Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Remembering "Chief Vasily" and Russian reads

I have always loved Russian tales, specially their folk tales. I loved the land of Ivans and Ivanhoes, the brave men who always got the better of the fire spitting dragons.
Remember MISHA, the magazine from Russia? No, not the men as well as the women around you, with the men Misha … yes, most of them were named after this magazine / or the mascot (Mischka) [if you check, their fathers would have visited Russia around the time they were born. I speak from personal experience of having known 5 Misha's...all with the same story  ]
It must have been some 15 years since I read any Russian book (strictly, children’s book). While reminiscing, I remembered a translated book I had read, Chief Vasily. It was written by Tatyana Efimchenko-Evlakhova and till date, only one person I know has also read that book. I long to read it now, once again. Alas! I do not see any e-copy or any search result coming up through the mighty Google! :-/ The book is at mom’s place, so its gonna haunt me until I go there next and bring it back with me!!
Coming back to Chief Vasily, its a story of two friends, one of whom is Vasily. The other child, was a city boy, whose name, if I remember correctly was Peter. He was a ‘Moscowite’, which means he was from the big city of Moscow. I had read this story for the first time, when I was 8 and the word Moscowite has been a word of amusement since then. I love the way it sounds on my tongue!
Peter’s exams are over and his mother is taking him to the country. His father is an army man and wouldn’t be able to join them. Peter is upset and grudgingly accompanies his mother to the village. He is a snob and gets into a fight with the village boys, headed by Vasily the moment he gets off the boat. Over the time, he softened from being a snob to learning to share and care. My memory fails me, but I know this story was special … it was a well-woven story with a heavy dose of subtle moral education.
Unless my memory is completely failing me, I remember reading this phrase/adage/whatever in this book – ‘He who laughs last, laughs best’ and it made a huge impression on me when i was a kid and it got rolled in to my philosophy of life then and along with ‘every dog has its day’, it had the impact of making me nicer to others, or so I would like to think.  .
I’d given it a 5 stars back then, when I was 8. I still rate it the same!


  1. I searched for Chief Vasily and your page was the only reference to it I found, thanks!
    Yes, the other boy was Peter and there was an old man who served them soup with wooden spoons, there was a long row back from somewhere in a boat, and Vasily did something heroic stoically - that's all I remember.
    My book was illustrated (Raduga publishers?) and I too remember the adage you mention. I must confess I did not understand it at the time (I was 7 or 8, English is my 3rd language).
    Thanks for bringing back the memories - it has been 22 years and I still remember it fondly. The other book I remember was a book called 'The most beautiful horse' having a boy called Igor Ponomariev but could find no reference on the net :(
    Take care.

    1. Thrilled to come across someone else who has read Chief Vasily and remembers quite a lot about it! You are the first person :) My book was illustrated too, and if I am not wrong, Raduga publishers! You read it back then, despite English being your third language ... what do I say, I love you! Haha! Its when I find readers of rare books, do I realise, genuine readers are still around!

      Glad to connect, Pradeepta!

  2. Hello Pradeepta - I had read The Most Beautiful Horse, may be about 25 years ago (and many times since then). Still remember Igor and his master Boris Stephanovich and his master Denis Platinovich. Igor and his group of friends including the 'striking' ice skating champion.
    I was trying to find a copy to read this to my 6 year old and could not find my copy yet. There is no mention of if anywhere on google or amazon. I am narrating the story in my own words to him. He already loves it but I hate to hear it in my own words LOL.


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