In February I translated a short story set at the end of the Second World War – Belchonok (Little Squirrel) by the Belarusian author Andrei Geraschenko. The story was written and published in Russian in 1992. Told through the death of a small Belarusian boy, killed during a Nazi raid on his village, it is an affecting and thoughtful piece of writing about one of the tragedies of war: that the soldiers who kill children are often fathers themselves. … More Little Squirrel by Andrei Geraschenko – a translation of a prescient anti-war story from Belarus
The Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2022 includes a piece that I wrote for its Cricket Round The World section. It is about the history of cricket in the Central Asian republic of Tajikistan – from the shepherds in the 1960s who played the game on their jailoos (summer pastures), to the Tajik throwing-and-hitting game chilikdangal, played with sticks in the mountainous Wakhan Corridor, to a new six-team T20 tournament in the capital Dushanbe. Tajikistan became the 106th member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 2021, and has some ambitious plans for the future, in partnership with its cricketing neighbours in Afghanistan. … More Cricket in Tajikistan: Some writing in the 2022 Wisden Almanack
“The Rinpoche Bagsha temple crackled with the deep murmur of Buddhist prayer. Under the warm gaze of a golden cross-legged Buddha, eight monks in crimson robes sat at a low table in the centre of the room, ethereal chants bursting from their throats. A bell tinkled. During the final prayer the congregation, squeezed together on benches close to the monks, picked up parcels of food and waved them in front of themselves in clockwise circles. The bell tinkled one last time”. … More Letter from Ulan-Ude (Buryatia, Siberia)
On a hot October Saturday, as a scrum of players lunged for the ball bouncing head-high in the midfield, a match in Bulgaria’s Third League – a 71-team competition divided into four regional groups – played out in the universal rhythm of amateur football: frenetic and slow at the same time.
On some rusty blue benches between the changing rooms and the stadium’s running track, 40 spectators chatted and nibbled pumpkin seeds, half-watching their friends and relatives exhausting themselves on the pitch.
In an early-evening, early-autumn kick-off at Nikolai Laskov Stadium in the town of Yambol, the game between Tundzha Yambol and Chernomorets Burgas – mid-table rivals in the south-east group of the Treta Liga – ended in a 3-0 win for Chernomorets. The visitors were by far the better team, and scored through an own goal before half-time, then impressive goals by Martin Dimitrov and Milen Tanev in the second half. … More Lower-league football in Bulgaria: Tundzha Yambol vs. Chernomorets Burgas
For Georgia to have a sporting team ranked 12th in the world is an achievement to be proud of. For that sport to be rugby union, a game born in England’s elite schools, and kept within the British Commonwealth for over a century, makes it an even more outlandish feat. The rise of Georgian rugby is one of the great stories in European sport over the last 20 years, with the national team going from unknowns to World Cup mainstays. Along the way, Georgia may not have battled the British nations on the pitch as often as it hoped to, but the countries’ rugby histories have been closely linked in other ways. … More Swing Lelo: Georgia and Britain’s shared rugby history
Yerevan used to feel like the most relaxed city in the world – until the week I was caught up in Armenia’s revolution. … More Yerevan, April 2018: Memories of the Armenian Revolution