“Vu iz dus gesele?” Performed by Malka and Josef Lubelski

Vi iz dus gesele? / Where is the street?
A Holocaust adaptation written and sung by Malka and Josef Lubelsksi recorded by Abraham Lubelski, Bronx 1967

On the Lubelski family by  Abraham Lubelski

Malka (Male, Molly, Minska) Lubelski (1920 – 1996) was born in Lodz, Poland. She and her husband, Laibish Holcman, left Lodz in 1939, as the Nazis were invading, and headed East to the Soviet Union. With them was Malka’s sister, Chana, and her brother, Yasha. They were attempting to find Malka’s uncle in Ukraine.

They were diverted by Soviet authorities to Siberia, ending up in the town of Magnitogorsk. Here their son, Abram [Abraham], was born. They were finally given permission in 1941 to travel to their uncle’s home in Ukraine, arriving in Kharkov just as the Nazis invaded. They never reached their uncle and he was never heard from again. Laibish Holcman disappeared in 1941, soon after joining to fight with the defending Soviet Army.

They left behind their mother, a younger sister Ruth (Rivka) and three younger brothers, Motel, Laibel and Avrom. Malka, Chana, Yasha and Rivka survived the Holocaust. Their mother, Nacha, was taken from the Lodz ghetto and never heard from again. The three younger brothers also did not survive; one died in the ghetto and the other two died after being transported to Auschwitz. The four surviving siblings were reunited in 1946 in the Displaced Persons camp. All emigrated with their new families to the US in ’49-’50.

From Siberia, Malka and her son traveled on to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where Malka met Josef Lubelski (1906 – 1972) originally from Kalisz, Poland. Malka’s siblings, Chana and Yasha, also were able to travel to Tashkent. From there they returned west at the war’s end, searching for surviving family, Malka, Josef and Abram eventually making their way to the DP camp in Berlin. They transferred and were reunited with Rivka in the Leipheim, Germany DP camp. In the camp, Josef established a troupe and directed an ensemble of friends and actors. Josef and Malka sang duets and performed Yiddish monologues and Shakespeare. They were legally married in the DP camp in 1948.

As their son (Abram) I remember sitting in the front row of the theater watching their vaudeville performances and dramas with awe. Josef did classic “retsitatsyes” [recitations] often dressed like Charlie Chaplin or as a Jewish peddler making the audience laugh as he magically pulled things out from his long black overcoat and tried to sell a chicken here, pots and pans there or a “valgerholts” [rolling pin] with which to beat husbands.  They traveled to DP camps performing on week-ends and I cried if they left me behind so eventually they had me come along as the child actor in one or two Yiddish plays.

In 1950 they emigrated to the US. and performed their songs occassionaly at Workmen’s Circle gatherings. In 1967 I recorded Josef’s monologues and Molly and Josef singing duets. I remembered my mom sitting alone on the stage dressed in black mourning singing “Vu iz dos gesele,” “Tsen brider” and “Akhtszik er un zibetsik zi”, …. Never forgetting the warming spirit trying to revive the people around them.

More on the Lubelski family can be read in the two memoirs The Cage (1980) and To Life (2000) by Ruth Minsky Sender. 

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Today’s post is the first of three songs performed by Molly and Josef Lubelski that we will post. We thought it particularly appropriate to post “Vi iz dus gesele” to mark Kristallnacht on Nov. 9th. Though these songs were recorded in 1967, two decades after the war, they still convey the emotional performance of the artists.

The Lubelskis sing a Holocaust themed adaptation of a popular song “Vu iz dos gesele”. Their son Abraham believes they created the text. I have not found it in collections of Holocaust Yiddish songs. The words and music to the original song can be found in the Mlotek collection Songs of Generations. There are also Ukrainian, Russian and Hebrew versions of the older song. 

Here is a link to an orchestrated version of the original song “Vu iz dos gesele” sung by Jan Peerce:

TRANSLITERATION, TRANSLATION & TRANSCRIPTION 
Folksong with new words by Malka and Josef Lubelski

Vi iz dus gesele? Vi iz di shtib?
Vi iz mayn mishpokhe, vus ikh hob azoy lib?
Nishtu shoyn dus gesl, tsebrokhn di shtib
farbrent mayn mishpokhe vus ikh hob azoy lib.
Nishtu shoyn dus gesl, tsebrokhn di shtib,
farbrent mayn mishpokhe vus ikh hob azoy lib.

Where is my street? Where is my house?
Where is my family that I onced loved?
The street is no more.The house is broken.
Burned up is the family that I loved so much.

Vi zenen di zingendike, tantsndike kinder?
Vi zenen zey ale atsinder?
Tserisn, tseshtokn, tsetsoygn.
Der mamen, der mamen, der mamen in di oygn. 
Tserisn, tseshtokn, tsetsoygn.
Der mamen, der mamen, der mamen in di oygn.

Where are the singing, dancing children?
Where are they now?
Torn, stabbed and pulled apart 
in their mothers’, their mother’s eyes.

Vi iz di shil? mitn gildenem orn-koydesh?
Der shabes, der yontif? rosh-khoydesh?
Farbrent iz di shil, farbrent oykh di sforim;
fun gantsn shtetl, geblibn iz bloyz kvorim. 
farbrent iz di shil, farbrent oykh di sforim,
fun gantsn shtetl, geblibn iz bloyz kvorim. 

Where is the synagogue with the golden Holy Ark?
The sabbath? The holiday? The beginning of each month?
The synagogue is burned down, as well as the holy books.
Of the whole town, only graves remain. 

Gekumen iz der tug far nekume far dem blut
far yedern gesl, far yederer shtub. 
Ot iz der tug – azoy zet er oys.
Ober der khezbn, der khesbn iz tsu groys.
Ot iz der tug – azoy zet er oys.
ober der khezhbn, der khesbn iz tsu groys.

The day for revenge has come for this blood,
for every street, for every house.
The day has come – this is how it looks.
But the reckoning, the reckoning is too great.

געזונגען און באַאַרבעט פֿון מלכּה און יוסף לובעלסקי

רעקאָרדירט פֿון אַבֿרהם לובעלסקי, בראָנקס 1967

?וווּ איז דאָס געסעלע? וווּ איז די שטוב
?וווּ איז מײַן משפּחה, וואָס איך האָב אַזוי ליב
,נישטאָ שוין דאָס געסל, צעבראָכן די שטוב
.פֿאַרברענט מײַן משפּחה וואָס איך האָב אַזוי ליב
,נישטאָ שוין דאָס געסל, צעבראָכן די שטוב
.פֿאַרברענט מײַן משפּחה וואָס איך האָב אַזוי ליב

?וווּ זענען די זינגענדיקע, טאַנצנדיקע קינדער
?וווּ זענען זיי אַצינדער
,צעריסן, צעשטאָכן און צעצויגן
.דער מאַמען, דער מאַמען, דער מאַמען אין די אויגן
,צעריסן, צעשטאָכן און צעצויגן
.דער מאַמען, דער מאַמען, דער מאַמען אין די אויגן

?וווּ איז די שיל מיטן גילדענעם אָרון־קודש
?דער שבת? דער יום־טובֿ? ראש־חודש
.פֿאַרברענט איז די שיל, פֿאַרברענט אויך די ספֿרים
.פֿון גאַנצן שטעטל געבליבן בלויז קבֿרים

,געקומען איז דער טאָג פֿאַר נקמה פֿאַר דעם בלוט
.פֿאַר יעדערן געסל, פֿאַר יעדערער שטוב
.אָט איז דער טאָג ־ אַזוי זעט ער אויס
.אָבער דער חשבון, דער חשבון איז צו גרויס

One Response to ““Vu iz dus gesele?” Performed by Malka and Josef Lubelski”

  1. Harvey Sender Says:

    Abe Thank you for doing this. Your parents were always special people in my life

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