This is an adaptation from a memoir I’m writing: ‘My Dad, Volunteer in WWI’.
Niš, Serbia – October 1914
Although he would have preferred to be engaged in battles on the frontline, Bogdan was pleased to work in a hospital. The hospital in Niš was set up in the cavalry barracks. He remembered now the Russian hospital in Belgrade, where he was volunteering in the Second Balkan War in July 1913. He remembered Tatyana Firsova he met in Belgrade, a distinguished young lady, a volunteer nurse who, like many distinguished young Russian women, came to help the Serbs. She was the daughter of a High Court Judge in Petrograd – St Petersburg. She was also veeery beautiful!
Bogdan’s knowledge of the Russian language was pretty elementary at the time and he worried how he would get along.
‘There’s nothing to worry about. Russian is easy. Just speak Serbian. All you have to do is put on a Russian accent’, his mates told him.
Thus reassured, he ventured one day to pay a compliment to the pretty damsel on her lovely rosy cheeks. As a soon as he had uttered the last word, Tatyana’s cheeks turned deep red, her eyes filled with horror and she fled the scene along with all the other horrified young ladies.
My God, what did he say to provoke such a violent reaction? Was it unladylike for a distinguished young Russian lady to accept a man’s compliment?
Soon after Dr. Grinenko, the chief surgeon, summoned him to his office. He knew some Serbian, which proved to be helpful.
‘Bogdan Ivanović, what was it you said to Tatyana Firsova? She is most upset. And so are all the nurses.’
‘I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to upset her. I just wanted to pay her a compliment. I told her she had beautiful rosy cheeks.’
‘Precisely, Bogdan Ivanović, you did pay her a compliment, but not on her rosy cheeks. You told her she had lovely rosy buttocks.’
When he told me this story, Dad looked both embarrassed and amused. He kept shaking his head in disbelief; I could see that he was transported back there, reliving the agony of the embarrassing moment.
‘You see, in Serbian “jagodice” means “cheeks” and in Russian it means “buttocks”, as I learnt there and then to my horror.’
‘Did she forgive you?’ I asked.
‘Yes, of course. We remained good friends. But from then on I was very careful with Russian words.’
Challenge: Create a post about consequences.
Copyright 2014 Irina Dimitric