Birth: November 7, 1937, Thankot
Death: March 29, 2021, Moscow
Krishna Prakash Shrestha wanted to study journalism in the US, the most technologically advanced country in the world.
But when the Soviet Union launched its first satellite, the Sputnik 1, Shrestha’s interest in communist Russia grew to a point that he no longer wanted to go to the US.
In 1959, Shrestha received a scholarship from Moscow State University for an MA in Journalism. On the completion of his studies, he planned on returning Nepal to serve at Gorkhapatra, Nepal’s longest surviving state-run newspaper. But that was not to be.
Shrestha, whom his colleagues and friends remember as being “straight-forward”, never wanted to work abroad, but destiny had other plans. As the Cold War intensified, the Soviet Union was eager to establish a Nepali service at Radio Moscow to counter the BBC’s Hindi and Nepali services. In Shrestha, it saw the perfect person to run the Nepali service.
Shrestha initially declined the offer but had to accept it after pressure from friends and family. Russia not only gave him a job, but also his life partner. While working for Radio Moscow, he fell in love with a Russian, Erina, and the couple took their vows in 1964.
Besides working for the radio, Shrestha was actively involved in translating Russian literature into Nepali and vice-versa. His incomparable skills gave Nepali readers masterpieces such as Gypsy, Belkin ka katha and Dubrovsky. His translation of Nepali works such as Yamalok ko juido machhe, Langado ko sathi, Muna-madan in turn gave Russian readers a glimpse of Nepali literature.
Shrestha was an active member of the Russian Writers Union and also served as a central advisor to the World Federation of Nepali Literature as well as an honorary member of Nepal Children’s Literature Society. During his 60 years in Russia, he also helped bring together peoples of two countries.
Having won the trust of officials in both the countries, he was seen by many as an unofficial Nepali diplomat in Russia. He also worked as an official translator during Nepal-Russia governmental meetings.
As it became difficult to travel, he had to renounce his Nepali citizenship at the age of 70, with a heavy heart. There were times Russian officials suspected him of being involved in espionage.
Three years ago, Erina died, leaving behind their two daughters, Janna and Marina. A devastated Shrestha took time to return to his daily schedule. During the Covid-19 lockdown, he made himself busy by attending almost every online event he was invited to.
Also in 2020, he produced a book Two Capitals: Moscow and Kathmandu by coordinating with 10 writers each from Nepal and Russia.
Shrestha received various awards and recognitions: Outstanding Radio and Television Jockey (1988), Mahakabi Devkota Satabdi Samman (2008), Jagadamba Shree (2014), Satya Mohan Joshi Satabdi (2016), among others. Besides, for the first time, Nepal Academy had announced to award Shrestha with the biggest honor in translation, Anubaad Pragya Samman.
But before he could make it to Nepal to receive the award at the President's hands, he passed away, aged 82, from Covid-19 complications at a Moscow hospital.