Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Two Years Ago

Two years ago, I was enormously, rotundly pregnant. I was 10 days away from having our second child, which, we were fairly certain, was a girl.

Two years ago, the Wellstone campaign called me and asked if I would serve as a Russian interpreter at a campaign stop. Paul Wellstone was going to speak at a retirement community that had a lot of Russian immigrants and someone in the campaign remembered I speak Russian.

It was a 90 minute drive down there, I wasn't crazy about. But I was excited to combine two of my great loves -- the Russian language and Democratic politics -- and so I went.

Unfortunately, they had forgotten to notify the Russian-speakers that an interpreter would be there. There was a good crowd, but only one man who was from the Old Country, and he spoke Ukrainian.

"Who is here?" he asked.

"Paul Wellstone," I said.

"What's he running for?"

"The U.S. Senate."

The man thought a moment. "Is he for more government in my life, or less?"

I smiled. "He's a Democrat," I said. "A DFLer."

"I've had enough of the government being in my life," he snapped. "Look at Ukraine. See where that went. So this man Wellstone, he's a Socialist?"

If I had been talking with an American, I could have made a joke about how some called him that. But such jesting is touchy for some immigrants, so I told him he was not a Socialist, he was a Democrat, and that his parents were Russian immigrants.

The old man was done talking with me. He'd heard all he needed to hear. He left, and I had no one to interpret for.

It was a typical campaign stop. Roger Moe, who was running for governor, showed up late because he had just found out he'd become a grandfather again. With tears in his eyes, he gave a good speech about the responsibilities that older and younger generations owe each other. Many of us cried.

When Paul spoke, the room lit up. I said it was a typical campaign stop, but Paul, speaking, was so typically energizing and exciting it felt like everything he said was for the first time and just for you. He had the crowd applauding and hollering. At another point he had us quiet and near tears.

I can't remember specifics, though. If I'd known it was the last time I'd see him, I would have paid more attention.

Sheila was there as well, sitting with some of the residents and talking. Paul looked passionate, but tired. Sheila looked, as always, composed and engaged at the same time. She bent her head to hear what a woman was saying, and then laughed.

Afterwards, I went over to say hi. They were rushing to get to their next stop -- it was a tough and grinding campaign. Paul saw me as he was leaving. He grasped my hand with both of his and pulled me over in a hug. I nearly fell on top of him, being three times his size at that point. "HELLO!" he hollered, then kissed my cheek.

"Keep up the good work," I said, there being no time for more.

"Thank you so much," he said, and was gone.

2 comments:

  1. Your daughter has the name of a good person.

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  2. What a beautiful tribute, Krup. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete