Connecting with characters as a translator
by Marina Palenyy Bailey
Translator Marina Palenyy Bailey is a native of the Donbas region of Ukraine. She emigrated to the US at the age of 12 and is currently a middle school teacher in Tennessee.
“I knew that Oleg had built a meaningful world because his story left me, a full blown adult, needing to hear the ending. As I prepared to translate the last chapter, I could picture in my mind this world, I could picture the girl, Lisa and see her companions, each wrapped in a magic of their own, and how they came together to guide this innocent child through her challenges.”
This project engaged me from the beginning. As an immigrant from the Donbas region of Ukraine to the US, I knew that translating Ukrainian authors’ works into English was one unique way for me to contribute toward Ukraine’s victory. When Charlotte, the publisher, found me, I knew I had been given a golden opportunity. Even though I have never translated young adult or children’s books before, I had always loved books as a small child in Ukraine, and later as a teen in the US. I adored Aesop’s fables, Hans Christian Anderson, then C. S. Lewis, then Lois Lowry, and many others who paved the way of my imagination to take flight. If I could do the same by bringing Oleg’s work to the English speaking audiences, I knew it was a true privilege to me.
illustration from the book
Once I got to work, I noticed I quickly became attached to the characters, and felt true compassion and even love for Lisa, the protagonist. In her, I saw my own ideals as a child, I saw the innocence and faith in the goodness of the world.
As I translated, I rediscovered the child who walked to the library after school to sit in the upholstered chair and dive into the world of tales and fables that helped me see a world through the lens of good inevitably defeating evil. And through these books, I saw myself playing an important, albeit small, role. Lisa reminded me of her.
Line by line I translated Lisa’s journey, meeting her friends, as I had my own, and witnessed the villainous characters attempt to destroy her hope of a steady, resilient future. And line by line, I watched Lisa find the courage to overcome each and every attack, no matter the cost. Our Ukrainian defenders and children experiencing the war came to mind as I worked on the manuscript.
Once I reached the second to last chapter in my translations, I felt a physical reaction in my body to the fate of the little girl. The story kept taking turns and uncertainty always lurked in the periphery, so as I followed Lisa’s story, even though it’s a children’s book, I found myself becoming emotionally invested in this fictional character.
Through my own emotional involvement with the text, I knew that Oleg had built a really meaningful world because his story left me, a full blown adult, needing to hear the ending. As I prepared the to translate the last chapter in my cozy workspace (photo) and I could picture in my mind this world, I could picture the girl, Lisa, I could see her companions, each wrapped in the magic of their own, and how they came together to bring this innocent child through her challenges. This story even inspires me to be courageous, to face fear in a way that feels unnatural–when it’s easier to run away and hide from the darkness in the world. I cannot wait to see what happens to Lisa next, and I can’t wait to see what else Oleg has got up his sleeve for his readers in Books 2 and 3!
Author Oleg Veretskiy suspended his career to support his country’s fight for freedom. Help us publish his magical coming-of-age tale!