Victor’s Vignettes: My Baba said …

Victor’s Vignettes … stories about life in soviet and post-soviet Ukraine.

-by Victor Sergeyev
Mikolayev, Ukraine

My Baba said…

Baba is what I called my granny on my father’s side … or sometimes just simply “Ba.”

My Baba was an amazing woman. Her folk wisdom and wit still inspire me to this day … even though I didn’t really even know her.

I was only two years old when she died, so there were times growing up when I wondered if I invented her myself. But she definitely did exist. I know this because throughout my childhood years, my mum was in the habit of prefacing folk sayings with: “As your Baba said…”

As a rule, in Ukrainian the sayings rhymed and made great sense.

Here are a few examples:

  • Вміла готувати, та не вміла подавати. (Good cooking, but poor presentation)
  • Дешева рибка – погана юшка. (Cheap fish makes bad soup)
  • Не так сталося, як гадалося. (Appearances can be deceiving).
  • Що швидко робиться, то криве родиться. (Haste makes waste.)
  • В чужих руках завше більший шматок. (The neighbour’s grass is always greener.)
  • За дурною головою і ногам нема спокою. (A foolish head creates restless legs.)
  • Дай Боже нашому теляті вовка зЇ’cти. (Please Lord, allow our calf to eat a wolf)
  • Не вчи рибу плавати. (Do not teach a fish to swim)
  • Дальше очі – дальше серце. (Out of sight – out of mind )
  • Дурень думкою багатіє. (A foolish man creates wealth only in his mind.)

As a child I was very proud to have such an astute and wise granny.

As I grew older, of course, I realized that she was not in fact the actual author of these remarkable sayings.

Still, Ukrainian proverbs always remind me of my granny. So my habit of adding “As my baba said…” will last forever!

– Narrated by Sergiy Kaznadiy

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