Valdemar (Val’do) Kalinin was born Vitebsk, in Belarus in 1946. He later moved to Russia where he studied foreign languages at a pedagogical college. Kalinin performed military service in the former Soviet Army and became an officer; to this day, he continues to observe the physical fitness regime that he learned in the Soviet Army. While serving in the military, he became an evangelical Christian of the Brethren denomination.
After completing his studies, Kalinin worked as a teacher in Russia and later in Belarus. It was during this period that his first poems were published in the local newspapers. He also worked as a Romani language consultant for the Romen Theatre in Moscow and as a Romani folkdance consultant for the Romance Theatre in Kiev. At the same time, he began to translate the Bible.
After the demise of the Soviet Union, the United Bible Societies association invited him to London to consult about his translation. After a week spent in London, he burned his translation in disgust at its inadequacy and vowed to learn New Testament Greek and to recommence translating from the original under the mentorship of Dr Donald Kenrick. In the mid-1990s Kalinin moved to London.
He was fortunate to find a job as educational welfare officer with the Inner London Education Authority (and later London Borough of Camden) helping Romani asylum-seekers, which allowed him to assist Roma in a professional capacity while devoting his spare time to translation, cultural activies and the promotion of Romani civil rights. An active member of many organisations, he was elected chair of the Gypsy Council in 2012.
Kalinin is best known for his trilingual (Romani-English-Belarusian) poetry collection Romane sune [Romani dreams]. He finished his translation of the entire Bible into Baltic Romani in 2014.
Valdemar Kalinin received several international awards and prizes for his work, including the Hiroshima Foundation for Peace and Culture award (Stockholm, 2002) and the first poetry prize at the international arts competition ‘Amico Rom’ (2016).
(Ilona Makhotina, Thomas Acton)
Kalinino, Valdemaro. 2005. [Романэ́ сунэ́. Romane sune. Romani Dreams. Vitebsk: Vitsebskaya oblastnaya drukarnya.
Kalinin, Valdemar. transl. 2014. Библия пэ Балти́тко Романи́ чиб: Романэ́с. [Biblija pe Baltítko Romaní čib: Romanés]. [Bible in Baltic Romani]. Belarus.