Translated from Polish by
Stefan Golston



This set of the translations of the Ghetto Poems was made from the original Polish text published by The Association of the Friends of Our Tribune in New York, in 1945.
The text of this small volume was photographed on microfilm by the managers of the secret Jewish archives in the Ghetto, who later perished martyrs' death. This microfilmed text was smuggled abroad, made its way to London, wherefrom it was sent over to the Representation of Polish Jewry in New York. Consequently, major part of this set appeared in the columns of 'Our Tribune' in the issue of November 18, 1944 under the title: 'From The Abyss.'

The volume which I used for the translation contains ten verses, some signed only by initials, the rest unsigned. An additional poem, a long heroic epic, was signed with the pen name Jan Wajdelota. The author was probably a gentile who witnessed the Jewish uprising in Warsaw Ghetto and was paying homage to Jewish fighters.

My set of the translations contain nine of the ten Jewish compositions. In order to give justice to the high artistic quality of the originals in translating them would require a poet, which I am not; still I decided to carry this out in order to let my English speaking family and friends hear this voice of the condemned, trying to reach the world and to let us know of their existence and of their feelings.

This work is purely for private use and is not intended for publication.

Stefan Golston

P.S.: The poem 'Campo Di Fiori', which was included in the 'Ghetto Poems' (Poezje Getta), without giving credit to the author, was, as I found out recently, written by the Polish poet and the Nobel prize winner, Czeslaw Milosz.

S.G. 1997


From the Set of Poems by Ghetto Inmates.
Author Unknown. Initialed M.B.

Translated from Polish by Stefan Golston. 5.15.93


T'was dark and cold, in icicles pain froze
When train took you off to the blizzard of horror
Despair pounded the walls. The hail of bitter drops
Battered dashed hopes laid down in the grave.

The thoughts again poisoned by memories' shreds
Of blossoms past emotions, dreams not realized
Stop! Venomous is nostalgia's potion
- Stay calm! That it hurts, Beloved, I know.

Lonely you were in that gloomy crowd,
Though the same thoughts were them all tormenting,
You're silent, you know deep down: no one will understand you
Hemmed by the band of their own gnawing grief.

So much agony in each of those ghosts,
So much crashing injustice is piled together,
Blood flows and the cry howls in a helpless silence,
A tape of venom clings like a stinging bandage.

I don't know where you are, but if you still are -
- Still continue riding in the same train
As we all do: you tired and dejected,
With wounded yearning and with battered heart

Keep calm, Beloved: don't let your blue eyes water,
Toss despair words away, do not scold the fate!
It's after all so simple: all of us were tossed
Vile times and the brutal avalanche across.


From the Set of Poems by Ghetto Inmates. Author Unknown

Translated from Polish by Stefan Golston.


You came at night. The barracks reek
With wave of odors, of sleep and melancholy
Your shadow's climbing on the ladder
Bringing a subtle perfume's fragrance.

Beware, my Love! The bunk is dirty
Stench is pervasive - so many here
In the tormenting sleep are crowded
You're beckoning :- don't think of it
Even in crowd one may be lonely...

You shine with your blue eyes azure
Trembling, your hand in mine am taking - -
My Love, would I have ever asked you
To such peculiar garconiere.

A roll - call yard seen from the bunk
Through tiny windows like the jail bars
Every stone there spells ill - omen
Every - but do not at this sight tremble
And do not race your thoughts to Paris!
… Germans in Quartier Latin are prowling.

From the sky moon is smiling silly
Like in a grotesque theater
As it shone once … but stop Beloved
Don't strain your memory … it is no use!
… Germans are drinking on Montmartre today.

Quiet the hurting heart! Others perish with us,
Delivered to extinction in a long numb flow
… Morituri … you know that - they should not be lying
So, I will not with soothing words console you.

Stay calm! What of it, Beloved, that over the cradle
Seems, for other destination our fate was calling
In our time the grave is close neighbor with life.
… Well now, do not wrinkle, my Beloved your worried brow.

In this heinous crime's immensity
Future intrudes. Prick your watchful ears!
Let tears well in the eyes of those who will us follow
and who silently about us will ponder.

The account is not closed yet! Fire in hand burns,
Despair is not for us, nor the idle weakness,
For us: survive or die, but no tear or moan.
Sursum corda, Beloved! Tightly clench your teeth!


From The Set of Poems by Ghetto Inmates
Translated from Polish by Stefan Golston. Author unknown.

To Defenders Of Ghetto

Amid ruins, this wall, like monument of scorn
On city living body, for you the enemy erected.
Hear, in the Bruhl's palace the guards now are changing;
The gendarme's feet burn your martyred ground.

Oppressed, you are silent, who will break the silence
Stony night over city - or the voiceless wall.
Shadows of trees, shadows of living, and the churches' shadows,
Wreath of steeples, of gallows, or the cloud capped city.

What graves will scare you, will scare you - undaunted
Ghetto walls for three years are staring in your face,
City of death's live wound bleeding in your body -
Distant you remained, and silent you still are.

You must remember - when in line of fire
Fearless you were standing - burning was your ground;
You chose to lay in ruin, rather than alive,
And let the enemy trample on your soil!

Remember? I, remember, I knew pride in your eye
Bayonet and fist to face tanks - you know it well
Black smoke over city and like coffins houses,
And graveyards on squares ...But 'is not the time' you say now.

Your stubborn silence now at last is broken -
Ghetto of dead is fighting - you turn your face away -
You see the bloody glow, but you draw back your arm,
And on the river you stand an unyielding watch.



From the Set of Poems by Ghetto Inmates
Author's name not shown. (by Czeslaw Milosz -- see Introduction).
Translated from Polish by Stefan Golston


In Rome, on Campo Di Fiori
Baskets of olives and lemons
The ground was covered with wine
And with the petals of flowers.
Pink seafood, the fruit of the sea
Peddlers pour out on the stalls,
The armfuls of heavy grapes
Are falling on fluff of the peaches.

Here, on this very square
They burned Giordano Bruno
Jailer the stake's flame ignited
Amid the curious and gaping crowd.
But hardly the flame subsided
Full were the taverns again,
On the heads the hawkers carried
Baskets of olives and lemons.

I recalled Campio di Fiori
In Warsaw at merry-go-round
In the spring balmy evening
By the lively sound of the music.
Gun fire behind the ghetto walls
Muffled by the merry music
And happy couples were soaring
High to the cloudless sky.

And sometimes from burning houses
Black kites were blown by the wind,
Shreds in the air were catching
Those riding on the carousel.
The wind from the burning houses
Blowing skirts of the lasses,
The merry crowds were laughing
On this pleasant Warsaw Sunday.

Somebody may read here a moral
That Warsaw or Roman people
Will trade, play and will love
Passing, by the martyr's stakes.
Somebody else may here conclude
Of human affairs flowing by,
Of forgetfulness which grows
Before even flame dies down.

Yet I was thinking then
About loneliness of the perishing,
That sometime ago Giordano
Ascended on the scaffolding.
There was in human language
Not even single expression
Which he could manage to share
With the left behind humanity.

They stopped a while and waited
For his departure in fire
Soon ran to imbibe the wine
To peddle the white colored starfish
They carried with merry prattle
Baskets of olive and lemon
The drama for them was so distant
As if many ages elapsed.

And all those lone and dying
Already by world forgotten
Alien to them this language of ours
As if from another planet.
When all will turn into legend
Then, after many a year
On the great Campo di Fiori
The poet's word will a revolt stir.



From The Set of Poems By Ghetto Inmates
Author: M.J.
Translated from Polish by Stefan Golston.

Here Also Like In Jerusalem

Here also like in Jerusalem
Is the gloomy Wailing Wall
Those who stood under it
Will not see it again

Empty night, empty house, a deaf building,
They dragged them out from here.
Left was darkness and dread,
The insides - bosom of death.

The houses in a stony march
Under inexpiable sky
As if in procession behind funeral
Of thousands families.

The Christian thrown to lions
Knew reason of their agony,
But you? - Here empty your house stands
Fire, the sightless owner took over.

Nobody spread good earth
On this common grave
By silence greeted
Free of word deception

When, with the parched mouths
You thirsty, called for water
To the wired up train
Nobody brought you the drink.

The earth was escaping under the condemned,
Swept by the smoke of the train
Warsaw, while in the floors' window panes
The sun called, that it's dawning.