you have in the Soviet Union?
    - Not unlike anything in the Soviet Union, but unlike any foreign country I might see in future! I've not seen other foreign countries, it is rather complicated. Now, I like the English language, I like English manners, though again, that makes it difficult. I like English people, their behavior and attitude to other people, and again there is something on the other hand, that makes it very difficult for a foreigner to deal with you. You know, we are different, I can mention a few features that make it difficult.
    - Yes, do
    - You make allowances for the people who come here from our country when they find something difficult. The starting point of your communication is a very warm smile. With us, perhaps, it would be more reserved at the beginning, but then you start with smile, with this very warm English smile, and you do not go much further, for a very, very, very long time
    - Is it that we are very reserved
    - Oh, yes! And it started with a smile, and you, being a Russian, think: "-Oh, good, I have now some very nice friend", and you expected to go on further than more smiles, and you are just stay where you are it is a smile
    - I do not want to have the wrong impression, I just move this table Very soon, haven't IThank you, Doctor Muha Because this table just rattling there I just do not want to carry it on, I just pushing it away
    - So, Russian people do not have that reservedness, they are much more open, are not they?
    - Oh, yes! We would not be so friendly, openly friendly at the very first meeting. Because, you know, I had this difficulty, my own difficulty when I only came here and I came to Surrey University with my very dear friend Ruth Thornton who invited me here, and I saw a lot of people there, they saw me and smiled at me widely and warmly, and I thought: "For God's sake, Ruth, I don't remember these people, how stupid that I do not know them. I should remember them." You would not see this in Russia. If you don't know people personally, you would get no smile.
    - No.
    - If you do not know a person you get no to smile.
    - In this country, Doctor Muha, in the last year or so, there was such a fascination with what was in the Soviet Union, with the role of the leader, of Mr. Gorbachov and the way in which things change so dramatically and drastically. How does it affect you and what you do?
    - It did affect me really, and very favorably, and a lot of people that are my friends, and relatives, and my family. But I must say there is one thing I have to complain about "perestojka". Are you ready to listen to it?
    - Yes.
    - It deprived me of my best joke, of my favorite joke.
    - My God, what was that?
    - Well, about five years ago, and I told you that my first visit to England was only last yearLast Summer But about five years ago we had a group of people coming to our university, and the Dean of my department probably wanted to make a good impression, she wanted our faculty to make a good impression. There was nobody at hand, so she invited me to show them around, to make a speech. I tried very hard, and probably, more or less, succeded in impressing them with what I am doing. The lady who was a head of this group asked me: "- When did you last go to England?" Would it sound all right?
    - Yes, it sounds all right, good.
    - Very difficult pause followed. And I looked at my Dean and at other people and I said:     - I don't remember when the last time was, but there was no the first time yet" (laughs).
     It was a nice joke to tell, but not a very nice situation. And now, because the "perestrojka", I am here, it is not my first time, but the third time That was a joke.
    - But the joke has gone! But it does mean that you and your fellow-countrymen now are in many ways free to travel and see other countries, and there is a greater freedom in the Soviet Union, but I know that freedom has brought with this problems, problems of shortages, the economy being in the mess, everything
    - ProblemsWell, of course, there are problems. They are very great and very serious, and they are getting even more serious, as you probably know
    - I do. It is interesting to ask Forgive me for interrupting you, what we learned from many people who come from the Soviet Unionthat although we see here that Mr. Gorbachov is a great savior, a great changer of society, I know that in the Soviet Union he is not quite regarded in that way, is not he?
    - Well, some people have this attitude, I do not quite agree with them, and I think it is not quite fair. Because perhaps he didn't do everything you think he did, but he did very much and for even half, or one third, or a quarter, or one tenth what he did we and you should always be grateful to him.
    - Oh, I am sure everyone will be, but we are saying that, in a way, the Soviet Union as a group of countries is now beginning to devolve, to split up a little. We see the Baltic states, we see even perhaps your own region, Ukraine, all want to be individual. Can that be a good feature, you think, for your countries and your neighboring countries?
    - No, again I am not in a position to give real serious judgement about that, but as far as my personal view is concerned, some degree of independence, perhaps, is desirable. But I just cannot now see now the Soviet Union absolutely split. That is my personal opinion.
    - Each section tends to depend on another, doesn't it, but the trade, cultural links and all sort of things
    - I would hate to be a separate state from Russia where I know so many people and done a lot of work with them.That is my personal opinion.
    - But is there a sense of excitement now in the Soviet Union as these changes are going on. I know there are problems, but generally people are excited by the prospect of a different future?
    - I would not use the term "sense of excitement" now, I would say there was excitement in the past years. Now the situation is, as you know, is a bit tiring and difficult. I would not use the term "excitement" for the present moment. A less optimistic term should be applied, I think.
    - But meanwhile, for your work, working with children, storytelling, even find this trip and to be in this country, and to associate yourself with different teachers here?
    - That is I must look for really a strong word to express it. It is just wonderful. But it is not only the result of "perestrojka". I really must thank the British Council who made it possible, and Mr.Terrison, and my friends who introduced me to the British Council. And I must thank Mr.Terrison for "matchmaking" to find me a scientific adviser and, I hope, a friend by now, Mrs. Arlen Gilpin here. I work with her, we have some hopes which, I will I keep my fingers crossed, touch wood, and I wouldn't tell you what we hope (laught)
    - Can I ask you this? How did you learn all these bits of English phraseology, which I mean you speak wonderful English
    - Oh, not I do
    - Oh yes, you do! But you also can say something as "touch wood" and "cross your fingers", these are little bit of phraseology from our soul
    - Why shouldn't I? Let me remind you, I am a lecturer and a reader in the University of Kharkov, and it is my job, though you very cleverly quoted this thing: "Those who cannot do, teach".
    - Oh, you heard that? Oh dear, how embarassing. You don't know who said that, do you?
    - I know who said the second thing. I think it was Mark Twain.
    - Oh, it was Mark Twain: "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."
     You enjoyed your couple of visits to this country?
    - Immensely

    - And maybe you will bring some of your youngsters from Ukraine back to this area, to the South West of England to visit us?
    - I would be only too glad to bring my youngsters and to bring students, because I am not teaching youngsters, I would bring students and a lot of people. But anyway, whatever I learned here, I found out, I got the impressions I share with a lot of people, they enjoyed it.
    - Oh yes, it was marvelouse to meet you. Thank you very much indeed for coming to join us.
     You stay now in this country until January
    - Sixteenth of January.
    - So that means you spend Christmas with us in UK? Would you love to be at home on Christmas?
    - I might prefer it, but of course it is impossible, since I have to stay here. We have not got Christmas, you know. So perhaps, it will not be so difficult. On the other hand, we have a New Year eve. That is our only celebration.
    - Oh yes, you don't celebrate Christmas at all?
    - Not really.
    - Is there difference in celebrations together at the end of the year? Do you have to cover a New Year celebration?
    - Exactly, the thirty first of January. That is the night between the thirty first of no, not January, December and the first of January is the greatest celebration.
    - If you met many people in this country you can speak your language, Doctor Muha?
    - Not many, and unfortunately! Not many.
    - I am sorry about that. We are very bad in languages
    - Ah, but actually I am now trying to enlarge the number, is that the expression?
     Because in this School of Education where Dr.Gilpin, Mrs. Gilpin asked me to teach her group of students some Russian using this technique of storytelling. We already had two lessons and I taught them many words, and I can teach you the words, I can teach you something
    - Can you teach me something? It would be very useful, because I am quite hopeless What you can teach me? Can you teach me to say "Good afternoon" in Russian?
    - Could it be "Good morning", because "Good afternoon" is rather difficult?
    - (laughting) I should think "Good morning" would be rather tough, but fine, let it be "Good morning".
    - I'll try it. .
    - Say again.
    - .
    - Dobroe utro.
    - Very good. Not bad. Then, perhaps you can try for "Good afternoon - ."
    - Dobryj den'? Dobryj den'?
    - Yes. I see by the look of your face that you like being taught "- ! Good bye!"
    - Do svidaniya, I know it, good bye, isn't it?
     Doctor Muha, it has been pleasure to meet you. I hope you'll enjoy the rest of your stay in the South West. We will look after you, probably, if you feel missing your students and you'll be back to this country one of this nice day
    - Oh, it would be very pleasant, I shall think of this opportunity.
    - Thank you very much for joining me on this radio. Doctor Renata Muha!

December, 1991