“Geltenyu” Performed by Clara Crasner

Geltenyu / Money
Sung by Clara Crasner, recorded by Bob Freedman, Philadelphia, 1972

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

A most unusual song about Jews oppressing (or “taking advantage”, in Crasner’s words), of fellow Jews.

Ukrainian Jews escaping pogroms and the Russian Civil War crossed over into Romania. 1919-1921.  This song documents the hard times these Jews faced, apparently because of the Bessarabian Jews who extorted money from them once they crossed the border.  The “Ukrainians” were forced to do manual labor and sleep in horrible conditions in order to secure passports. 

In an earlier post on this blog where Clara Crasner sings the song “Eykho” she mentions the Bessarabian town of Yedinitz (today in Molodova – Edinets); perhaps that is the town in question. There she refers to her fellow refugees as “yoridnikes”, impoverished ones. In the Yedenitz Yizkor (Memorial) Book, there is indeed a chapter that recalls the Ukrainian Jews who crossed the border to escape the violence and came to Yedinits (legendary klezmer clarinetist Dave Tarras, was one of these migrants).

Committee for Assistance of Ukrainian Refugees, Yedenitz, 1920-1921

The first two verses of the song are from the perspective of the money-hungry Bessarabians. The third verse is from the refugee’s perspective.

This is the fifth song sung by Clara Crasner from Shargorod, Ukraine, that we have posted. They were all recorded by her son-in-law, Robert Freedman in Philadelphia 1972. Freedman and his wife Molly Freedman are the founders of the “Robert and Molly Freedman Jewish Sound Archive” at the University of Pennsylvania Library, an invaluable resource in researching Yiddish song.

TRANSLITERATION

Crasner (spoken)

 “Ot di lid hob ikh gehert in Rumenye, Basarabye, in 1919, 1920. Nokh der ershter milkhume, ven di yidn fin rusland zenen antlofn, iz dus geveyn di neyvnste greynets far indz, fin vonen ikh kim un nokh mentshn. Kimendik kin Basarabye obn mir geheysn “Ukrayiner.” Di Basarbyer hobn genemen …zey hobn genemne “advantage’ fin indz. M’o’me nisht gekent aroysfurn finem shtyetl. M’ot indz nisht gevolt geybn keyn peser, obn di mentshn gemakht a lid. Ikh denk az s’iz a “satire”. In di lid heyst “gelt”. 

(sung)

Tsu indz keyn Besarabye kimen Ukrainer a sakh.
Zey shvimen in der blote, azoy vi di fish in takh.
Zey loyfn im, imedim nor vi a vint
ergets vi, nor tsi krign a dokument.
Freygn zey far vos kimt indz dos?
Entfert men zey:
Geltenyu, hot ir geltenyu?
Git indz gelt nor a sakh
Val mir viln vern rakh.
Geltenyu iz a gite zakh.

In der Ukrainyer er lozt arop di nuz.
Er miz nebekh geyn in shlufn in kluz.
Dort iz fintster ,kolt un vist; nor azoy vi in der erd.
Zey hakn holts un trugn voser in horeven vi di ferd.
Freygn zey far vos kimt indz dos?
Entfert men zey: 
Geltenyu, hot ir geltenyu?
Git indz gelt mit beyde hent
krigt ir bold a dokument.
Geltenyu iz a gite zakh. 

Ober es kimt a tsat ven di Ukrayner zey leybn hoykh a velt.
Ven es kimt zey un di pur daler gelt. 
Zey rasn zikh aroys fin donen nor vi fin a shtag.
In ale Beseraber yidn tsaygn zey a fag.
Freygn zey far vos kimt indz dos?
Entfert men zey:
Geltenyu, mir hobn mir oykh geltenyu.
Mir darfn shoyn mer nit nitsn [?] aykh.
Mir hern aykh vi dem kuter,
vayl ayer Got iz indzer futer.
Geltenyu iz a gite zakh. 

TRANSLATION

[spoken]

“This song I heard in Romania, Bessarabia, in 1919, 1920. After the First War, when the Jews from Russia escaped, this was the closest border to us, from where I am from and others. Coming into Bessarabia, we were called “Ukrainians” and Bessarabians took advantage of us. We were not able to leave the town. We were not given passports, so the people created a song. I think it’s a satire and the song is called “Gelt” – “Money”

[sung]

To us in Bessarabia come many Ukrainians
They swim in the mud, as fish in a river.
They run around everywhere like the wind;
anywhere just to get a document.
So they ask – why do we deserve this?
And they are answered:
money, do you have money?
Give us a lot of money
because we want to become rich.
Money is a good thing.

And the Ukrainian, he drops down his nose.
He must, alas, go to sleep in the synagogue.
There it is dark, cold and deserted.
Just like being in the ground.
They chop wood and carry water
and work hard as a horse.
So they ask why do we deserve this?
And they are answered: 
Money, do you have money?
Give us money with both hands
and you’ll get back a document.
Money is a good thing.

But a time will come when the Ukrainians
will live in luxury when they get their few dollars.
They will tear out of here as if from a cage.
And at all Bessarabian Jews they will thumb their noses
at them. [literally show them the fig = finger]
So they ask why do we deserve this?
They are answered:
Money, we also have money.
We don’t need you anymore
we totally ignore you
because your God is our father.
Money is a good thing.

TRANSCRIPTION

אָט די ליד האָב איך געהערט אין רומעניע, באַסאַראַביע, אין 1919, 1920. נאָך דער ערשטער מלחמה, ווען די ייִדן פֿון רוסלאַנד זענען אַנטלאָפֿן, איז דאָס געווען די נאָענססטע גרענעץ פֿאַר אונדז, פֿון וואַנען איך קום און נאָך מענטשן. קומענדיק קיין באַסאַראַביע האָבן מיר געהייסן „אוקראַיִנער”. די באַסאַראַבער האָבן גענעמען פֿון אונדז. מ’ אָ’ מיר נישט געקענט אַרויספֿאָרן פֿונעם שטעטל. מ’האָט אונדז נישט געוואָלט געבן קיין פּעסער, האָבן די מענטשן געמאַכט אַ ליד. איך דענק, אַז ס’איז סאַטירע. און די ליד הייסט געלט

.צו אונדז קיין באַסאַראַביע קומען אוקראַיִנער אַ סך
.זיי שווימען אין דער בלאָטע, אַזוי ווי די פֿיש אין טײַך
.זיי לויפֿן אום, אימעדים נאָר ווי אַ ווינט
.ערגעץ ווי נאָר צו קריגן אַ דאָקומענט
?פֿרעגן זי פֿאַר וואָס קומט אונדז דאָס
?ענטפֿערט מען זיי ־ געלטעניו, האָט איר געלטעניו
גיט אונדז געלט, נאָר אַ סך
.ווײַל מיר ווילן ווערן רײַך
.געלטעניו איז אַ גוטע זאַך

.און דער אוקראַיִנער, ער לאָזט אַראָפּ די נאָז
.[ער מוז נעבעך גיין און שלאָפֿן אין קלוז [קלויז]
,דאָרט איז פֿינצטער, קאַלט און וויסט
.נאָר אַזוי ווי אין דער ערד
זיי האַקן האָלץ און טראָגן וואַסער
.און האָרעווען ווי די פֿערד
?פֿרעגן זיי פֿאַר וואָס קומט אונדז דאָס
?ענטפֿערט מען זיי ־ געלטעניו ־  האָט איר געלטעניו
,גיט אונדז געלט מיט ביידע הענט
.קריגט איר באַלד אַ דאָקומענט
.געלטעניו איז אַ גוטע זאַך

אָבער עס קומט אַ צײַט ווען די אוקראַיִנער
.זיי לעבן הויך אַ וועלט
ווען עס קומט זיי אָן
.די פּאָר דאָלער געלט
זיי רײַסן זיך אַרויס פֿון דאַנען
.נאָר ווי פֿון אַ שטײַג
און אַלע באַסאַראַבער ייִדן
.צײַגן זיי אַ פֿײַג
?פֿרעגן זיי פֿאַר וואָס קומט אונדז דאָס
:ענטפֿערט מען זיי
.געלטעניו, מיר האָבן  אויך געלטעניו
.מיר דאַרפֿן שוין מער ניט ניצן אײַך
,מיר הערן אײַך ווי דעם קאָטער
.ווײַל אײַער גאָט איז אונדזער פֿאָטער
.געלטעניו איז אַ גוטע זאַך

2 Responses to ““Geltenyu” Performed by Clara Crasner”

  1. Itzik Gottesman Says:

    From Prof. Martin Schwartz in Berkeley:

    The melody is found on 2 commercial New York City recordings,
    both light theatrical love songs: Morris Goldstein,”Malkele”,
    1923, Okeh label; Aaron Lebedeff, “Mein Velvele”, 1925,
    Vocalion and Brunswick labels. By ref. to “satire’, I suspect that
    Ms. Crasner had in mind a theatrical origin for the tune.
    A similar melody is found anonymously composed in the old urban Greek underworldish (“rebetic”) genre: Kyria Koula (Antonopoulou),
    “Mangas” USA 1920; audible in a 1928 Athenian version by
    the great Constantinopolitan Andonis Dalgas (Diamantidis)
    on Pathé, search for Magkas, i928, Antonia YouTube,
    Dalgas also recorded, with the same tune and in the same genre,
    “Koutsavaki”, den se thelo pia 1931, also on YouTube, and from the same period, Dalgas’ Vlamis, which I heard many years ago
    in a private Athenian collection, and was struck by how Yiddishoidal it sounded. The Yiddish tune probably was heard by Greeks
    in Turkey in the early part of the 20th century.
    quite possibly Smyrna, as was the case for “Yoshke furt avek”
    > “Mángiko/Skertsopetakhtó”, which belons to the same Greek genre.
    martz@berkeley.edu
    Martin Schwartz

  2. Itzik Gottesman Says:

    There is a song called “Geltenyu” p. 67-68, no music, 3 verses, in the collection Di yudishe bine די יודישע ביהנע warsaw 1920. My copy belonged to Ezra Lahad and he wrote in pencil after this song “A. Goldfaden”.

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