Shushanik Popoljian Kurghinian was born on 18th August 1876 in Alexandropol (now called Gyumri) in Eastern Armenia. In 1893 Shushanik joined the Armenian Social Democrat Hunchak Party. She wrote poetry, prose and plays and began to consider ways to free Armenians from Turkish and Czarist rule.
Shushanik married Arshak Kurghinian. In 1903 she travelled alone to Russia where she joined a clandestine workers’ movement in Rostov-on-Don. Her first collection of poetry was published in 1907. Shushanik’s poetry speaks for the under-privileged – especially women – and is a rallying call for the poor and oppressed.
Shushanik’s husband died in 1917. In 1921 she returned to Armenia where she became ill and died in 1927. Her daughter compiled and published Shushan’s poetry in several collections.
Shushan sent me several of her translations of Shushanik’s poems – here is one of them.
S. Kurghinian, 1917
with beautiful eyes of azure
the child of great anguish is she,
who wears a dishonored smile upon
her face¾a promiscuous wanton look
from the early experienced lust.
To the crowded market full of people
she comes pale, lifeless and hungry
looking for an “acquaintance” . . .
¾Take me, for the price of a slice
of bread or a glass of wine,
she sobs out loud.
¾Take my beggarly body,
my soul, ravaged and forlorn,
my heart¾all for a shameless sale!
¾Come, I said, wretched sister,
come and I will ease your pain,
release you from shame.
And she cursed me obscenely, laughing,
¾You think you are purer than me?
Me, abandoned by blind fate?