An Awakening: A year with Fort Russ, and what led me to it


Editor’s Note – FRN’s Tom Winter explains what led him to the FRN team, as our first volunteer translator and writer from Day One. Here we are, almost five years later – J. Flores

“To say nothing would be a crime” — Laurent Brayard

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September 2015

First, the languages:

I started Latin in 1957, passed the graduate reading exams in French and in German and Classical Greek in the early 60’s en route to my Ph.D. in Classics (Northwestern, 1968). Took up Italian in ’72 — an easy thing after all the Latin and French.

Second, the awakening:

Our younger daughter was accepted into the Peace Corps and was assigned to Armenia, where Joanna and I visited in ’96 and ’97. I located some local Armenians and had myself tutored in Armenian before going, but once in Armenia, I realized there was a whole ‘nother world I knew almost nothing about, and that in this new world, Russian was the lingua Franca. Well, you can’t study Armenian in the US but in two places,  the University of Michigan, and the Defense Language Institute. So I started Russian. Took every course my University offered in it, and got by with Russian visiting Armenia again in the summer of 2010. To further my languages, I sought fb friends abroad, especially Russophone facebook friends.

Third, the shock:

Maidan in February 2014 changed everything, and I knew our talking heads knew nothing about anything, except an American Party Line! In September 2014, I came upon Yelena Bondarenko’s Open Letter to the World, which began with the request that if you could translate it please do so, and share it around. I spent an evening at it one paragraph at a time, finished it, and posted it to my fb page.

Fourth, Kristina:

Later, I found Fort Russ, where every item was the translation of one Kristina Rus. I knew, monitoring the news in six languages, that the US news was horribly deficient! Scandalously deficient. I decided to offer my help, and sent my tr of the Bondarenko letter as a sample of what I could do. Yelena Bondarenko’s letter appeared in Fort Russ one year ago today, December 13, 2014.

I sent Kristina my first 20 or so translations, and she posted them on her blog; eventually, she let me post directly, and taught me how, step by step. In this year, I’ve done about 275 translated articles for Fort Russ. Most have been from Russian, but several from French, German, Italian, and a few from Greek.

Fifth: Why.

I can’t help it. Indignation drives me. The western press deserves only scathing and satire. This satire, for instance. Of the translations I’ve done, I have several favorites:

First, from Vauro Senesi, in Italian: “It is impossible not to see a planned program of ethnic cleansing.” 

Another favorite: the Open Letter of Stalingrad Veterans to Chancellor Merkel.

Perhaps my favorite journalist, actually there in Donbass, and actually reporting what he sees, is Laurent Brayard, one of my heroes, who writes “To say nothing would be a crime; to say nothing would be to dishonor my name as a citizen of France. “

Florian Schaar, my favorite German writer, treats the western press with the satire it deserves. Here is a what-if — if all those Russian tanks are there, it’s a parking problem.

And of course, any speech to the German Bundestag by Sahra Wagenknecht.


My father was a hammerman in a forge. They didn’t draft him for the great war; forged steel was far more precious for the war effort than another infantryman. Today there is a cruel war going on. I know what side I’m on. I’m too old to join “Texas,” but thanks to Kristina, I do

have one weapon.  I intend to use it.

                                     — Tom Winter

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