Pavel Aleksandrovich Babich, 85, passed away Sunday, December 9, 2018, at his home in Springfield, VT. He was born in Leningrad, Russia, on November 30, 1933, the son of the late Aleksandr Pavlovich and Elizaveta Vasilyevna. He studied engineering in Russia and immigrated to the United States with his wife, Dzhemma, and four children in 1980, before settling in Springfield, VT, in 1986. He used his engineering knowledge in a machinist career prior to designing his own machine tools to create beautiful woodwork vases and flowers. His creativity was unceasing and was manifested through his poetry which was published in his first book, “Низкое Hебо” (Low Sky) in 1996.
He was predeceased by his parents and sisters, Ludmila and Galina.
He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Dzhemma (Kvachevskaya), and four children: Aleksandra Davis (Charles) of Springfield, VT; Lev Babich of Merced, CA; Aleksandr Babich (Jennifer) of Wells, ME; and Ksenia Bruner (Fr. Gregory) of Fort Wayne, IN. He is also survived by eight grandchildren: Dmitri, Andrew, and Gabriel Freeman; Eli and Noah Babich; Matthias, Thaddeus, and Ileana Bruner.
The funeral service was held at 9:30 am Friday, December 14, 2018, at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Springfield, with Fr. Peter Carmichael officiating. Graveside service and burial followed at Oakland Cemetery in Springfield.
Pavel A. Babich
The poetry of Pavel Babich was shaped by three main events in his life.
The first is WWII and the blockade of Leningrad, which he experienced as a seven-year-old boy. Numerous deaths around him and the expectation of his own deprived him of a normal childhood. “Why? Who was responsible for such horror?” His search for answers to these questions continued throughout his life.
The second event is the arrest and death in the Soviet concentration camp of his father. Pavel saw his father for the last time in 1939 when he was leaving for the winter as the head of the polar station on Domashny Island (a part of Severnaya Zemlya, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean in the north of Russia). Honorary polar explorer, A.P. Babich, was arrested in 1941, sentenced to death as a “traitor to the Motherland,” and sent to Stalin’s era labour camp. According to the official version, he died in the camp in 1950 from a “stomach ulcer.” He was posthumously rehabilitated in 1965.
Pavel Babich did not know his father since his childhood, but later he wrote: “I remember the pages where I am guilty before him.” As an adult, Paul made desperate attempts to find out about the circumstances and reasons for his father’s arrest, not accepting the thought that “an evil person poured tobacco into the eyes of a monkey ... just like that.”
These searches, reflections, as well as a meeting with his future wife, Jemma Kvachevskaya, an active political dissident, brought Pavel Babich into a confrontation with the most powerful Soviet organization—the KGB (the central intelligence agency of the Soviet Union). After several “preventive conversations” and provocations, it became clear to the Babich family that the only way out was emigration.
Departure from Russia is the last and main event in the formation of Pavel Babich, the poet. He wrote poetry before. But, like for a newborn, cutting the umbilical cord starts a whole new process of breathing; in the same way, Paul’s mindset had changed with emigration. From the first day of departure from Russia, “the anguish—a consolation for renunciation—fell on the shoulders as a cast-iron cross.” Bitterness and despair from the loss of his Motherland, a sense of guilt for fleeing, and gratitude for the “good, alien land” (which never became his own) had to find a way out, and they found it in Paul’s poetry.
In 1996, the first and only book of his poems, “Low Sky,” was published. There is no need to write much about the poet. All of his biography, his feelings, his thoughts, and experiences are in his poems:
I’ll suffocate from misfortune
And I will fall into the grass and take consolation,
like a handful of
Finally found on Earth
For a moment, a salvation
From earthly turmoil.
Jemma KVACHEVSKAYA (BABICH)
Close your eyes and listen: autumn is crying,
Indistinct words vying,
It's the drops muffle with branches gossip,
But it seems - they sing for deceased.
The call of autumn. A day of it I treasure more
Than all of the long days of winter
In Vermont or Kolyma -
They are similar in their own way.
I hear their creaky footsteps -
December just has crossed the border.
And the page is not finished...
The poems are hard to write in winter.
Year after year, they came to the meeting -
All sixty, and stood at the door...
And the phone was silent all day, then all evening
On my anniversary.
November 30th, 1993, around midnight