“Borukh Shulman – Nokh a keyver, nokh a korbn” Performed by Leo Summergrad

Borukh Shulman – Nokh a keyver, nokh a korbn
Borukh Shulman – Another Grave, Another Sacrifice
Sung by Leo Summergrad, recorded in New York City, 1959 by Leo Summergrad

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In 1906, in Warsaw, radical 19 year-old Borukh Shulman (Polish: Baruch Szulman1886 – 1906) threw a bomb and killed the hated Tsarist police chief Konstantinov. What happened next differs in various versions of the song.  In one version, he escapes on the trolley but when he heard a wounded comrade David Apt call him back, he returned to shoot three policemen before he was killed. In another version he killed himself after killing the police. 

ShulmanPhotoImage of Borukh Shulman published in Shmuel Lehman’s
collection Arbet un Frayhayt (Warsaw, 1921)

The majority of versions begin with the line “Vi s’iz gekumen der ershter Rusisher May” (“As soon as the Russian first of May arrived”). 

This song seems to have been quite popular before the 1950s. It appears in the Workmen’s Circle collection Zing mit mir (1945) with the music (see scan below). Leo Summergrad says he probably learned this two-verse version in his “Ordn” folkshule (secular Yiddish school) in NY.

In 1950, Yankl Goldman also sang a two-verse version that is preserved in the Ruth Rubin Archive at YIVO.  Goldman’s version was printed, words and music, in Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive, p. 143 (Slobin/Mlotek Detroit, 2007).  According to the YIVO website, Goldman was born in 1885 in Warsaw, and had been a needle trades factory worker. Here is that recording:

The “Warsaw Revolutionary Choir” recently sang a longer version of Borukh Shulman at his grave in the Warsaw Jewish cemetery. Here is a link to video link.

A nine-verse variant with music appears in Shmuel Lehman’s collection Arbet un Frayhayt (Warsaw, 1921) p. 64-66 (see scan below). We have also transliterated and translated this version, the longest one. 

Other versions were printed in S. Bastomski’s Yidishe folkslider (Vilnius, 1923)  p. 90-91 (text only, see scan below), Aharon Vinkovetsky et al..  “Anthology of Yiddish Folksongs” (1987) volume 4 and Sofia Magid’s collection Unser Rebbe und unser Stalin (Grozinger/Hudak-Lazic) p. 244.  

Thanks this week to Karolina Szymaniak, the YIVO Sound Archives, Lorin Sklamberg and Leo Summergrad. 

TRANSLITERATION (Summergrad version)

Nokh a keyver, nokh a korbn
Nokh a lebn iz tseshtert fun der velt.
Nokh a kemfer iz opgeshtorbn
Borukh Shulman der bavuster held.

Veynt nit brider, veynt nit shvester.
veynt nit muter nokh ayer kind.
Az es falt, falt der bester:
Der vos hot undz getray gedint. 

TRANSLATION (Summergrad version)

Another grave, another sacrifice.
Another life destroyed in this world.
Another fighter has died –
Borukh Shulman the famous hero.

Don’t cry brother, don’t cry sister;
don’t cry mother for you child.
When someone falls, it is the best that falls.
He who served us faithfully.

Note regarding Lehman Version: The expression “gekrogn a khap”, literally “got a catch” is unkown to me and probably means “got what was coming to him” or “got a surprise”

TRANSLITERATION (Lehman’s Version)

Vi es iz gekumen der ershter rusisher may
hot men derhert in gas a klap:
Dos gantse folk hot zikh getun freyen:
Konstantinov hot gekrogn a khap. 

Borekh Shulman iz in gas gegangen,
gegangen iz er tsu dem toyt.
Gezegnt hot zikh mit zayne khaverim
mit der bombe in der hant. 

Borekh Shulman iz in gas gegangen,
bagegnt hot er dem tiran;
Mit der bombe hot ir im tserisn
Konstantinov dem tiran. 

Borekh Shulman iz afn tramvay arof,
hot Dovid Apt gegebn a geshrey;
“Borekh, Borekh! Vu lozstu mikh iber,
tsvishn di tiranen eyner aleyn?”

Borekh Shulman iz fun tramvay arop,
gegangen rateven zayn khaver Apt.
Aroysgenumen hot er dem revolver
un hot geharget dray soldatn. 

Nokh a keyver, nokh a korbn,
nokh a lebn iz tseshtert fun der velt.
Nokh a kemfer iz opgeshtrobn –
Borekh Shulman der bavuster held.

Veynt nisht shvester, veynt nisht brider,
troyert nisht muter nokh ayer kind!
Az es falt, falt der bester,
der vos hot nor getray gedint. 

Dayne khaverim, zey shteyen bay dayn keyver,
zey gisn trern yede minut.
Rakhe veln mir fun di tiranen nemen,
far undzer khavers fargosn blut. 

Sheyne blumen tuen blien,
bay Borekhs keyver af der velt.
Dos gantse folk vet kumen knien
far Borekh Shulman dem bavustn held. 

TRANSLATION (Lehman’s Version)

Upon the arrival of the Russian May 1st
an explosion was heard in the street.
All the people were celebrating –
Konstantinov got a “catch”. [surprise?]

Borekh Shulman was going in the street,
he was going to his death.
He bid farewell to his comrades
with a bomb in his hands. 

Borekh Shulman was going in the street,
and he met the tyrant.
With the bomb he ripped him apart –
Konstantinov the tyrant. 

Borekh Shulman got on the trolley,
Dovid Apt gave a yell:
“Borekh! Borekh! How can you leave me
Along among these tyrants!”

Borekh Shulman got off the trolley.
He went to save his friend Apt.
He took out his revolver
and killed three soldiers.

Another grave, another sacrifice,
another life destroyed in this world.
Another fighter has died –
Borekh Shulman the famous hero.

Cry not sister, cry not brother,
do not lament, mother, for your child.
When one of us falls, he is the best one –
he who served us faithfully.

Your friends, they stand at your grave
They pour tears every minute.
We will take revenge upon the tyrants,
for the spilled blood of our comrade.

Beautiful flowers blossom
at Borekh’s grave in this world [?]
All entire nation will come and kneel
for Borekh Shulman the great hero.

S. Bastomski’s Yidishe folkslider (Vilnius, 1923)  p. 90-91
BastomskiShulman

Shmuel Lehman’s collection Arbet un Frayhayt (Warsaw, 1921) p. 63-66:ShulmanLehman1ShulmanLehman3ShulmanLehman4

Zing mit mir (Workmen’s Circle, 1945), p. 70-71:ShulmanZingMitMIr

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