Translating Time...A Picture From The Past

Linda Comins, a Branford local and retired nurse, came into Language Link looking for answers. After hearing her story, we knew that we had to help. She brought in a hand-drawn picture dating back to World War Two. The picture featured a young woman in traditional Japanese dress with an indoor and outdoor scene. The picture included Japanese writing in the center. She had never been able to find out what the translation of the writing was. The decades old picture is one of Linda’s oldest memories. She remembers it hanging in the den of her childhood home on Windsor Street in Hamden. Her small family was made up of her father, mother, brother and herself. During Linda’s childhood, she never remembers anyone saying, “Gee, I wonder what it says.” She says, “It was just something that was there.” When her father had passed and they were preparing to sell the house she grew up in, the first thing she did was take the picture off the wall to keep. She felt so strongly about keeping it, as it was one of her most precious memories. So the picture ended up hanging in Linda’s home, wherever she lived. She had friend who became obsessed with the picture. “Don’t you want to know what it says?,” he would say. His curiosity consumed him. He took photos of the original and asked around whenever he was at a Japanese restaurant. He had no luck, as no one could translate for him. A few weeks went by and she happened upon Language Link by chance. She received a medical bill with different language options. This led her to look into interpreting and translating agencies. That’s when she found us. She recalls, “Wow, I couldn’t believe it, just ten minutes from my house.” That is when she made the call that would put her and her friend’s curiosity to rest. She continued, “It has been such a part of my life for so long, I never even thought what it said, and now I finally get to know.” She recalls the first time her father told her the story in great detail. It all started with a deal. Her father, the late Private Robert L. Comins, was drafted right after high school. He was stationed at a prison in Guam. Being the kind and compassionate main he was, he built a friendship with a Japanese prisoner. They didn’t speak each other’s languages, but learned to communicate through gestures. Eventually, the prisoner asked for a pack of cigarettes in exchange for a hand drawn picture. Linda could only imagine the gestures it took to communicate this deal. Thus, the beautiful hand drawn art piece was created. The picture was done on a handkerchief in some type of colored pencil. We were able to get a partial translation of the text in the picture. The text in the picture could either translate to “...spring scenery....”, or “...heart of the young woman...” Unfortunately, it is incomplete because part of the text is being covered by the frame. The picture is so delicate that we feared it may fall apart if we removed it from its holding place. Language Link was happy to help Linda understand this special memento. Linda’s story shows us just how important the work our translators do is. This picture was a treasured keepsake that held so many memories for Linda and her family. Translation was able to bring this picture back to life and make it even more special. The work of our translators helps everyday people, just like Linda.

Picture Drawn by Japanese Prisoner, WW2

Picture Drawn by Japanese Prisoner, WW2

Robert and Linda Comins, 1975

Robert and Linda Comins, 1975

Robert Comins, WW2

Robert Comins, WW2

Private Robert Comins and his fellow soldiers, WW2

Private Robert Comins and his fellow soldiers, WW2

Scenery where Private Robert Comins was stationed, WW2

Scenery where Private Robert Comins was stationed, WW2