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In the 1990s, more than a million citizens from different republics of the then-collapsed Soviet Union moved to Israel. Among them, as it turned out, there were many writers. Some people, starting a new life in Israel, began to express themselves creatively for the first time. New poets, prose writers, satirists appeared. But how to share one’s works with the reader, how to find a response to what one writes? How to become recognised, read, and appreciated? After all, this is so necessary for the author.

At that time, the internet was not yet so developed. Social networks were not widespread. The bookstores of the country sold books in Hebrew. And what could anyone writing in Russian do? But it turned out that there was a way out.

The Union of Russian-speaking Writers of Israel has existed in the country for almost 50 years. At present, its chair is Dr Leonid Finkel, a graduate from Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow. He has been working hard to unite the writers and promote different creative projects. Many Russian-speaking writers have become members of the Union. We began to publish our books in Russian, arrange presentations, concerts, literary contests, meetings with readers. But the time has come for the works of our writers to become known to people who do not read in Russian. Our group of writers has discussed this issue many times. This is how the idea of creating a combined collection of our works in English appeared.

On the pages of this collection, the authors tell about their life in the former USSR. They write about their first vivid impressions after arriving in Israel, and about life in the land of their ancestors. Ancient cities of Israel, such as Jerusalem and Nazareth, reminded the authors of Biblical plots.

Some authors were acquainted with and remember those who survived the tragedy – the Holocaust of European Jewry. And there are authors who themselves not only witnessed those terrible events, but experienced them and survived. An entire chapter of the collection is devoted to this topic.

Our writers know how to joke and fantasise. The reader will find here poems and prose, essays and short stories, parables, fairy tales, translations and humour.

Translator and compiler of the collection

Irene Yavchunovsky

Part I


* * *

I’ll blow out the candle, and its glow will die.

The wax will turn into an ornament.

And the first snow falling on the land

Will sweep the pages with this verse of mine.

The flakes will fall, they will not leave a trace

Of the goodbyes of our last meeting.

I’ll never see the fluffy snow melting,

My star has gone, and on the other days

White flakes will dust your lashes; in the end

The storm will sweep your tears to the edges

Of blurry lines. And the torn-out pages

Will not be seen beneath the snowy land.

I’ll blow out the candle, and its glow will die…


Colourful Angels

(Written in English)

Centuries ago,

We were young and naïve.

Centuries ago,

We could truly believe

In affectionate love

Given to us from above

By the angels –

Blue Angels of springtide.

Many years ago,

We were adult and strong.

Many years ago,

We were singing a song

Of our passionate love

Given to us from above

By the angels –

Green Angels of summer.

Just a year ago,

We were mature and wise.

Just a year ago,

We could see in our eyes

The reflection of love

Given to us from above

By the angels –

Red Angels of autumn.

Just a day ago,

We were old, we were sad.

Just a day ago,

We were gone, we were dead,

With the memories of love

Taken from us to above

By the angels –

White Angels of winter.


Well, maybe this is not so bad to know

That after death I’ll be anew reborn,

And as a thistle in the fields I’ll grow

To make all imps and hags twitch on my thorn.

Let evil forces keep from you at distance!

I’ve not implored for mercy from above,

But in the last and most decisive instance

I’m supplicating now for your love.

Oh, love me both decorous and flighty,

Sometimes too flirty, and sometimes sedate.

I’m pleading now with my God Almighty

To fix for us the meeting point and date.

One day you’ll hear an inviting whistle

And leave your sweet and cozy home at night,

But being caught by prickles of the thistle

You’ll whisper, “Damn it!” vanishing from sight,

Not knowing of a foreseen occasion

That’s radiating its alluring rays,

And that there is my thorny stars’ invasion

Of all your roads and paths in all your ways.



A cricket’s singing, hidden in the fall.

This song is far from being an idle rant.

Regardless of my envy, health him grant

In order that his chirping would befall.

In spite of what his chirping would predoom.

Invisible, I plead you to forgive

The mortal muteness that constrains my mettle.

Salvation from perdition and the fettle –

That’s what your song will make me outlive.

And nothing but your song, without loss,

Entrust to me for infinite elation,

Where the incessancy of cantillation

Will make our past and future come across.


Don’t be hard on my abrupt confession.

It’s alike my fate, all black and blue.

And my lips are parching in obsession

Only just from mere thought of you.

I, within my power, have to render

All my life beseeching for a clue.

I am short of breath and I surrender

Only just from mere thought of you.

Though my orchard’s cindered by a lightning,

And my life’s a slogging fight anew,

Yet, at once my poignant tears are lightening

Only just from mere thought of you.

* * *

Of what I? Of what if the world is immense?

I woke up late, not a soul around.

Of what? Of the snow? The sun sans pretense?

But if just the sun spots make beautiful ground?

Of people? But either the hush or the truth,

And genuine truth’s so hard to be found.

Of life?.. Oh, my love, thanks for luminous youth!

Of death?.. Oh, my love, my remorse is profound.


* * *

To Maria Petrovykh

The woman born with a divine talent

Can raise your heart up to the Seventh Heaven.

The music of her verse will spin around,

And our souls echo every sound.

Despite misfortunes, sorrows, and mourning

Her charming words come tender as the morning.

Like sunshine, they will drive away the pain

And fascinate again and again.

They penetrate the music of the rains,

The bird songs, and a thirsty desert’s prayers.

Though many years have passed, and time is flying,

Today we still enjoy each word and line.

Her mystery is our surprise:

What makes the soul float in the skies?


Spring Comes

Spring comes as if a magic dream,

A tender leaf of May.

It soon will spread its rainbow wing

And then will fly away.

Then cruel summer heats the world,

The air’s hot and still.

The sky is red, the sand is gold,

The dry is daffodil.

But at the fragrant summer night

When nightingales sing,

It seems that spring began its flight

And spread a rainbow wing.

Then autumn brings sadness to the land.

Cold winds their music play,

And bare trees like oldmen bend,

The sky grows dull and grey.

But rainy droplets clear and light

Weave streaming-gleaming strings,

As if the spring began its flight

And spread rainbow wings.

Like rapid brooklet, time flows,

And winter steps inside

With stormy clouds, silver snows,

With cold and gloomy sight.

But crystal snowflakes in warm light

Dance and the branches swing.

As if the spring began its flight

And spread rainbow wing.


A road winds through the desert.

The landscape is dreary here.

A stupid camel is gazing

At Bedouins’ shelters near.

Fresh winds here are like magic.

All dried up without rains.

I close my eyes and imagine

A flight of a flock of cranes.

Dust-cobweb is spinning, swaying,

And creeping along the roads.

And I think of valleys, plains,

And puddles with paper boats.

But poppies grow in the desert,

Emerging all of a sudden.

And now to my amasement

The desert becomes a garden.

My tedious weekdays go.

Life’s path isn’t always pleasant.

But joys, though rarely, glow

Like red poppies in the desert.


Return from the Army

In late autumn I’m coming back home

Bringing winds of the faraway seas.

The first snow as fluffy as foam

Will be spread on my boots like beads.

The doorbell will be just at my waist height,

And my heart will be beating so fast.

I will knock at the door in the dim light,

“I’m back,” I will shout at last.

The old door will start creaking behind me.

I will jump aside not to be found,

And my mother, unable to find me,

Will be cautiously looking around.

Overflown with joy and excitement,

I won’t notice it at first sight:

Mother’s hair… it seems to be lighter.

Like the first snow it’s getting white.


* * *

The sleepy sea, the moonlit road,

and gluey syrup of the East –

they burn like spirit in my throat.

The air’s as savage as a beast.

The sea is lit by an azure glow

like in those naive golden times

when the young earth could dream and soar.

It never heard of, didn’t know

of Sodom and Gomorrah’s crimes.

As though I peer into the childhood

of lively earth from a past age –

Why have we turned it into wildhood?

What have we done with our heritage?

Another Judea was lying

among the mounds – a divine

and lovely gimmick of the sky.

The white-blue dawn,

the moon’s white lotus,

could not foreshadow Exodus.

Oh, where’s that age?

I see dull faces,

And dismal shadows ahead,

And scalding darkness, gloomy places,

Ash of the Holocaust,

which trace is

on the kippah on a Jewish head.


Become for me…

Become an emerald wave for me

to splash and glide on the waves together.

Become a peak of the cliff to see

and love the world in the nasty weather.

Become for me a springtime ray

to wake the birds and enjoy their singing.

Become for me the stream of the rain

to chill my heart and my soul one evening.

Become for me a fluffy gold plaid,

to wrap me, hide me from all the trials.

I’d like to be covered over my head,

and when I’m old, you’ll still see my smiles.

I’d be a coal lump; give me a chance!

In your fireplace I will burn and shine.

I will be a liquid in your wine glass,

And you would drink it with love like wine.

The Trains of Memories

The trains of memories

are whistling.

From distant stops

they’ve gone away.

Life fragments

in my head are twisting;

to the sheds of mind

they lead the way.

All intertwined –

the taste of berries,

the forest and the sky in rips,

a fat white goose,

jokes that were merry,

and the vague shape

of moist lips.

The sheds of memory

are keeping

the century

that’s gone away,

the shooting in the back,

night’s killing,

and the betrayal

of the day.

The hills, the skies try to remind:

you were alive,

you ruled that ball.

The trains of memories

arrive at

the sheds of mind

after all.

A Slice of Bliss Without Pills

Like specks of dust flew evening moments,

we saw the red eyes of fate.

The car lights were two twinkling points,

an empty station slammed the gate.

The road was stretched in the grey mantle,

and in the puddles, spread below,

The street lights, looking like the metal

wine goblets, stood dispersing glow.

The town whirled in summer passion.

It turned to us its smiling face,

as though passion was its fashion,

it scattered streets like angels’ lace.

I loved you, airy, slim and close,

so light as tulle which slides and thrills.

There was no makeup, daily prose,

But only bliss without pills.

Last Summer

In the sultry blue lands, they adjust everything

to long summer –

walls of rooms, ladies’ dresses, and wines,

and tools of a farmer,

and the shine of violet light, and prophetic

light dreams

that reject any death till approaching

of winter sunbeams.

But that last hasty summer passed quickly

as if a brief show,

it flashed through like a torch spreading

marvelous radiant glow,

and all painful thoughts that pursued you

at your sleepless night

burnt as if a bright flag, giving stones

its flame and light.

A new daring day swept away

any weakness and doubt.

And the tremulous dawn brought

triangular wings to fly out

to the freedom – not dropping one plume

on your way –

till the end of the summer, until the last day.

Leaves got yellow then, and the train passed

whistling on rails,

never leaving a trace on its misty and far away trails.

And the soul rose high to the sphere

of a cloudy path.

on a cold winter day, eyes shone

in a bottomless pass.

Life in a Small Coat with Pockets

In the evenings it’s quiet and hard to breathe,

stout August snores under the door.

In the heat, perspiration and lack of breeze

a fresh wine is good, nothing more.

Clouds are climbing, as though on tiptoe,

Step by step they’re approaching God,

With light smiles, they ask: “Please, bestow

peace and quiet.” They don’t ask a lot.

But a girl in the coat with pockets walked,

and a cruel, wild, violent truck

filled the air with dismal and bitter smog,

didn’t leave any hope for luck.

Barcelona and Texas can’t help but cry.

Skies have shuddered, the smoke is red.

Ginger girl in her torn and black stockings… Why?

Where are you? The world’s getting mad.

Only clouds are rocking that ginger girl,

only they hear now her song,

all about love, August, a pretty doll,

magic plane; she whispers, “What’s wrong?

Barcelona, what’s happened? You scare me,

I’m flying like Agust green leaf,

I’m sorry, don’t lose me, please hear me!

Do not sleep; lift your veil of grief.”

I would drink coffee meeting the morning light,

I would hug our life with a caress.

I’d calm down and fall asleep holding tight

Ginger girl in torn stockings. Not less…

That’s my Humble Question

That’s my humble question, it’s not meant for ages:

The slush to your yard hasn’t yet come again,

So why do you repeat those words of the sages?

The Jew, what’s the need in your crying and praying?

You don’t feel the pain or maybe a little,

Your tired out palms and your body are trembling.

You’re worriedly squeezing the bench you’re sitting.

Meantime the wind spreads eternity’s rumbling:

“Well, listen, my friend, You survived all the horrors,

You saw stuffy smoke, grey ash and black cloud.

Now, look in my eyes, tell, what are your sorrows?

Sit close to me, and please tell have you found

That freedom? So what? Is it light, is it heavy?

Or maybe you want to get rid of that freedom?

Now look, do you see the light moon in the heaven?

Your memory’s hard, but your heart’s full of wisdom.”

Eternity always goes in your direction.

It gives you some sweet lollipops and marshmallow.

It has left the kiss on your neck with affection,

Eternity’s kiss must be priceless, my fellow.

Eternity whispers: “The Jew, don’t feel sorry!

The moon is so splendid, night fragrance is fine,

I’m always with you, so be firm and don’t worry.

You have my protection – start smiling, stop crying.”

It’s Saturday Evening

It’s Saturday evening; I am on a cloud.

I’m roaming in the boundless blue space.

Who cares about me? The world, the press,

the town in its ecstasy? It’s proud

that on the map, it can be seen and found.

The cold October wind is jingling here,

the roulette is twisting in the air

without me, my dreams are all around.

Wet clouds send me drops, fly out with a startle.

Here, in the shadow, I don’t know the dates.

I look at the street light beside the gates,

admiring my reflection in the puddle.

Asphalt put on a red leaf, like an Order

I’d say a banality, but I can’t speak a word,

It will continue this way until the world

turns back to those who obeyed the order,

until the town becomes a single whole

and solves the puzzle, guessing, how could

a crimson leaf be so firmly glued

to the Unknown Soldier’s buttonhole.

I Try to Live Although Days Get Shorter

When I was young, I heard the voice beside me,

with tenderness it told me: “Don’t feel sorry,

forget about your mistakes, we’ll hide them

under the blanket, dear, and don’t worry.”

I run away from memory, from bustling,

the shade of guilt, misconduct and unkindness.

I fall in love with rainbows and rustling

of grasses and the smell of blooming lime-trees.

I try to live, although days get shorter,

I steal from night its peace and moon’s attraction,

I feel I am the king of your headquarter,

and I should pay for every faulty action.

I stand before the crowd and the gossips

and tell them all, sarcastically smiling,

that freedom is my payment for my losses.

The most beloved mistake is you, my darling.


Judean Desert

Night hasn’t gone, and you can still admire

The desert – this indifferent narrator:

Each stone here is the message for Messiah,

Which like a book keeps plans of the Creator.

The night retreats before the scorching sunlight.

The timid dawn will wrap the hills with whiteness,

The heat will come – the desert’s satellite.

Sharp sunny beams will penetrate the darkness.

The hand above will soon put out the stars,

And take away the darkness’s grim makeup.

The dawn will rise on the fragile bars

Of night and tear off its silky mantle.

Then stillness will be changed by noise and din.

The desert is a brilliant narrator.

One day has passed, another will begin:

There’s one more day – a gift of the Creator.


(Written in English)

The Squirrel Effect

I often think

that real life is

actually illusion,

and we are all

like shadows

in the sun.


we’ll run

into the circle

of the sceptical


And here

we’ll simply

entertain ourselves

like squirrels

in the circle races.

We’ll lose our souls,

lives and faces,

and hide forever

in the empty shells.

I Hear the Music of the Rain

I hear the music of the rain.

The wind is singing me its songs.

I think – without this – in vain

the whole world to mess belongs.

You want to sit in the empty cell

and listen only to the heartbeat.

It`s better going to the hell

And not to waste the moment, it

Is as long as life again,

It has eternal endless length.

I hear the music of the rain

and get, at last, the endlessness.

I am Burning the Bridges

Reading Alan Dean Foster

I am burning the bridges.

None avoids the fate.

Where I saw your images,

Nothing good is in rate.

We believed in the tales

Waiting for a happy end

But the wheel quickly breaks,

Nothing makes love expand.

Maybe after a year

Or a thousand years

Your reply I will hear,

Weeping with bitter tears.

Our love will be born

and be stronger again.

Nothing can’t be then torn,

Separated in vain.

In other dimensions,

Under different moons

Ancient love, we will mention,

We will swear in it soon…


Sometimes I simply lose control,


And I forget about all,


I don’t care of them at all,


I think they’re ugly, dull and small,


But when I look into my soul,


I see the dark and empty hole,


I think I’ll something new install,


I’m sure; quite sure, I love them all,


Of course, I feel, I love YOU all,



I will Find

The One True Path… where is it?

The One True Path… what is it?

The only way which is right...does it exist?

I believe in my Star and through evil and mist

I will find my own way to the true real love,

Love which lights all the stars,

Love which shines us above…

I will find my own way…



I was screaming to space so long,

I was dreaming – you would turn around.

Like a string, my sad voice was torn.

In return, there wasn’t a sound.

I looked into the dark so long

That my eyes forgot what was sunlight,

With my dreams, I remained alone,

You’re somewhere out of my sight.

I’ve been seeking your voice so long,

In the fuss, in the passing by trains,

But in vain, your voice was lost

In the humming of cities and rains.

I live now like everyone else.

I’m dissolved in the fog of routine,

And my hopes in memories melt,

But in dreams magic pictures are seen.

Grey Rocks

Beside the grey rocks and the broken docks,

Among bloody ledges – the curse of the Gods –

The dolphin was dancing in the pale moonlight,

Where sands buried sailors, who’d sailed and died.

Where foamy billows cover the docks,

There growling is heard under silent rocks,

And the moans of sailors who sank there once,

And the ringing and rattle of broken glass.

An old legend says that this passage is damned,

No ship ever sails to that bloody dam.

No one has approached the harbour for long.

And only the wind sings its sorrowful song.

The dolphin was dancing in the pale moonlight,

Where sands buried sailors, who’d sailed and died.

Winter Evening

Snow is falling behind the window glass

Quietly covering houses, roofs and the dale.

Cedar forest is dreaming away from the path

Fascinated by a snowy fairy tale.

Firewood is burning inside the old stove,

And the candle is flickering, spreading dim light,

And you said, “How nice, I love it… I love!”

Don’t be silent, speak, speak to me at this night.

Our life’s not eternal, we’re mortal. Alas!

Cedar forest stands silent, still, and divine.

And you added, “Who knows, what’s waiting for us!”

And I silently filled our glasses with wine.

Snow is falling behind the frozen glass,

Quietly covering houses, roofs and the dale.

Cedar forest is dreaming away from the path,

Fascinated by a snowy fairy tale.



Well, farewell! At silent night,

I have no wish to say your name.

For I’m free, my soul’s quiet.

The past will not come back again.

Well, farewell! Insulting words

You will not hear anywhere.

A fairy from my childish world!

My sadness will not stay forever.

Well, farewell. There’s no need

To recollect springtime blossom,

And ask the question: “Why indeed?”

And multiply the price of losses.

Well, farewell! Old dreams must die,

And when I meet you, I just know,

I won’t get sad like long ago.

I’ll whisper: “Farewell, goodbye.”

Do you Remember?

It’s hot in the room, but it’s cold outside.

It’s frosty; the snow makes everything white.

Your grandson is sitting and learning to read.

The cat, feeling cold, nestled near your feet.

You smile to your grandson as though you see

The days, when like him, I learned my ABC.

Then I was a boy, I caught your look,

While reading the words in the ABC book.

At once you remembered the snow-white grass,

The acacia was touching the window glass,

Its branches were covered with icicle-beads.

New January opened its calendar sheets.

The stove was hot; you were cooking at night.

The vase with bright flowers stood by your side.

They were like a fairy tale, a dream,

Like heralds of summer in dim winter gleam.

At once, you remembered all that, and your eyes

Got filled with warm tears… That was a surprise…

The door creaked, and Daddy stepped into the room,

The bouquet in his hand smelled of freshness and bloom.

You smiled and leaned on his winter fur coat,

You burst into tears, a lump in your throat.

But don’t cry, my dear, the same old vase

Is on the new table, it’s just changed its place.

The branch of acacia, grass under the snow,

The frost, crispy ice, and the puddles below,

The kitchen, the stove, those cold winter days –

They’ve gone, but fresh flowers are in the vase.

Your grandson is learning and catching your look.

He’s reading the words from his ABC book.

It’s January night, and it’s cold outside,

As if nothing has changed, just your hair is white.

About the Sand

It trickles through the fingers, and

It looks like nothing but the sand:

As if it’s been so soft and gold

Since the creation of the world.

What are the dreams it sees at night,

Lit by the moonlight, clear and bright?

Who can imagine and believe

That it was an enormous cliff?

Above the water in the past

It rose, full of weedy grass.

The seas and winds in their rage

Threw cruel billows to its edge,

They splashed saliva, angry foam.

It didn’t bent, it didn’t moan,

The trooper, bitten by the sea,

It held all blows. It could see

The countries wiped off from the maps

That lived and flourished and collapsed,

The perished kingdoms full of pride,

They once were born and later died.

King of the sea, the waters’ host,

It finally became the ghost.

Time had been doing its hard work

And crushed each stone of the rock.

And where’s the impressive cliff?

It disappeared like a leaf.

It covers narrow strips of land,

It slips through fingers. It’s the sand.

To Maya

From now you know all: what once was wrong or right.

All secrets’ve gone away; you cannot hear scandals.

There’s neither time nor place. Death has its own right,

And you are free from lies, backbiting, dirty slander.

Let angry people talk, but they do not hold court.

You’ll never be afraid of gossips, wary glances,

From now, you’ll be judged by only one, by God.

The court of God is just. The rest have no chances.

The Starting Point

What is the start of all beginnings?

What may be early and what late?

The yacht swayed on the waves one evening;

It seemed as if the pier swayed.

We fail to give the proper name

To things, and say, “What a surprise!

A snowflake sparkles like a flame,

A flame can be cold like ice.”

All birds are building nests, although,

A cuckoo doesn’t have a nest,

We break our heads and still don’t know:

A hen, an egg? What’s first, what’s next?

Who can explain in the slightest

And clarify this fact to us?

An extinct star can be the brightest

In galaxies of burning stars.

We do not sleep, but think about

these facts, we do not play the fool.

We see the glass and figure out:

Is it half-empty or half-full?

We fly to space; we split an atom.

The humankind has learned a lot.

But why an egg is getting harder,

And butter’s melting when it’s hot?

I will Live Until You Breathe

That’s not that I repent, but I remember.

I’m not complaining, crying, feeling blue.

I won’t say farewell to cold November,

But I will say goodbye to you.

I see again and again your face, your wrinkles,

But not the raindrops falling from the skies.

And I had better wipe off with my fingers

The teardrops under your eyes.

Our happiness glimpsed suddenly and faded,

Your ship is blown by another breeze.

Life goes on, and we are separated.

But I will live until you breathe.


You are my Assol from a tale,

And I’m your Captain Gray.

I’ll climb the mast, raise the sail.

I’ll set through the sees my way.

I’ll look to the distance, dreaming

Of you, soaking wind, sea salt,

I’ll see: azure mist is steaming,

You’re stepping ashore, Assol.

Time flies, but I’ve still been living

Encountering rocks and reefs.

Some say I should not believe in

The things which are just beliefs.

Still dreaming, I blaze a trail,

Meet either a storm or a shoal,

As though my life isn’t real,

As if I don’t live at all.

My sailing yacht is worn out,

But you’re still far away.

Assol, do you think about

And wait for your Captain Gray?


* * *

Once, counting her ribs, exclaimed Madam,

“O God, please, take just one, make for me Adam!”

* * *

Don’t put strange questions, don’t be silly,

Try to avoid them, be wise!

If God suggests to sow millet,

Wait, He will order it to rise.

* * *

Our autumns are frequent, springs are rare,

We think of our kids, but they don’t care,

Despite all warnings, they will go their way,

For them it is as endless as each day.

* * *

What can we do with days that fly?

Just wave ‘Hello!’ and ‘Good bye!’

* * *

On the park bench beside train station,

They said the last word… they are patient,

Our train is still on the way,

They’re waiting for us far away.

* * *

What’s laziness? The opposite of fuss,

Although, our fuss still stays with us.

We always poke into everything

As we are lazy we still fuss, but do not think.

* * *

Life is too tight for numerous things,

And still it contains the new-coming springs.

* * *

The skyscrapers are lower here

Because the sky is quite near.

And it’s high time to note:

Our God lives across the road.

* * *

Although my roads were winding and tough,

A load I carried was heavy enough,

I’ll catch the last moment so not to be late

For my boiling soup, for my bus, for my fate.

Part II

Poems and stories dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust


The Ravines

(an excerpt from the poem)

You slept so long!

Get up! Come on!

The underground room won’t be your doom.

Onto the road through smog and gloom,

From Babi Yar to the Dnieper slopes

And up to the Rhein’s banks and glossy lawns.

In empty eye-hollows light a flame

From furnaces of Dachau, Breslow!

We cannot forget that cannibal game –

Everywhere, forever

Blood and pain.

Come on! Go!

Step on the road!

Step on the road!

A shade to a shade!

A six-million column is long and straight.

The winds will never dispel your trace.

Your moans are flowing through every place.

Step on the road!

Madness does not need a parade!

They can’t hide the shame beneath shiny crowns.

Listen, Europe! It has been played –

The hymn of bones on pavement stones.

Their clatter breaks through

To the churches of gold,

To the kitchens of Europe’s

Contentment and pleasure,

Somebody’s sons and daughters

Were sold –

Each of them separately

And all together.

Through rain and haze

In wavering steps,

Whether the shades

Can have any strength!?

Nevertheless, go!

To each grave and each trench – bow!

I’ll show you the way

As your closest friend,

I’ll accompany you from your ravines and trenches!

Through the jumble of epochs

I’ll lead you away

And bring you to the mist of the twenty-first century.

Ukrainian Stream





Six million pairs of



Only white bones

Fire and blood,

All their lives

Became a graveyard.





Thousands echoes of sufferings, pain.

There lived a small man on the Dnieper lands,

He grew among people,

He played with his friends…

A hole in his head,

He is dead…

He smiled to the sun,

He danced in the rain, –

He was like the others

Yet not the same.

Bogdanchick, Tarasik, he and Andrei, –

Only he was the Jew

But weren’t they!

“The Jew” – was the word,

That he heard,

“The Jew, you see?!” –

It stank like a bee.

And when it was said,

He knew it was bad.

To be a Jew – that was a shame!

But why? No one could explain.

The sky was blue,

Where’s the Jew,

A hole in his head –

A skeleton, dead!

No rain and sun,

No smile and play,

Bogdanchik, Tarasik, Andrei met a new day…

The Jew passed away…

* * *

Near Babi Yar, the columns ceased going,

The shades in the stillness stood bowing,

On a steep slope, in the morning dim light,

As if on the threshold of the oncoming battle,

The army was ready to fight.

The road to Kyiv, like a desert, is bare

But it will never forget it, never:

The Jews with belongings, you’re going.

To where?

Your life-tickets are expired forever.

The Jews? Are you going? Where?

Neither left nor right,

Neither here nor there,

The barks of the dogs,

The bang – and… the corpse

Falls into the ditch, falls onto the rocks.

Let those Jewish legs know

How to be slow!

The people of Kyiv,

You saw their faces,

Familiar faces

They lived in these places,

The baker, the chemist, the teacher…

No chance…

A carbine’s shot settles all, and at once.

Just the small reddish seeds

From poplars fell down,

And lay on the streets,

Floated in puddles at dawn.

And then the prowlers

Crawled and crawled.

Were they the burglars?

Of course, they weren’t!

They sure were not,

Just the debts to the workers

Must be returned!

They broke and broke

Into the Jewish homes

Where the soups

Were still hot on the stoves.

They searched in the flats,

Tore cobweb in sheds.

Some Jews might be there,

Or anywhere!

Come on! Betray them!

I write this with shame,

I love Ukraine.

But memory wakes me,

But memory makes me

Recall it AGAIN!

Not all were the same,

Some people were holy,

Jerusalem Alley

Remembers each name.

And we are saying:

Eternal fame!


* * *

People are walking heads down, in sadness.

Something has happened. What will be then?

Can anybody return their gladness,

Cheer them up, bringing hope again?

They look exhausted and lost, they don’t know

Where to run, who can show the way?

Weren’t they happy? Where did happiness go?

What’s their role in this horrible play?

The Violinist

The skies sank in the rain tears,

Howling winds were severe and loud.

Blocking roars of thunder and fears,

Paganini was heard around.

The violinist was still playing;

He knew it might be the last time.

He drew out the fiddle’s pain,

The bow in his hand was flying.

Cruel killers were coming near.

Thunders silenced music sound.

Death was hovering in the air.

Death was spreading along the ground.


Where the Cranes Fly To

The dry Crimean wind was bending with force everything that was in its way, almost like a blizzard. There was no snow. Only the dry autumn grass, left after the flowering of the cornflowers, chamomile and immortelle, which until the last winter colds, spread across the steppe. It seemed that those dry leaves and grasses were trying to cover up the place that had become evidence of human cruelty. Still breathing the tragedy, a long ditch near Simferopol was a gaping blackness. Human bones, shreds of clothes, children’s shoes, rag toys were mixed there with the clods of soil. The flock of cranes flew very low. Having cried and waved their farewell to the steppe, the cranes disappeared in the cold nebula of the day. Rita felt even more sorrowful because of this parting with them. Birds will return here, she thought, but our relatives and friends won’t.

She felt her husband’s warm hand on her shoulder.

“You are shivering.” Abraham took off his jacket and put it around his wife’s shoulders.

He did not let her take a step away from him, she could stumble or, as had happened more than once in recent years, could lose consciousness.

People standing on either side of the ditch, near this almost fresh grave, were weeping quietly, praying. Here lay their relatives and friends. The Nazis had shot them, along with all the Krymchaks and Jews who did not have time to escape from the occupied city. That was the autumn of 1947. The ditch resembled an unhealed ragged wound; corpses lay along its sides. The machine-guns did not kill all those people at once. Crushed by the dead bodies on top of them, some still tried to get out, and suffocated in their last agony. People who came to the place of the tragedy, some with shovels, some with rakes, tried to fill in the ditch with soil, to cover the traces of that terrible crime.

Among the victims were Abraham’s father and mother, his first wife and their two daughters. The fate of Rita’s family was no less tragic. Rita’s mother and little daughter, although they managed to leave the Crimea before the Nazis came, died of hunger and disease during the evacuation.

I look at a small yellowed photograph, embodying the moment of sadness and human grief. Strong male hands support Rita, she is wearing a light dress, for some reason, white. It contrasts with the late grey autumn and human sadness on the background. But this bright touch seems to be symbolic: two months later, their son Mikhail would be born into the family of Rita and Abraham.

Seventy years later. December. The same tenth kilometre of the Feodosiya highway. An open field of memory is covered with snow. A black marble obelisk stands like a guard at the long ditch. There is a seven-branched candlestick, wreaths, flowers and people. Familiar faces that were in the old photographs are no longer among them. They have entered history, giving their word to preserve the memory forever. But on this day, wrapped in a veil of snow, their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren came to the obelisk. Probably not only for the sake of memory. People appeal to reason and conscience, they turn to the Almighty with a prayer.

And at this very time, on Remembrance Day, the Krymchaks returning to their historical homeland, to Israel, gathered. To remember the victims of Nazism they passed from hand to hand a small glass capsule with a handful of Crimean earth. The same one that had been sprinkled near the Simferopol that cruel autumn. People warmed it with the warmth of their hands and hearts.

A tall, stately man read the prayer. His grey curly hair resembled the Crimean grasses powdered with the first snow. He was the son of Rita and Abraham Izmerli, who was born in that mournful 1947. It was he who brought the handful of Crimean soil to Israel. Moving around the tables, the capsule returned to Mikhail. At that moment, his thoughts were in that death field; it remained both in his genetic memory and in his wounded soul.

The wind spread the smell of burning candles from the snow-covered obelisk in the Crimea. The wax crackled in the hot drops falling to the white snowy ground. They mournfully blackened in the snow. And the tongues of flame from the burning candles darkened. They dissolved in the sky, just as the cranes had once dissolved in the autumn greyness.


In memory of Krimchaks, murdered by Nazis in the Crimea during the Second World War.

I came back to the places of my childhood,

For my herbarium, I was gathering dry leaves.

My memory returned to the charred greenwood,

The orchard that was blossoming beneath.

By autumn, leaves died on the ground,

Some flew away and never grew again.

They suffered long, wrapped in the evil cloud,

They couldn’t bear the cruelty of man.

Those silky sprouts, touched by sunny rays,

They might deserve a hymn, a charming song.

There were no buds enjoying springtime rains.

Green leaves could not stand it for so long.

Like mother’s tears watering the ground,

The drops were falling on the ruined wood.

The root was crying, pitying its crown,

Deep in the ground, at the place where I stood.

My people passed away like woods and orchards,

But by the veins on the leaves, I’ll read each trait.

Like by our palm lines, I can tell their fortune:

Eternity is their common fate.


New Year in Kabankino

A True Story

I woke up at dawn with a beating heart: I had seen a wolf in my dream. He was standing right under the window, looking upwards, lifting a huge grey head and dully howling “oo-oo-oo.”

“Oh, what tales are you telling? You’ve never seen a wolf!” Mom was surprised at my story. And until now, I cannot understand how one can see in a dream anything that one has never seen in real life.

Although I had just turned four years old then, I had already seen a lot in my life because I was not an ordinary child, I was a refugee. Kabankino, or Kabanovka, is a remote Tatar village hiding in the depths of the Chernootrog regional centre, the most distant in the Chkalovsk (now Orenburg) region. My mother and I, and my aunt with two children, came there by the will of a bitter war fate in the middle of autumn 1941. We had to wander in “teplushki”, or “calf houses”, or rather, cattle corrals on wheels, throughout the European part of the country, until we passed into its Asian part through the mighty and gloomy Ural Ridge.

Finally, we stopped here. Yes, we stopped here in the hope that the Nazis would not reach us. We stayed here, and there was no need to grab still-wet stockings and boots in the morning, stuff them into my mother’s suitcase, and hastily put on something after we escaped from Belgorod or Saratov. There was no need to grab at my mother’s skirt in panic so as not to get lost in the crowd rushing to the station. There was no need to remember with horror that my favourite doll had been left in a strange bed, rolled up in my aunt’s beautiful knitted cardigan like a swaddled baby.

For more than two months we had been living in this godforsaken village. At first, there were quite a few of us, evacuated from Ukrainian Polesia. But families with adults, or at least teenagers capable of carrying heavy bundles and suitcases back and forth, gradually left in search of a better life in cities where there was a lot of work and schools for the children, and decent housing.

But my mother and aunt didn’t have enough strength to move again. Besides, unlike other families, we were lucky: our former countrywoman sheltered us. She together with her husband and children had been evicted almost ten years before as malicious “kulaks”, peasants considered “hesitant” allies of the revolution because they refused to give their cow to a collective farm.

Our strict and laconic hostess, Aunt Matryona, had a house on solid piles which contrasted with theTatar huts. It could not be washed away in the spring flood. I happened to watch this with fear a year later, at the age of five, sitting with other children on the sloping roof of such a house.

There were also bunks in the house where my aunt and her children slept. The hostess and her three children slept on the Russian stove and my mother and I were given the honour to sleep on a narrow iron bed, although it was in a separate cold room.

Matryona was very neat, so when she saw my mother’s linen, her face brightened, and she immediately led us to her “special” room.

So it was a stroke of luck not to catch lice in small dirty dugouts with animal skins on the floor, where the children had to crawl with the animals… New evacuees did not arrive here anymore. There was nowhere to place them.

No! … Not true. Once, on a cart, the chairman of the village council Musa-Babai (Grandpa Musa) brought a young soldier in torn uniform and worn-out boots. But the lad had a rare beauty.

“Look here; I’ve brought a clever guy. He finished as many as ten grades! He will drive a car, and he will drive a tractor. Yes, yes, yes, this is Musa who tells you that. Yaksha?”

Nobody objected to him. Only my little brother Lyovushka exclaimed in surprise:

“Where is the car? Where is the tractor?”

“Musa said yes-yes-yes! So, there will be a car, and there will be a tractor!” The chairman independently stroked his beard. He settled the soldier in his shed, because no one wanted to take in this strange, handsome young man with a fixed gaze. Black and grey strands of hair that he had not washed for a long time shaded a very young, pale face with deep sunken eyes. That was the face of a sufferer, a martyr, a stranger’s face.

Only our Musa-Babai hoped to call him back to life. Even we children, when we accidentally met his eyes, felt uncomfortable. And for some reason, we felt ashamed, as if we were guilty before him.

His name was Isaac, or rather Itshok, in Yiddish.

That was my father’s name, as well. That’s why my mother, tormented by some premonition, felt particular pity for the unfortunate boy: she shared with him the last crumbs of food, washed everything that he allowed her to take off. She brought him my father’s things that she did not allow herself to exchange for food. And he warmed a little and told her something about himself: he was a schoolboy and had fallen in love with a girl, his classmate. The next morning after graduation, the war began, and all the graduate boys volunteered for the front. Itshok too, of course. The family of his Bella did not manage to escape. The Nazis raped her, her sisters and mother for a long time…

People wrote about this in a letter to his classmate, who then became his comrade in arms, and the latter read it to Itshok, not knowing what a wound he had inflicted on the boy’s heart. Since then, the lad had been looking for death. The commander did not want any accidents and decided to send him far from sin to the rear. So he appeared in our village, but he did not live long in Musa’s cold shed. On the last day of the old, outgoing, terrible 1941, Musa found him dead on a pile of straw on an old mat.

According to Jewish custom, he was to be buried on the same day. Moreover, they decided to bury the body in a white shroud, at the request of the older people. Musa-Babai got double gauze in the pharmacy. And my mother sewed the shroud by hand. She sewed it and cried, perhaps anticipating her own approaching widowhood and my orphanhood.

Teenagers and women took several hours to dig the grave in the frozen ground, and we buried the poor boy at dusk.

In the meantime, on the stage of a small, frozen village club, lit up on the occasion of the New Year with as many as three smokehouses, my fellow countryman Abrashka Kofman and I were dancing Shamilia. This strange hero of all Caucasian peoples, in a fit of anger, kills his beloved, and then, repenting, stabs himself with a dagger. This was the kind of “drama-melodrama” that Abrashka and I staged, alternately singing our comments to the Lezginka motif. We were both in sailor suits (how do you like these Caucasians in sailor suits?), he was in the dark blue, I was in a cherry-coloured one. He was five years old, and I was four. So, struck by his dagger, I plopped on the cold floor of the stage, and he screamed in despair with his hoarse breaking falsetto:

Oh, why did I ruin

A young soul here?

I’d better kill myself

Instead of you, my dear!

And, making a farewell circle to the famous “Assa!” he stabbed himself and nestled next to me. To the thunderous applause of old and small Tatars, as well as several grandmothers and grandchildren among the evacuees, we walked around the rows of spectators and collected our fee, a handful of seeds. The spectators put them directly into my raised skirt and the peakless cap of my partner. Happy, we brought home our “earnings”.

The frosty morning of the new 1942 seemed to warn the frozen country about fierce battles and cruel losses still to come. Maybe that was the reason why I saw a grey wolf in my predawn dream on this New Year’s morning.


The Third Daughter

This story is about the generation of people who founded Israel. I was lucky to get acquainted with them. And they are still in my memory…

I arrived in Israel in June 1991, practically without any luggage. We had to leave Belarus hastily, we only had ten days to get ready. Of course, we did not know any Hebrew. I just managed to memorise the first six lessons from a self-study guide. Our friends, who had arrived two months earlier, found an apartment for our family in Haifa, in the Neve Shaanan district. But it was not easy to start life in a new place: everything around us was unfamiliar. We did not know how to talk to the locals.

Since childhood, I understood Yiddish a little, but I had never had a chance to speak this language. And now, when it was necessary to communicate with someone, I pulled Yiddish words out of my poor vocabulary, accompanied them with facial expressions, gestures, inserted words in Russian. And … what a wonder! Hebrew speakers understood me.

About a week later, an elderly woman came with her grandson to meet us. She was about seventy years old, and her grandson was seventeen, like my son. The woman, whose name was Ethel, brought us a cart full of groceries from the supermarket. We didn’t want to take anything, explained that we had received money to help us settle, that we had all we needed. Ethel smiled back.

“Don’t worry, take everything and eat to your health. We were waiting for you!”

My mother, looking at Ethel, shed a tear and said to me, “You know, she looks like your grandmother.”

And Ethel said that my mom looked like her mother. They hugged each other as if they were old acquaintances who met after a long separation.

Later we learned that Ethel had lost all her relatives, killed in the ghetto during the war. The Nazis decided not to kill her, and used her for medical experiments. After a painful procedure, she was forbidden to drink. She was slowly dying of thirst. And then Menachem, a young man who was in love with her, found her. Risking his life, day after day, he brought water in his mouth and, kissing her, brought her back to life.

When the American soldiers freed the prisoners, Ethel was so weak that she could not walk. Menachem carried her out in his arms. After the war, they left for Palestine and had been living together for fifty years.

There was unemployment in Israel in those years. To earn their daily bread, they had to work very hard. Their two daughters and a son were growing up. Menachem didn’t want his children to feel deprived of anything. He took any job, although they were both weak after the ghetto. It was hard, but Menachem and Ethel loved each other. Their love helped them to endure hardships.

I remember how on my way home from work one day, I met Ethel near her house. We were both happy. Ethel was short, she barely reached my shoulder. Suddenly she kissed my arm just above the elbow. I was embarrassed.

“!דו ביסט מיין דריטע טאכטער”, she said.

“Ethel, kiss her again – for me,” cried Menachem, who was watching us from the balcony.

Then Ethel got ill. The disease lasted a long time. When the doctors told Menachem that she had no more than a day to live, he began to pray: “Shema Israel!” After the prayer, he went to the hospital, kissed her and said quietly, “Ethel, don’t be afraid, I won’t let you go alone.” But she didn’t hear his words.

Menachem came home from the hospital, lay down on the sofa and died. They were buried on the same day. So they lie side by side in the cemetery. Death did not part them.

Ten years have passed since then. Other people live in this house now. But when I walk past, it seems to me that Menachem sees me from the balcony, that Ethel will open the door and, as before, will gently say to me in Yiddish,

“!דו ביסט מיין דריטע טאכטער – You are my third daughter!”


The Last Day

Gaining its strength and might in Europe,

The Nazi plague came close to us.

It wasn’t easy, it was horrible

To look into the foe’s eyes.

Moishe woke up from the pain. His leg, wounded in the battles of World War I, and his eyelid worried him. Not getting out of bed, the old man washed his hands over the bowl. Everything was as usual: tallith, tefillin, morning prayer. After finishing the prayer, Moishe put away the accessories and came up to the window. His eyelid was closed because of the wound, and that’s why Moishe’s look seemed always fixed on something.

“It’s going to rain,” he whispered, looking into the clear sky. Then, feeling his aching leg again, he repeated, “It must rain.”

Just a half-hour’s walk away, behind the fields, the village of Baikmalia could be seen. From this place, from the side of the village Akui, Baikmalia was exceptionally beautiful. On ordinary days he could admire this view for hours. But today he thought of something different: yesterday in the evening the Germans had entered Baikmalia. They surely would not pass by Akui.

No, Moishe did not experience fear. What could frighten an old man who had reached his seventy-year milestone some time ago? It was the uncertainty that worried him: what would happen? He, who had survived World War I and spent four years in German captivity, was very well aware of what the people might anticipate from the Germans. That’s what all his relatives told him, leaving their homes hurriedly. “Don’t be stupid, Moishe. You’ll regret it when the Germans come.”

Recalling his relatives’ warnings, he smiled sadly. How could they not understand? he thought. Every day they said on the radio “Our troops who had been fighting heroically on the occupied frontiers were trapped.” And if my son was trapped? What if he comes home at night hungry, bleeding, and doesn’t find anyone? Who will help him then?

Moishe’s first wife Libe, God bless her memory, had given birth to many children, but all of them died one after another, not living even one year. Only Beryl, born in 1900, survived. During the first days of the war his only son, together with other conscripted country folks, was summoned to the military registration office and immediately sent to the front line. Before he jumped into the old truck, he hugged his dad and said, “I’ll be back. Wait.”

Beryl’s wife Hanna and his two small daughters evacuated on the dray together with other relatives. But Moishe himself did not agree to leave. What would his son think of him if he found an abandoned house? No, come what may, he, Moishe, would wait for his son at home. Moishe stepped away from the window. Carefully, not to draw his wife’s attention, he passed the kitchen and moved to the yard to feed the bustling geese and hens.

“Ain’t come yet?” the indifferent voice of Feiga could not deceive him. Moishe knew he had to cheer her up somehow, but he could not find the proper words.

“No,” he answered briefly, looking at golden balls on the old iron bed frames resembling the Hanukkah dreidels.

Lieutenant von Krauze had been tasked with occupying the village of Akui. He acted correctly and accurately. He isolated the perimeter by putting up block-posts on all the roads, setting up barriers from the side of the forest, while his soldiers, supported by two tanks, entered the village.

Akui met them with tense silence. Even the restless dogs, for which a tiny rustle was usually enough to start their dogs’ concert, instinctively feeling oncoming danger, were silent this time. The village sank in the greenness of the acacias, behind which no one could see either soldiers or tanks. Just the road dust, whipped up by the tank tracks, rose into the high cloudless sky, and for a long time twisted like a snake, repeating all the curves of the winding road and penetrating deeper and deeper inside the village.

Without a single shot, the Nazis reached the centre of the village and stopped. The tanks stopped their engines. Silence conquered the place. Tired soldiers sprawled on the grass in the shadow of the trees. Only von Krauze stood alone under the beams of a hot summer sun; he swept the dust from off his boots with a long willow twig.

He looked around with slight irritation, “Damn those Russians!” He who had crossed half of Europe with the German army had got used to a much warmer welcome from the local civilian populations.

“Don’t they want to understand that since this very day they are an integral part of Greater Germany? Do they need a lesson?” he grinned, “Well, they’ll get it!”

“Get up! Listen to my command!” his words sounded like the crack of a whip. He pointed with the twig towards the village school, “Here, we set up our headquarters. Now search the village and bring those lousy pigs. All of them! Don’t hesitate. Fire on the spot for disobedience! Task time – one hour.”

He turned and moved towards the school. The lieutenant pushed the door of the school shed with his boot, it opened with a creak, and von Krauze disappeared into the darkness beyond the doorway.

The search began. The village woke up. Shouts in a strange language which became horrible at once, banging on the doors, the sound of shattering glass, the barks of angry dogs, drowned out by the growl of short dry bursts of gunfire and the long sorrowful sobbing of women, signified a new epoch in the history of the village of Akui.

From everywhere, people in small groups and alone moved towards the school. Soon a big crowd that swallowed both Moishe and his wife approached the school building. When all had gathered near the school building, the lieutenant observed the crowd scornfully. Then he called the interpreter and began his speech, “The Great Reich brought you freedom and a happy life, liberating you from communists and commissars. But you beasts, you do not know what gratitude is. Never mind, we will teach you to love Germany and its Führer Adolf Hitler! Now, lesson number one.” Von Krauze raised his arm sharply in the Nazi greeting and proudly uttered “Heil Hitler!”

The poor Moldavians, not understanding what those people wanted from them, stood in silence. The cheekbones tensed on the lieutenant’s face, which was covered with beads of sweat. He again raised his hand and barked, “Heil Hitler!” then gave a command. Soldiers surrounded the crowd and, forming a semicircle, shoved people against the school’s wall.

An interpreter called loudly, “Communists, step forward!” Nobody moved. “What? No communists? They ran away! And Jews, have they also run away?” he asked sarcastically.

Moishe hesitated, not knowing what to do, but the village folks suddenly stepped aside in fear, forming a live corridor for him. He stopped his wife with his hand. “Don’t move!” As if praying, he looked at the sky. The sky was cloudy, but there was no rain. He lowered his eyes and thought, “God! Why is my leg aching so bitterly?” Then he slowly went along the live corridor.

Moishe came up to the officer and stopped. He raised his head. For a minute that seemed an eternity, the old man and the Nazi were looking intently into each other’s eyes. The Nazi could not stand it any longer and turned his eyes away; he looked at the crowd. Then he furiously glanced at the Jew again. Moishe was still looking straight into his face. No one in the crowd noticed it, but von Krauze knew that he was weaker than the Jew, he was defeated, and the worst thing was that Moishe understood this too. He realised this when he again looked into the rebellious Jewish eyes. Enraged, von Krauze spat into the old man’s face and muttered through clenched teeth in German, “Why are you staring at me, dirty Jew? Haven’t you seen a German before?” Then he drew back his arm and sharply hit the old man on the head with a stick. Blood at once sprayed and poured over his face, lips, moustache and long reddish beard, it stained the sun-faded shirt, gradually painting it red.

“I have seen,” answered Moishe clearly in pure German, his lips bleeding.

The fact that this Jew dared to speak to him, and especially in his mother tongue, infuriated von Krauze even more. He snatched his Walther out of the holster and fired straight into the Jew’s forehead. Moishe swayed and fell softly upon the ground, clumsily tucking his legs underneath himself.

The people were silent. Only Feiga, who until this moment had been standing motionlessly on the spot where her husband had left her, suddenly murmured something in Yiddish and rushed forward through the same live corridor. Sobbing, she fell upon the almost breathless body of her husband. Von Krauze, standing beside them, aimed at her and fired. Her sobs were suddenly interrupted, Feiga fell upon the ground. She was lying breathless on the ground, stretching her hands to her sides, warmed by the summer sun. Her lifeless eyes were open to the thick clouds floating across the sky. Only a bright tear continued its endless path along her wrinkled face till it was lost somewhere in her white curls.

The officer glanced contemptuously at the two corpses, put his gun into the holster, carefully clasped it, and turned to the horrified crowd. But Moishe was still breathing, the bullet, shot in haste, had just ricocheted off his skull bone. Suddenly he felt a severe headache. Moishe moaned. Von Krauze turned back to him, “You’re still alive, Jewish swine? Wait a bit!”

He gave a command. Soldiers rushed to the houses and soon brought the horse and a long rope. They dragged the wife’s body away to the school’s wall. Then they fastened one end of the rope around Moishe’s hands and bound the end to the horse’s tail. From time to time von Krauze looked at the stormy sky, which was getting dark rapidly, and he told the soldiers to hurry. Not understanding what was going on, the folks curiously watched all the preparations. And only Moishe was lying, bleeding and indifferent to all.

He suddenly remembered how Germans, who just after World War I had settled in Bakamillia, had to sell their houses and return to Germany. More often, it was the Jews who bought the German dwellings, as they were the most prosperous part of the population. An old German then said, “We, the Germans, have sold our houses to you Jews, and to whom will you sell them?”

And only when another war began, and when the Jews had to abandon their new houses and run away to save their lives and their children, they understood the horrible meaning of those words.

Von Krauze took the long whip and came up to Moishe just at the moment when the first drops of rain fell on the old man’s face. Moishe was glad: he knew, he knew that it would rain! His leg, his barometer, never deceived him. That’s why it had ached since morning. And, you see, yes it rains! It rains! Moishe smiled.

Von Krauze could not believe his eyes: this almost dead Jew was smiling into his face! He gasped out in anger, “Jew! Damned Jew! This is your last day!” He shouted and gave the command. Soldiers untied his hands and fastened the rope to Moishe’s beard. The fascist lashed the horse with all his might. The horse startled and rushed forward, dragging behind the body of the old Jew.

The thunderstorm broke out. The last thing Moishe heard was the thunder cracking the skies with a horrible roar. Or maybe it was the crunch of a vertebra.

Almighty time wipes everything away. Moishe’s only son, Beryl Rabinovich, died a hero near Mozdok in December 1942. Beryl’s wife, Hanna, also passed away. During the severe war years, Moishe’s grave was lost. For a long time, no Jews have lived in Akui and in Baimaklia. Even if they did still live there, they would scarcely remember when Moishe was born and how he had lived.

Yes, almighty time wipes away everything. But, despite time and fate, the family of Moishe Rabinovich has not been wiped off the face of the earth. Two of his granddaughters, coming through all the horrors of the war, came back from the evacuation, and in 1992 they repatriated to Israel where they live now: Klara in Haifa, Luba in Ashdod.

Their families seldom meet. But when they do, both the granddaughters of Moishe Rabinovich tell his three great-granddaughters that terrible story about the tragic death of their great-grandfather Moishe Rabinovich. And, hopefully, one day they will tell it to their own grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

No, von Krauze was mistaken: THE LAST DAY of the Jew Moishe Rabinovich will never come. For the chain of time will never break.

The Siren

Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed as Israel’s day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. At 10.00 am, Israel comes to a stop when the siren is sounded around the country for two minutes. Even cars on the highways stop, and drivers and passengers get out and mark the two minutes.

We hear screams of sirens now and then.

They wake the memory, make the obscure distinct.

The Holocaust Day brings us back again.

We see the past in moments of new insight.

I stand in silence like all those around me.

I cannot understand who I am now.

One who once fell near a charred tree?

Or maybe a burnt victim of Dachau?

Another life has flashed before my eyes:

Escape or death – I hear barking, noise.

The furnace waits, each tenth in line dies.

I understand: it’s me… Who made this choice?

I step out of the line, drop my head,

My soul sinks, I’m pale, my heart’s beating.

Is there anyone who can forget

Both old and young upon the ground, bleeding?

I feel like Janusz Korczak, Anna Frank.

As if in Babiy Yar I was convicted,

As if I was there when the Nazi tank

Cut through the body. And I was a victim.

I’m standing quietly like everybody else.

The world must wake up out of long sleeping,

Bow to the dead, choose Life instead of Death!

We’ve stopped in silence, the siren is screaming.



Dedicated to Irena Sendler, the rescuer of the Jewish children of Warsow.

When there’s a shade of the horror and evil,

And the angel of death comes one day,

Then the world must obey the Devil,

Though some chose a different way.

Look! Irena, with gentle, divine,

Bright and merciful light in her eyes,

Defeated the darkness each time

When she came just to rescue young lives.

Never longed she for richness or fame,

Never dreamed of Swiss banks to invest,

Just the message with each child’s name,

Whom she saved, was the gold she possessed.

Politicians, now keep silenсe!

No treasure’s more precious than one

Saved by her. Love is stronger than violence,

It gave birth to our sons and grandsons.

Part III



A Letter to my Grandson

To Tomer

You dropped the pencil, raised your hand above the drawing, spread your fingers as if you wanted to protect it. Your tiny palm is no wider than a poplar leaf. Something rapturous, alive is under your palm. Hills? Waves? You still do not realise it: this is both a cloud and a hill, and a flock of sheep – I recognise in it any image of the world. It’s as though any voice can be heard in the ringing of a bell.

But now you have the only novelty – anything born under the sharpness of your pencil.

Time will pass, and you’ll think about the feelings people had experienced before you were born. You will learn that they could be surprised, happy, could love. Then they died. And where did all that wealth go?

Back there, in the USSR, I could have left you an inheritance: a luxurious apartment, a huge home library, who else had one like it? Here, in the Holy Land, I’ll never get anything like that again. At my age, my dreams won’t come true – a running start is not the same.

I want you to know why our mind is sometimes overheated so that it causes insomnia and does not let us live. Actually, I must figure it out, but to figure out the truth, we must think together.

What kind of a man will you become when you grow up? Will you be lively and energetic like your mom, or an example to follow and a hard worker like your dad? Sometimes I think you will be like your granny. She is lively and energetic, as well as industrious. She’s the one on whom the entire Jewish world rests. Though there’s hell to pay with such a character: everything must be on time, everything must be perfect … anyway, all this will come later. Well, what will come later?

You will start by choosing a profession. You should know that many of your ancestors were musicians. Long ago, the forefather of our family Mendel began it. He was an exceptional man. That was his violin that drove women crazy and made rebels of men. And then, so many conservatories your ancestors graduated from, so much music they wrote and played! In our family the conductor’s baton had been handed down from father to son. I broke this chain. My mother and I were trying to escape from burning Poltava. It was set on fire either by its residents or by strangers. No one knows. Mother had enough courage and common sense not to trust my uncle, who claimed that he remembered the Germans since World War I (1914), they were so intelligent. My uncle lived in Kyiv. He was ordered to arrive at the corner of Malnikovsky and Dokhturovsky Streets (near the cemetery), from that very place, as we know, the road to Babi Yar began. But he read the order and guessed immediately that those intelligent Germans had not come to Kyiv. Still, others, who did not care about Goethe and Beethoven, arrived there. However, he was wrong, lots of murderers adored both Goethe and Beethoven, and especially they loved Wagner. I don’t know how many masks art should put on, not to feel such a slap.

My relative did not come to the crossroads of those streets; nevertheless, he failed to outwit the commandant of the city. He was hung on the balcony of his apartment, on Khreshatic Street. How did they find him? It was simple: the janitor took a fancy to his old leather sofa. God knows what he saw in it! But he liked that sofa…

When we returned to Poltava after the war, we went to our neighbours. Seeing us, they sighed. Some people are lucky – the former owners of their belongings are usually dead … but these arrived back safe and sound. We had escaped from Poltava, survived, returned, but our conductor’s baton was lost. Our neighbours knew nothing about it. Someone took our cupboard, wardrobe, someone the beds and a gramophone, they knew everything about our belongings except the baton; in fact, what did they need it for? They lacked sentimentality.

And later we also forgot about music. My father did not return from the war, his grave was lost in some Smolensk forest. Mom hardly made both ends meet. Only when I hear someone playing the violin do tears come to my eyes, you know, even if the music is joyful, tears still appear in my eyes.

Well, it’ll be your choice, to become or not to become a musician. Israel today is overpopulated with musicians, people say: someone who comes off the plane without a violin must be a pianist.

I believe that soon everything will be different because when a musician sweeps the streets, music is even more helpless than the musician. Gold can only be made out of gold. You understand that I mean about the future.

Well, so you’ll choose a profession, meet a friend, then a woman. However, life is not so easy. If you become a musician and inherit your granny’s character, you’ll practise twenty-four hours a day and, finally, curse everything. Women – they aren’t a gift either, women and friends may betray. It occurs, then someone is almost ready to put that small trifle to his temple. It’s not a problem in Israel, they sell guns even to the insane. Not long ago a man had shot everyone in a row in a que waiting for a bus, and after that, it turned out that he was crazy.

In tough moments, remember Grandpa’s advice: even the prettiest woman in the world and also the best friend in the world are just tiny grains of sand in comparison with that great joy of life, though without a woman and a friend, your joy won’t be so great. Nevertheless, how many wonderful things you’ll find!

First of all, there is your country for better or for worse, with its governments. Although buses do not go on the Sabbath, there are thieves and prostitutes, about whom Ben Gurion once dreamed (to be similar to other states). Anyhow, it’s your own country, your state, Medina. God forbid you leave it as once our ancestors did. Had they defended it with the same zeal as the following generations made efforts to come back, it would never have been taken away.

You can hardly imagine what your own country is! I can’t help but say this, because I’ve not yet drunk it in full, I’ve not even tasted it. The Jews, obviously, lived in other countries as well; our ancestors lived in Ukraine. And the sky is blue there not because of bruises, just because it is blue. But one could breathe there only if he was continually crying “Hurrah”! And this is tedious, not everyone manages to learn to be an optimist, one must be born an optimist.


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