In 1960, when I was a graduate student at Princeton, I watched a Soviet film entitled "Cranes are flying." It was a romance movie based on a WWII scene. The star in this film was Tatyana Samoilova playing as Veronica. Tatyana is the Russian Audrey Hepburn and is loved by all Russians. Does this lady look like her?




In February of 1999, while I was spending a weekend in London, I met a Russian-born lady looking like her. Her name is Rimma Sushanskaya and is an established violinist. The Washington Post once commented that she is the best living violinist. You can get her CDs in music stores. She was the youngest student of the legendary Ukrainian violinist named David Oistrakh. When I show this photo to my Russian friends, many of them believe she is the real Tatyana. Some say she is too young to be Tatyana and therefore must be Tatyana's daughter. In either case, I have some stories to tell. Please continue reading.


Back from London

Y.S.Kim (1999.3.2)

I came back from London after spending the last weekend there. As always, I tell stories about myself in order to talk about you. Your most urgent problem is how to enter the international water and swim. The swimming becomes easier if someone shows how he/she swims.

Traditionally, London is an international city with many interesting districts. Near the northwestern corner of Hyde Park, there is a short street (about 500 meters) called Queen's Way, lined with many restaurants and Cafes of different national origins. You can meet many interesting people there. I met a professor from Sweden who wanted to be away from students, just like me. I met also a French woman who married a Bangladesh engineer. I met also professional musicians from Romania making money by playing popular music at a German restaurant.

At one of the Chinese restaurants, I met a Russian lady who came with her English relatives. I became curious and asked her what her background was. She told me she is a violinist, and asked me whether I heard about David Oistrakh. I said Yes. She then told me she was his youngest pupil. Oistrakh was born in Ukraine in 1908 and was one of the top violinists of this century. I told her I learned about Oistrakh when I was in high school and that I once tape-recorded Aram Khachaturyan's violin concerto played by him when I was still in Korea. Since, at that time, Korea did not allow music composed by Soviet composers, I had to pick up Khachutoryan's music from Japanese broadcast. The Russian lady told me Khachutoryan's concerto is her most favorite music and she loves to play it.

She then asked me how I know so much about Russian music. I said I have a bad habit of getting interested in countries other than my own. I told her that I recently wrote a short article about a Russian film entitled "Cranes are flying." She asked me whether I know the title in Russian. I said "Letyat Zhuravli." This really turned her on. She asked me to look at her face, and asked me whether she looks like and looks better than Tatyana Samoilova. Indeed, she looked like Tatyana and I had to say she is prettier than Tatyana. Tatyana Samoilova is the Russian actress who acted as Veronica in the film "Cranes are flying," and is Russia's Audrey Hepburn. You will recall that I talked about this film in one of my earlier articles.

We then became very close, and I asked my wife to take a picture of myself with her. I will be visiting Russia twice this year. I will bring copies of my photo with this "false" Samoilova, but I will tell my Russian friends that I was with "true" Samoilova. If they insist that the lady with me is an imposter, I will tell them actresses look different on screens.

Here is the point. These days, you need money to open up the heart of a woman. I do not know whether I opened the heart of this Russian lady, but she gave me the telephone number of her son who lives in the United States (she likes to meet me again). If I opened her heart, I did only with my music knowledge which I acquired in Korea 46 years ago. In terms of music, Korea is a very advanced country. I am not the only one who thinks in this way. Queen Elizabeth II is going to visit Korea later this year. She told Korean authorities she sincerely wishes to visit one of Korea's music schools while in Korea. Her visit will bring Koreans closer to her country. It is safe to assume that the Queen's idea came from the British foreign policy establishments.

Chun Doo Hwan was the President of Korea while Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of Britain. When Chun visited England, the Prime Minister mentioned first Admiral Yi Soon Shin in her welcoming speech and then mentioned Lord Nelson. She said Admiral Yi lived two hundred years before Nelson did. People say British people are diplomatic. This means that they clearly know whom they are talking to. This is the strength of Britain, and this is precisely what Americans still need.

Let me add one more story of mine. I am known in my professional world as a man with strong influence on a number of conferences. Thus, in order to get good seats at those conferences, many people try to impress me. Most of them tell me how great their research results are. To be very honest, I am not interested in their research results. I am only interested in whether they understand my own papers. If they understand my papers, I am kind to them. If not, I am totally neutral to them.

Let us summarize. When you deal with someone, try to understand him/her first. He/she will then be kind to you. You can open up the heart of any lady of any country even without money if you have a sufficient understanding of her country. Not every Korean thinks the United States is kind to Korean. If you are one of those, try to learn about the U.S. including some of the personalities. Then the United States will be kind to you. I talked about Charles Eliot and Abraham Lincoln. I will talk more about Lincoln in my future articles. In order to swim in the


Cranes are flying!

Y.S.Kim (1998.7.25)

These days, many of my young friends are asking me how they could enjoy their postdoc years, instead of suffering. They seem to be sensitive to are the word "slave of capitalism" which I borrowed from the cold-war period. That is right. If you are a postdoc, you have to do the research which will bring more contract money to the professor who hired you. I would like to add here that the professor in charge of getting money for you is also a faithful slave of capitalism. They spend twenty five hours per day to figure out how to get more money to pay you.

We used to call Russians "slaves of communism" before 1990. But you would agree that Russian scientists did very well while being slaves of communism. How about the slaves of capitalism on our side? They also did very well. If you look at those individuals who did well on either side, they did not know how to complain about their environments. The easiest way to become happy anywhere is not to complain.

In order to stress this point, I will give a Russian example. As I said in my previous article, Russians are picture-loving people, and the communists used motion pictures to impose their ideology to those within the territory under their control. Indeed, those film makers had to follow rigorously the party line in order to survive, and they were the true slaves of communism. Yet, they have been quite creative under the given circumstances. There are many examples I can mention, but I will mention only one.

Mikhail Kalatozov was a relatively young film maker in the 1950s. In 1957, he produced a cinema entitled "Cranes are flying" (Letyat Zhuravli in Russian), and this film was awarded the Grand Prize at the 1958 Cannes film festival. I watched this movie in 1960 while I was a graduate student. The story is based a war-time romance between a girl named Veronica and a boy named Boris. This is a very straight-forward story everybody can understand.

Veronica and Boris love each other and decide to get married during the WWII period. However, Boris volunteers to the Soviet army, and gets killed in action. Veronica is told of Boris's death by his comrade and also by Red-Army authorities, but she does not believe Boris is dead. After the war is over, the soldiers come home. So far, there is nothing unusual, and the story is quite consistent with the communist party line.

This movie was quite meaningful to me because it contains a milatary march entitled "Proschanie Slavianki," which I used to listen when I was a high-school student but was not available in the United States. The music is quite appropriate for this movie where a boy goes to war leaving behind a girl he loves.

Before the train arrives, the relatives of those home-coming soldiers wait at the station. Veronica also goes to the station to meet her husband-to-be with a large bouquet. When the train arrives, a communist official emerges and makes a speech. The speech goes like "Comrade! Thanks to the great sacrifice we all made, we have achieved the greatest military triumph in human history. Our next task is to rebuild our great country, and complete our great goal of achieving socialism for the world." The speech continues, and it is a standard speech anyone can recompose.

While the speech continues, those soldiers meet their parents, wives, and children, and embrace. The motion picture uses simultaneously two different languages. One is of course the acoustic language of the communist official, the other is a pictorial language on the screen. Would the audience be more interested in listening to the patriotic speech or in the emotional scenes in which the ordinary people embrace their loved ones? The film maker makes a strong point. Socialism is important, but there is something more important: humanity! Some people say that this film was the beginning of the end of communist totalitarian rule in Russia. and I agree with them.

Veronica could not find her husband-to-be, and she has to face the moment of truth. Instead of showing sorrow or desperation, she picks up a stem of flower from her bouquet and gives it to the person nearest to her at the station, and she continues until she gives away the last flower.

What lesson can postdocs learn from this film? First, the film maker did not deviate from the existing ideological framework. He simply added a new dimension. Sometimes this new dimension is difficult to see, but it will be eventually known and appreciated. In physics, I and my Korean colleagues added a new dimension to the research line initiated by Eugene Wigner. If I tell my colleagues about this new dimension, they get turned off, but sooner or later they will have to accept what the Korean boys did. I am travelling around the world to make it sooner instead of later.

Second, Boris never comes home to marry Veronica, and she has to start a new life. She does this without giving troubles to others and without complaining about the Soviet system. I always insist that the pre-college eduction I received in Korea was the best in the world. On the other hand, my education went through four different political systems, namely Japanese colonial rule, Stalin's communist rule in North Korea (1945-46), American military rule in the South (1946-48), and Korea's democracy (1948-54) including three-years of the 6.25 conflict. Indeed, I received the most imperfect education in history. How can this imperfect education be the best in the world? Well, I have something to give to you, as Veronica gave flowers to her fellow Russians. I will talk about my gift to you next time. Have a nice summer! Note added later in 2005. In 2000, I was able to get a video version of this movie and watched it carefully. This video contained the 1973 version, and the final scenes were quite different. The speech by the communist official was replaced by a address of non-political nature. I have to say that I like the original version much better than the second edition of 1973.

This movie I watched in 1960 was quite different from usual Hollywood productions, and had a profound impact on me. It appears that the story touched my Korean background. Read the following story.


Koreans and Russians: Tough People!

Y.S.Kim (1995.11.21)

Russians are interesting people. Like Korea, Russia has been invaded many times by foreign powers. Unlike us, they were able to repulse the invasions without foreign assistance. In this article, I will tell you how Russians repulsed Hitler's invasion. I will then discuss whether it has anything to do with us.

It is well known that the decisive battle during the last German invasion took place in Stalingrad. The decisive factor in this decisive battle was the number of Russian tanks. Hitler did not think Russians could make that many tanks. Then the question is how Russians made their tanks.

When they were withdrawing from Ukraine during the initial stage of the War, Russians stripped the Ukrainian factories. They took every nut and every bolt as well as all light and heavy machines from Ukraine to the places called Chelyabinsk and Svedlovsk deeply hidden in the Ural Mountains. They started making tanks on an open field, without even roofs to protect workers (mostly women) against rain or snow. The Russian weather is not so friendly during the winter, as you know. The Russian workers managed to put engines, chains, guns to their tanks, but could not afford to polish them. The tanks from those roofless factories had unfinished surfaces like rocks. Ugly indeed, but they managed to do their job of destroying Hitler's army.

After the War, Russians made better-looking tanks with polished surfaces. Those shiny tanks laughed at their ugly-looking predecessors asked by they are so ugly. Do you think their questions impressed those older tanks with an established battle record?

In 1972, Korea's Chung Joo-Young started building oil tankers without factory, and some people compare this with Russia's roofless tank factory. But this is a minor story. Not many people seem to know that Koreans produced people (not tanks) in roofless factories, and I am one of those who had to study in roofless class rooms for one year, and two additional years in tent-like class rooms. Koreans of my age are tougher than those ugly Russian tanks. We have built a respectable industrial base after pulling out ourselves from the chronic hunger. In the academic world, we have established a beach head in the international community of scientists. Yes, like those ugly Russian tanks, we still have some ugly spots on our face, but we have an established battle record. We were able to do this much because we had and still have the ideology that we work hard because we are smart. We used to say that genius is a son of hard work.

This philosophy is not shared by our young people. I have a reputation of having an inferior brain because I work hard. These days, Korean students do not hesitate telling me so directly. They seem to know how to become smart without working hard. Could they please teach me how?


If you have comments and/or criticisms, do not hesitate to communicate them to yskim@ysfine.com.


copyright@2007 by Y. S. Kim, unless otherwise specified.