My father made once the following note:
Translated it says:
“What is happiness?
What does it mean to be happy?
Happiness it is when you are understood!”
I don’t know, whether this was said by someone else or whether these were his own words. But one way or another, this note reveals what my father thought about meaning of happiness.
In connection to the novel I write about my father, I read, re-read and research books and material that bring me closer to the world he lived in, when he was looking for his family.
He and my mother gave us a wonderful family and I feel closer to them when I do the research and try to “time travel” into the early sixties and before that, and imagine the streets he walked, the books he read and the radio programs he listened to.
We listened a lot to the radio when I was small. To the music and different radio programs. I will always remember, as when I was with my mother and my father in Algeria, I eagerly waited and then listened excitedly to a greeting from my sister transmitted in a radio show from Moscow, where my sister stayed at a boarding school.
One radio program my father listened to, when he was young, was “Find a Person” hosted by the radio station “Mayak” (meaning Lighthouse). This program was moderated by the famous Russian children poet Agniya Barto, who used to work at an orphanage during 1960s.
She wrote a book with the same title, “Find a Person”. This book is based on the experiences she made during the World War II, in her work at the orphanage, as a poet and during the work on the radio program. My father gave this book to my sister as a gift.
I read this book as a teenager, and today, I discover it anew. In contrast to the first read, I don’t read the book at once. I read one story at a time, savor the story by reminiscing it and by thinking about all those families, who were separated during the World War II and who could find each other thanks to this program.
My father, encouraged by my mother, also wrote to Agniya Barto and her colleagues at the radio. The radio program and my father’s search are prominently featured in the book, I am writing.
One of the stories in the book “Find a Person” is about being understood.
Along with other writers and poets, Agniya Barto was invited to participate at a literary festival taking place in the capital of the former Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, today Armenia.
During this trip to Erevan, Agniya Barto was asked to give a speech at a train station. This speech was going to be transmitted on the radio. She had only one night for preparations and when they arrived, she discovered that she had to perform in front of hundreds of people.
After the speech, she asked Alexander Fadeev, who asked her to do the speech, whether he thought that the audience liked what she said. She hoped they did, because they clapped and cheered when she finished.
The answer was surprising and rather shocking for her. Alexander Fadeev said: “They did like it a lot, but they probably didn’t understand a thing. Because most of them don’t speak any Russian!”
With hurt feelings, Agniya asked Alexander why he didn’t warn her about this before the speech.
With a hearty laugh, he said: “Because, if you wouldn’t believe in having been understood, then you wouldn’t be able to speak from the heart.”
Wow, what a beautiful amendment to my father’s note!
All we need to do to be happy is to believe, be present and do whatever we do by putting our whole heart and soul into it. And by this, we can inspire others and make them happy, whether they understand our language or not.
The way to understanding goes through our hearts.