It rained and rained on Odessa that day
And you walked smiling
Beaming delighted soaked
Under the rain
It rained and rained on Odessa
I saw you on the Potemkin stairs
You were smiling
And I smiled too
I didn’t know you
You didn’t know me
Remember that day
Do not forget
“A man under a porch took shelter
He shouted your name
And you ran towards him under the rain
Soaked delighted beaming
And do not frown at me if I call you by your name
I call by their name all those I love
All those who love
Even if I don’t know them
Do not forget
That rain wise and happy
On your smiling face
On this happy city
That rain on the sea
On the harbour
On the boat to Mariupol
The absurdity of war
What’s become of you now
Under that rain of iron
Of fire of steel of blood
And the one who held you in his arms
Is he dead missing or still alive
“Oh Barbara it rains and rains over Odessa
As it rained before
But it is not the same anymore
All is broken, destroyed
It is a rain of doom full of dread and sorrow
It is not even the storm
Of steel and blood
That die like dogs
Over the waters of Odessa
And go rot in the distance
Far, far away from Odessa
The city that is no more.”
*Jacques Prévert wrote “Barbara” between late 1944 and 1946, when he published it in “Paroles”. The original poem in French is about a young woman in Brest, the western-most city and harbour of France totally destroyed by bombing during the war.
In this translation I changed Brest for Odessa, la rue de de Siam for the Potemkin stairs, Ouessant for Mariupol. Odessa, I understand, is still relatively spared by the war in Ukraine. Hopefully it won’t be destroyed. Mariupol has been torn to the ground. Massacred. And yet, Mariupol is still fighting as of April 18th.
The “model” for the sketch is a young Ukrainian woman photographed in Dalo’s wonderful post on the spirit of Ukraine. (The featured picture on this blog’s home page is (c)ourtesy Dalo aka Randall Collis.) See Dalo’s post here:
This post is for Olga, her family, friends, and the brave people of Ukraine. 🇺🇦
If you would like to donate for Ukraine, World Central Kitchen, an NGO (recommended to me by Rebecca at Fake Flamenco) is doing a fantastic job providing meals in more than 30 cities and towns in Ukraine. Here’s their link:
90 thoughts on “Barbara *”
So beautifully tender and heartbreaking. Thank you so much for sharing and the lovely moving drawings. ❤️
Hi Coeur de Feu. I don’t know why your comment went to Spam… Then I lost it…
Thank you for your comment and visit. 🤗🇺🇦
Thank you 😊 it happens!
Thank you for this important post.
Thank you Cindy…
I’d been wanting to do a portrait of Olga, based on a photo by Dalo. Wasn’t quite sure how to handle it. Then another blogger wrote a poem in Spanish that reminded me of Prévert’s poem. And it clicked.
A truly heart felt post, Brian.
You did fabulous!
The war is making me sick to my stomach. I will do posts about the Ukraine, as much as possible.
Charlotte and I are working on one together. I’ve got one more drawing to do.
Keep up the good work, and keep the faith!
Thank you Resa. That war is also making me sick to my stomach. So little we can do… And yet. Yet… I feel every tiny little – or big – post we can do, helps.
A post with Charlotte sounds very promising…
Is that the comment you were saying?
What is wrong with WP? Your comment was fine, but I found one by Holly in the Spam folder… 🙄
Oh MAN! I have found Holly in the SPAM, and other of my faves. We’ve been blogging with each other for 8 years. Still… regular SPAM checks are the answer.
I know. Weird though. Been blogging with her for quite a while too. I suspect somebody in WP recently violated Computer rule #1: “If it works don’t fix it” and changed SPAM rules. I check it too at least once a week now.
This is a wonderful rendition of Préverts poem, Brian. I like the way you build your drawings and how they fit in between the stanzas. ‘Only clouds/That die like dogs…’ What an image!
“Dogs”… That is Prévert for you. I was just a humble translator/illustrator. 😉
As for the “sketches” it’s only one of course. I take pictures, many, along the way, then pick up those that go with the text. In this case the poem had 9 parts, so it had to be 9 stages of the final drawing.
Dankje wel Peter.
(PS. is Prévert know in your neck of the woods?)
I myself had not heard of Prévert before. I googled a bit and it seems that he was’t well known in the rest of the Netherlands too. Wich is a shame! Because from what I read he was a very interesting guy and in France and also elswhere famous. And rightly so. He was extremely productive too, putting deep thoughts into simple and effective words. So now I want to read more of him. I’m going to look for Dufch or English translations. (My French unfortunately is beyond weak, although I did take a serious course half a liftetime ago and I secretly hope that after some practise I at least will be able to read it again.) By the way – however I can’t judge your translation, it is a moving piece of text, so certainly in that regard very well done.
Jacques Prévert was a very talented artist, even wrote screenplays or songs. Montand sang many of his texts. He was very active in Saint-Germain from before the war to his death.
Not sure he was known much outside France. Maybe Amazon can find you Dutch or English versions.
Translation was easy, Prévert used simple words. Was criticized by some for that. But his text is very powerful. More now that war is “back”.
Best of luck in finding translations.
This poem is just heartbreaking. I was very moved by it.
I heard that poem, in French, for the first time in Senior HIgh. End of year “show”. A friend of mine, Françoise picked this poem to recite. I was very impressed then.
Recently a Spanish blogger wrote a text that made me remember “Barbara”. I had Olga’s photo in mind for a sketch. Brest became Odessa because of the giant staircase.
(between us, every time I reviewed the final version of the post for details, my heart felt heavy…)
Feeling heavy-hearted is certainly understandable. And we shouldn’t become complacent or accepting of it as this war drags on.
Indeed. The Poles, the Czechs, the Baltic republics are running point on this. Plus all the US weapons delivered to Ukraine… But I still think it’s not enough.
Let’s see what happens. One day at a time.
It occurred to me last night as I was watching the latest news report that the Russians have been throwing so much ordnance at Ukraine, shouldn’t they be running out soon?
Very likely. They’ve lost 500 tanks (out of 2,800). Those 500 tanks are double the entire number of tanks France has. (Frightening). A retired french military just said that in such a conflict, France would run out of planes in 10 days, and ammo in two days… (Frightening again)
So even if Russia has clearly invested a lot in warfare these past years, they might run out soon. Which is why we need to keep supplying the Ukrainians…
Has a war ever ended this way, with the aggressor running out of weapons and ammo?
Probably not. When it did, they usually pulled the knives and bayonets out of their sheath and went corps-à-corps. War is a “No quarter” affair.
I loved that journey ❤️
Thank you. it was a challenge, but the original poem in French is so good, and real that i couldn’t blotch it.
The sad thing remains, that Brest was destroyed nearly 80 years ago, and bombs are flying again…
take care. 💕
Heartfelt Brian 💙💛🕊tender renderings…sending peace and all good things ~ hedy
Dankje wel Hedy… 🙏🏻💕
So well adapted, Brian
Thank you Derrick. Only too kind as usual. All recovered?
Yes, thanks. Becky, now at home, has had a bad bout but now improved.
Improved is good news. A blogger friend just had 3 heavy weeks. Now improving too. What a pernicious little bug. (COVID not my friend) 😉
Too many lives are tragically cut short by the outbreak of war. I love how the repetitions and world play in this poem remind the reader of the overall lullaby-tone of the poem, and the feeling of familiarity between himself and the poet grows into an experience of love itself: the reader becomes one of the lovers. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva
Thank you Aiva. Prévert really did a great writing job, until the final twist of Brest’s destruction. Now Mariupol… And yes, too many lives. Russia will pay dearly for what is being done. I say that not in a spirit of revenge, but justice. It is still unbelievable in the 21st century that a permanent member of the Security Council should be able to do that.
I am also amazed at the courage of the Ukrainians and the solidarity of Poland, Czech and the Baltic republics… 👏🏻
Take care my dear.
Oh. One more thing: your sister-in-law’s husband’s daughter? Who went back to fight?Is she all right?
Yes, she is. She’s back in Ukraine, but the rest of her family is still in Latvia, with my in-laws 🥰
Glad to hear that she is all right. I can imagine her parents and sisters and brothers…
Peace in Ukraine 🇺🇦
A sad and poignant reminder that history repeats itself. So heartbreaking.
It does doesn’t it? I remember your father was in the war…
He was. I keep watching news reels and thinking is this 1939 or 2022? So surreal.
It is. Surreal. Totally wacko. Your father, had he seen that would have been shaking his head in disbelief…
Une belle adaptation de ce poème de Jacques Prévert pour illustrer un dessin tout aussi beau… 👏🏼
Merci et Bonne soirée Brieuc
Merci à toi Mélie. J’ai parfois (souvent) un tel sentiment d’impuissance face à ce qui se passe en Ukraine… On fait les petites choses qu’on peut…
I love that poem by Prévert, powerful adaptation!
Le poème m’a “sauté” à la figure, de nouveau. Je l’ai cherché pour une bloggueuse (Espagnole) et j’ai pensé “Voilà mon texte pour le ‘portrait’ d’Olga…”
Thank you for the “powerful adaptation”.
What is happening is beyond reason. Are we back in the 19th century? 😡
Oui, situation horrible. En tant qu’Orthodoxe, je suis d’autant plus horrifiée et malade de la position du patriarche…
Orthodoxe? Pas courant. Le signe de croix “à l’envers…” (Je blague bien sûr). Le patriarche? Oui, c’est dommage, mais dans l’histoire, les grands leaders religieux n’ont pas toujours été à la hauteur… Pie XII n’a pas toujours été très clair.
Et pour l’Ukraine c’est un peu comme si la France décidait de massacrer la Wallonie sous prétexte qu’ils parlent Français. Fort triste.
The progression of the poem along with the progression of your drawing… absolutely spellbinding. Emotions are in full force with this post, Brian, and this is the beauty of art. Wonderful and thank you. This is a very nice dance between the poem and drawing: the poem carrying something significant to build up the piece and is met, in turn, with the drawing to take it to a higher level. This creativity brings life to them both ~ beauty, hope, and heartbreak…
I had never read the original poem by Jacques Prévert, but I love how you adapted it to Barbara/Olga ~ and the drawing is magnificent, beautiful, and the nice surprise of her hair reflecting the spirit and flag of Ukraine, I really found this perfect. Brilliant! Bless you, bless all the Barbaras and Olgas out there ~ take care 🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦
Thank you Dalo. Your opinion means a lot to me for obvious reasons. (I’m gonna have to start paying you royalties for all your photos!)
The colours of Ukaine just went through my ming when I started drawing, figuring how to render her blonde hair.
Heartbreak it is. And one feels so helpless. Then I think: Brest was rebuilt. Mariupol will be. Meanwhile every little post that we write for Ukraine may help a little. Hopefully.
And yes, bless all the Barbaras and Olgas.
Pingback: Barbara * – Nelsapy
A very poignant post. My heart is touched for those brave wonderful people. Lovely adapted poem and artistic illustrations. Thank you.
Thank YOU for your visit and comment.
Beautiful and sad at the same time.
Both indeed. What is happening in Ukraine is beyond forgiveness… Thanks for your comment and visit. 🙏🏻
Another truly wonderful/beautiful post. How can anyone understand what’s taking place in Ukraine? It’s vicious murder, day after day.
It is. Vicious. And Ethiopia, current president of the G20 has refused to expel Russia on the basis of “Impartiality”. Grrrr.
What a powerful poem! Your sketches do the words justice.
Not sure how I missed this post – think WP is playing up again. 😦
Thank you. yes, WP is out to get us. Your comment was “pending”. In other words I’d missed it. I will now go to Spam. 🤣
Ha, ha, always check that spam folder! 🤣
On my way…
Wonderful re-interpretation. At a time when so many of us feel powerless, every effort to push back against the horror that is happening in Ukraine is important.
Thank you. It’s exactly how I feel. (And that is far from over. We, the West and allies will have to do more…)
(Did you know the original French poem?)
Thanks, this reweave of the poem and painting work well to call attention to the tragedy of war in the Ukraine. Thanks for the shout out about WCK!
Gracias Rebe. They’re actually starting to bomb Odessa… Darn.
No, thank YOU for pointing them out to me. I think they’re doing a fantastic job. When the sh.. hits the fan, all goes back to basics: shelter, food and water… I am very grateful for your rec.
Thanks, Brian, very kind. Helps to feel I can positively affect the situation there by donating, to help provide food. Wish I had a magic wand to return the Russian troops to sender.
Don’t we all? Right now, Biden is waving the magic wand of billions of dollars of equipment to help the Ukrainians fight. As Roosevelt did when he sent tons and tons of armament to Churchill even when the US was not at war yet.
It was a great read, I will remember Barbara. Glad I found your blog.
Mucho gusto también… 😉
you’ve take profound poem & concept to a beautiful new levels — bravo
Thank you. Ever since I saw Dallo’s post I wanted to paint that young woman and adapt Prévert’s Barbara. Glad you liked it.
Because of bombers, while Brest city inspired Jacques Prévert’s poem – “Barbara” (1950), Dresden inspired a great poem too:
“Die Bitten der Kinder” (1951) – Bertolt Brecht ,
“Plead of the Children” English language version.
Effectivement. Brest détruite. Quand à Dresde… rasée. As many German cities…
Brecht? A good reference. Je vais voir… merci du tuyau.
Thank you ! I am grateful your answer is in Frensh language, well done.
In Marsh, I wrote this article: https://radaghast.fr/poemes-mis-en-chanson/
at that time , as many of us all over the world, we were in the same mood and needed to write such articles.
Ah ben “chuis” Français quand même. 😉
Je vais voir le post. Bon week-end
Lu et écouté. Un post superbe, malgré la désolation du sujet…
Désolée, honte à moi !
Pardonnez mes fautes, je ne maîtrise pas totalement le français, quant à l’anglais….😢 bof bof😿
Et merci pour vos commentaires trop sympa.
Pas de quoi. Je n’ai rien trouvé dans votre blog sur “about me”. 😉 Bon week-end.
Pas de fautes apparentes. 😀 Pas d’anglais? Hmmm. D’où êtes-vous donc? Aradaghast? Je ne vois pas. Peut-être parlez-vous une autre langue que je parle un peu?
Française, native du Maine et Loire Angers, vivant en Sarthe depuis une trentaine d’années, pour le travail.
Radaghast le gris à cause de la couleur des cheveux, pharmacien de formation, toujours en activité , aimant la nature, fibre écolo…
Enchanté. Moi c’est Brieuc. Né aux Indes et élevé un peu partout… (D’où le blog en Anglais. Nul n’est parfait…) Bon Dimanche
Communiquer l’esprit éveillé et ouvert à la discussion, c’est suffisant pour Radaghast.
Communiquer l’esprit éveillé et ouvert à la discussion, c’est suffisant pour Radaghast.
Oh the beauty of your rendition of Barbara.
Barbara is the woman each of us has experienced in our lives, even if for only a minute or so.
Minutes that swell the soul in remembrance. We always wonder if we will ever meet again.
Where are you Barbara?
Thank you for providing that memory, and we will pray for peace in Ukraine,
Thank you Steve. I picked up drawing again 5 years ago, after a 40 years break…
I started doing this young Ukrainian woman’ portrait, wondering what words I would put, when Prévert’s “Barbara” came back to my mind. In the original it was brest that was destroyed. While I was drawing, it was Mariupol. War never stops, sadly.