In my last blog, I talked about going to Kiev to attend a conference concerning child abuse and domestic violence. This EU funded conference was a much more emotional event than I had expected.
I stayed there, in the Hotel Rus, a slightly sclerotic Soviet era hotel with a derelict swimming pool, on 16 and 17 June 2010.
For my afternoon session on 17 June, I was assigned a Ukrainian lady as my simultaneous translator, called Mila. She was anything but a shrinking violet, and I liked her immediately. A Rolls-Royce trade mission to China in 1979 had taught me to take a slightly jaded view of interpreters, but Mila took the project seriously.
Over lunch, I asked her a question about life under the Soviets. This unlocked an unexpected well of grief about her father, streams of sadness and regret flowing down her cheeks. Her father had been a Soviet administrator. He died thinking his life had been wasted.
Later, in the closing session, I was one of three speakers. Rick Flint, the conference leader, thanked everyone for attending. Stainger, an ex-gang leader from Gothenburg, talked about his experiences as someone who tries to stop others following his own example. And I was to talk about Dove.
One of the posters I intended to show was of an elderly black lady. Once my translator had regained her composure over lunch, we rehearsed this one poster very thoroughly, in great detail.
I told the eighty or so delegates her story.
“This lady saw the Dove advertising early in its life. At the time, she was living in a retirement home in Eastbourne. Somehow, she got hold of Daryl’s phone number. Daryl was the Board Director at Ogilvy in Canary Wharf in charge of Dove at the time. The lady told Daryl that her one remaining ambition before she died was to appear in a Dove advertisement. So, Daryl sent a car for her, had her photographed, sent her home, and ran the advertisement, which you can see at the top of this blog.
Fairly soon afterwards, the lady was dead. She was 92.”
There was a tiny pause, and then the audience rose to their feet. The vast majority were women. Some applauded and cheered. Some dried their eyes. Ekaterina, the conference organiser, told me afterwards that she was covered in goose-pimples as I told the lady’s story.
I knew then how great a translator Mila was. Extraordinary.
Enough emotion: moving on, my European Tour seems to be going well. Extra gigs have been added for Aarhus and Copenhagen in November in Denmark: Anna-Sofie Reese, it’s time we had some herring and meatballs. Moving on, I think the Russians might go for the Digital Bootcamp idea. If this is for you in your own country, let me know.