From the reports of Guillaume le Vasseur de Beauplan1
by Maria Galina
Translated by Anna Halberstadt and Ainsley Morse
Maria Galina is a major poet, critic, translator, and novelist. She graduated from Odessa University, majoring in sea biology, and took part in several sea expeditions. She has been a professional writer since 1995, and she is the winner of many prizes for her prose and poetry.

Communiqué  № 1

Celestial phenomena in these lands
are astounding in their variety
first I would name the many vivid rainbows
that can be observed from early spring through late autumn
the double and even triple arches that form and exude luminescence 
their far end reaching into distant hills and dark groves
as if embracing golden domes of heavenly light
I also personally observed 
one brief summer night
the flight of a fire snake 
which rushed across the firmament from East to West
hissing and scattering fiery sparks, 
according to local beliefs
this snake visits soldiers’ widows
disguised as their husbands most likely he was rushing 
to visit one of them
in August which they call “month of the sickle” I saw  
a dry ring of fire encompassing the four corners of the earth
bursting into flames and fading away without a sound
also at noon 
gleaming lakes stretching far into the distance
that disappear as one draws nearer (I observed something similar in the Berber lands)
also I saw a triple sun on an especially frosty morning also
a rainbow ring around the Moon also 
during our daily march
something flying in the sky
shaped like a cross 
accompanied by a loud sound 
that resembled cloth being ripped
the sound seemed to be chasing the object under observation
I leave the explanation of this phenomenon to learned people
when we halted for the night
I observed the stars
breaking loose from their regular places and forming new shapes
vivid vortices and whirls however this 
I attribute to the concoction
which locals stuff into their short pipes


Communiqué  № 2

they post guards on hilltops
at the sight 
of the enemy the guards let out a special signal
the rest 
the ones working in the fields at that time
toss aside the ears of corn already collected
rush to hide in the hideaways set up for that purpose
this vigilance of theirs deserves
the highest praise just as 
the arrangement of their dwellings their love for children and innate
waste sites
are always set up as far as possible from food storage and sleeping areas
these animals are friendly and harmless similar
to our marmots but bigger their upper 
jaw holds two enormous teeth sticking out 
they collect dry leaves and grasses for the winter
in an amusing way: the one collecting 
lies on its back and holds the bunch in its paws while two others 
drag it by its short tail to the burrow
one time I 
dug up one of their dwellings out of curiosity
it was amusing to watch them fussing about  
running around, grabbing their young and supplies,
family jewels, books, photographs and documents

I even brought one of them home with me – it 
became attached to me no less than my dog.

Communiqué  № 3

this mountain is riddled
with a great number of caves filled
with a great number of bodies resembling 
Egyptian mummies
these caves and the bodies in them are no less than fifteen hundred years old
they say the first Christians used to hide here
they showed me a certain St. John
embedded in earth to the waist – when his time came
to die he dug his own grave
and climbed down into it after bidding farewell to his brother monks but the Almighty
stopped him one might say halfway there
one can also 
have a look at St. Helen
who is much revered here also at the chain the devil
used to whip St. Anthony it is used
still, I was told, to exorcise evil spirits from those possessed,
I was also shown 
three heads in pitchers 
which constantly exude a balm extremely effective
for treating certain illnesses 
here I have to add that I personally 
do not see much of a difference between
the aforementioned bodies and the Egyptian mummies
which I have seen in the Berber lands except maybe those were drier
I suppose that in this case preservation is aided
by the dry and cool air and the sandy soil but 
regarding the content of my conversations with St. John 
I will leave this 
to the discretion of the curious 
I will merely add
that the saint did not tell me anything
of which I was not myself aware 
meanwhile this is usually how it goes      

Communiqué  № 4

their river has about thirteen rapids
in the lower corridor
and the water bubbles there
like porridge in a mess tin 
I went through them all in a boat
going upstream which locals 
consider extremely courageous
including the steepest one that they call The Insatiable
the islands here 
are covered by stands of willows and they disappear
under water in the spring except for 
one that serves as a sort of storage space
arms and provisions
do not spoil here 
since time 
seems to stand still
like a stone in the rushing stream
for this reason this island must be treated with caution 
I lost two men there they got out and disappeared
in the luminescent air
the locals keep saying they will come back
in about ten years

Communiqué  № 5

the local inhabitants here practice various crafts
some are more skilled than others though there are some
whose knowledge is truly vast in comparison to the others
however for the most part
everyone here is focused only on what is truly useful and necessary, 
in other words on things connected to agriculture
the land indeed 
bears them grain in extraordinary abundance
so that at times even they don’t know what to do with the surplus
since the local rivers are impassable for merchant ships
their basic character traits
the locals 
are industrious brave straightforward strong of spirit resourceful honest 
and above all else they prize freedom however
at the same time they are treacherous cunning unreliable greedy and lazy
so that they can be trusted only with a savvy consideration of all the circumstances 
which meanwhile 
could be said of any nation at least these are 
unusually strong hardy and handsome
and their women themselves propose to the men

Communiqué  № 6

the bitter cold of their winters
is hard on us
those who have experienced it 
are lucky not to have lost their lives but only parts of their body
fingers and toes, and sometimes 
the part which I will not name for decorum’s sake
two of my comrades took the risk
of urinating outdoors a small sore 
at first the size of a pea expanded
until the whole delicate organ was lost but still worse
when internal organs are affected
the cold
gnaws from inside out especially if 
the battle armor shrinks in the cold and 
freezes to the back
chills the stomach 
so that it will not accept even warm and liquid food
the nature 
of the piercing pain
rending the intestines
over which they wailed I will leave 
to the learned medics, but I myself 
have seen what I’ve seen
nevertheless in accordance with the wishes of some of the locals
I dissected a few corpses
I can testify that the lungs were charred and black
as if from a burn
indeed the cold 
is still more terrible than fire
their innards had acquired a sort of independent life they quivered
attempting to escape the sharp blade they moved away 
beyond the abdominal membrane where they could not be reached meanwhile
I managed to lure them out with warmth a candle brought close
returned them to their proper place 
I myself was saved
by alcohol and fur clothing also 
when moving around in a sleigh I kept a dog at my feet meanwhile
the locals tolerate the cold somewhat better
helped by dense fur and layers of fat beneath the skin

Communiqué  № 7

it comes from the southeast from empty salt 
plains over which incandescent air trembles
at first
small reconnaissance details
then solid heavy stormclouds falling to earth as heavy snow
filling porches, closets and basements
beds, bowls of food, every bite 
in the mouth
needs to be cleaned from it,
pigs gobbling it grow fat but the local people
turn up their noses at the meat fed on this calamity
it covers soil like a living carpet horses get stuck in it up to their fetlocks
they recoil grunt flare their nostrils,
wheels roll over it with a disgusting crunch an unbearable stench, one had
to breathe through a handkerchief to cover nose and mouth with a scarf
with their sharpened tails 
they drill countless holes in the earth
lay their eggs there
up to three hundred at a time
their offspring do not fear the cold
clambering out they wander
confusedly banging about here and there till they get stronger
if a northwestern wind starts blowing then
it carries them off to their demise by the Black Sea
those who know say that on their wings
Divine Retribution is written 
in Chaldean letters 
they also speak in a foreign tongue but those who know understand
I refer to the people who told me this and who know several languages


Sires, I humbly dedicate this eminently detailed map 
to you and I hope
that it will be of no small help
should you decide
to accept into your sovereign possession this eminently fertile land
this immeasurable great borderland
with its riches and quiet wonders
its saints sleeping in caves
talking fish
courageous warriors
strange celestial phenomena
amazing customs
and a few fortifications built by me
however I must warn you
that the extremely thorough
information contained in my communiqués
could render this description a guide to your enemy
I hope for your supreme mercy
truly sovereign generosity
meaning for a fitting reimbursement for my labors 
in honor of the glorious empire2


1 A French artillery captain who came to serve in the Polish army in Ukraine in 1630, where he compiled his “A Description of Ukraine and the Borysphen River, Named in Common Parlance the Nipr or Dnipro, from Kyiv to the Sea into Which This River Flows.” His service included overseeing many military and civilian construction projects as well as producing extensive maps of the region. 

2 In "Communiques" fragments were used from the "Description of Ukraine” by Guillaume le Vasseur de Beauplan (1651).

Maria Galina is a major poet, critic, translator, and novelist. She graduated from Odessa University, majoring in sea biology, and took part in several sea expeditions. She has been a professional writer since 1995, and she is the winner of many prizes for her prose and poetry.