Poetry from Warsaw Ghetto

jurandot_okladkaSome time ago I participated in a competition aiming at choosing the translator of JerzyJurandot’s book “City of the Condemned. The years in Warsaw Ghetto”. Though I didn’t win I wanted to share a part of my translation – it is a very touching poem and I think it can render the atmosphere of life in Warsaw Ghetto. You can find the original version of the poem and get a bit more information on the book in my post here.

Józio [Little Joseph]

They used to call daddy “professor”
when he had pupils and played Bach, Beethoven and Mozart.
But that was back on Boduena street,
when he used to played in the Philharmonic so beautifully…

Today daddy isn’t a professor anymore,
because daddy with his violin through courtyards has to go
where they call him fiddler or something worse
and he plays the tango “Forget” or some movie waltz.

Józio picks up pennies to buy a piece of bread,
but daddy doesn’t even lay an eye them;
he collects them furtively because he know
that daddy is ashamed of his little boy.

And one day they got thrown out
by a guardian of some courtyard.
“Too many beggars!” – he shouted madly
at the musician, Józio’s grey-headed daddy.

And daddy cried that day awfully, like a child.
Later on he became strange and didn’t want to go out.
But he didn’t cry. And he wasn’t angry.
And Józio was ashamed that he was so hungry.

Daddy didn’t go anymore with Józio to courtyards,
he stayed at home and played melodies from concert halls,
and though at home there was no bread,
he was happier than when he played the tango “Forget”.




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