Archive for Bessarabia

“Mirtseshem af shabes” Performed by Khave Rosenblatt

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2018 by yiddishsong

Mirtseshem af shabes / God Willing, This Sabbath
Performance by Khave Rosenblatt
Recorded by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman
Jerusalem, 1970s
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The most popular version of this 19th century mock-Hasidic song begins with the line “Ver hot dos gezen…” or “Tsi hot men azoyns gezen…” (“Who has seen this” or “Who has every seen anything like this”). In the Mlotek’s collection Mir trogn a gezang, pages 126-127.  the song is called “Dos lid fun ayznban” (“The Song About the Train”).  Theodore Bikel recorded that version on his LP “Theodore Bikel Sings Jewish Folksongs” 1959.

Khave Rosenblatt’s version however is closer in some respects to the variants found in the collections Yidishe folks-lider, ed. Itzik Fefer and Moyshe Beregovski, Kiev 1938. pp. 386-387  (see below) and in A.Z. Idelsohn’s The Folk Song of The East European Jews, volume 9 of his Thesaurus of Hebrew Oriental Melodies, song # 558, beginning with the line “Nokh shabes imirtseshem….”.   Idelsohn also includes the “Ver hot dos gezen..” version, #556, from the German journal Ost und West. A scan of that page is also attached (see below)

train whistle

Only Rosenblatt’s theatrical version plays with the verbs “fayfn” (“fafn” in her dialect), which means “whistle” and  “onfayfen”  (“unfafn” in her dialect) meaning “to thumb one’s nose at.” One could easily imagine the wandering entertainers, the Broder Singers, performing this song in the wine cellars of the 19th century in Galicia.

TRANSLITERATION
Mirtseshem af shobes
vel ikh bam rebn zan.
Ikh vel tsiklugn di hiltayes, di drobes
vus zey nemen azoy fil gelt un zey leygn in dr’erd aran.

Rebe, hot er a fafer
mit a meshenem knop.
Er faft indz un hekher in hekher
in er vet gurnisht vern farshtopt.

Er faft un faft un faft un faft un faft
Er vil gurnisht oyfhern.
mit dem rebns koyekh
vet di ban tseshlugn vern.

TRANSLATION
God willing this Sabbath
I will spend with the Rebbe.
I will denounce the hedonists, the wastrels,
who take so much money and spend it wildy. [lit: bury it in the ground]

Rebbe, what a whistle it has!
with a brass knob.
He thumbs his nose at us louder and louder,
and nothing shuts him up.

He whistles and whistles and whistles and whistles and whistles
and doesn’t want to stop.
With the Rebbe’s power
the train will be trounced.

dos lid gottesman

Khane and Joe Mlotek, Mir trogn a gezang, pages 126-127:

dos lid mlotek

Yidishe folks-lider, ed. Itzik Fefer and Moyshe Beregovski, Kiev 1938. pp. 386-387:
miritzhashem (1)

dos lid fefer 2b

A.Z. Idelsohn’s The Folk Song of The East European Jews, volume 9 of Thesaurus of Hebrew Oriental Melodies (#558 & #556)

dos lid idelsohn 558dos lid idelsohn 556

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“Af a shteyn zitst a reytekh mit a khreyn” Performed by Khave Rosenblatt

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2017 by yiddishsong

Af a shteyn zitst a reytekh mit a khreyn
On a Stone Sit a Turnip and a Horseradish
performed by Khave Rosenblatt

Text by Eliezer Shteynbarg, music by “Prof. Kohn”.
Recorded in Jerusalem by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, 1970s.
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

use as picture

Illustration by Arthur Kolnik in Eliezer Steinbarg’s Mayn alef-beys (My Alphabet), Chernovitz, 1921

TRANSLITERATION
(in Khava Rosenblatt’s dialect)

Of a shteyn, of a shteyn
zitst a reytekh mit a khreyn.
Eytekh – beytekh! zugt der reytekh
Vus s’iz der himl azoy reyn?
Eytekh – beytekh! zugt der reytekh
Vus s’iz der himl azoy reyn?

Lomir beyde tontsn geyn.
Lomir beyde tontsn geyn.
Bald gevorn iz a freyd
in gelofn s’kind un keyt.

S’tantst a reytekh mit a khreyn!
Vi zhe loyft men dus nit zeyn?
Meshiakhs tsat hot men gemeynt
in me hot far freyd geveynt.

Eykh bin oykhet dort geveyn
Eykh bin oykhet dort geveyn
tsigeshtipt hob ikh mikh shver
in kh’ob oykh gelozt a trer!

TRANSLATION

On a rock, on a rock
sit a turnip and a horseradish.
I beg of you, says the horseradish:
Why is the sky is so clear ?
I beg of you, says the horseradish:
Why is the sky is so clear ?

Let’s both go dancing!
Let’s both go dancing!
Soon there was such a celebration
and everybody ran over.

A turnip dancing with a horseradish!
How could you not run to see?
The Messiah has come we all thought
and for joy we all cried.

I was also there.
I was also there.
With difficulty I pushed myself through
and I too let fall a tear!

The text of this song is slightly altered from Mayn alef-beys (My Alphabet) by Eliezer Steynbarg (1880 – 1932) published in 1921, Chernovitz, Romania; a classic work of Yiddish children’s literature with illustrations by Arthur Kolnik, Ruven Zelikovitsh (later known as Reuven Rubin) and Solomon Lerner. The original text in Yiddish is attached below.

Khave Rosenblatt was born in a Shatava, a Ukrainian town near Kamenets-Podolsky.  In 1917 the family moved to briefly to Khotin (Khotyn/Chotin) in Bessarabia and then to Chernovitz, Bukovina. There she was a kindergarten teacher in a Hebrew school and emigrated to Israel with her husband and child in 1934. Her husband had been a famous eye doctor in Romania but became a natural healer in Israel saying he would no longer spill blood. He died in 1945. In Israel Khava Rosenblatt worked for the Kupat Kholim, the national health care agency in Israel.

Rosenblatt’s family was very close to the poet laureate of Chernovitz, Eliezer Steynbarg, and she helped proofread the first volume of his Mesholim (Fables) published in Chernovitz in 1933 which appeared posthumously. She recalls that the composer of this song, and others by Steinbarg, was someone named Prof. Kohn.

In the small collection Eliezer Shteynbarg: gezungene lider edited by Hersh Segal, Rekhovot, 1977, the editor writes that except for one song in the collection, none of the composers are known. Attached is the music to this text from that 1977 collection which is similar.

Another song from Mayn Alef-beys – “Der ber” (aka – “Af di aksl mit tsvey kanen”) – was recorded on the Living Traditions CD “Di grine katshke“.

Thanks to Dr. Paul Glasser for assistance with this week’s post.

UfAShteynYID

OfAShteynMUSic

“Shtiler, shtiler ovntvint” Performed by Yudeska (Yehudis) Eisenman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2017 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Shtiler, shtiler ovntvint (Silent, silent evening wind) is the third song on the blog sung by Yehudis/ Yudeska Eisenman from a 1993 field recording made by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman in the Bronx.

Best-Sights-Tour2
The Fields of Bessarabia

Another recording of the song Shtiler, shtiler ovntvint is found in The Stonehill Jewish Song Archive – a different blog of  the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, directed by Dr. Miriam Isaacs. The singer in the Stonehill collection, Menachem Brayer  says “This is a Ukrainian song in honor of the fighters for freedom.  The words are by me, the melody – unknown.” The link to that slow moving performance of a shortened version of the song is here.

Though Brayer seems to be claiming that he wrote the words to the song, it appears that it is a poem by the Yiddish writer Jacob (Yakov) Fichman (1881 – 1958) from Bălţi, Bessarabia (a town immortalized in the song “Mayn shtetele Belz”). I have yet to find the poem itself but Fichman’s authorship is cited in a work by Shmuel Shapiro  אשר לאורם הלכתי 1965, p. 274.

Brayer sings the song in the context of the Holocaust; Eisenman does not.

1) Shtiler, shtiler ovntvint,
kumst fun vaytn land atsind.
Kumst fun stepes on an ek,
kumst fun yamen on a breg,
vu di grozn hoyden zikh,
vu di khvalyes soyden zikh.

2) Kiler, shtiler ovntvint
brengst derkvikn undz atsind;
reykhes libe funem feld,
bsures gute tsu der velt.
Un du roymst undz ale ayn
S’vet fun itst shoyn beser zayn.

3) Voyl iz dem vos vakht vi du,
brengst dem elntn zayn ru.
Treyst dem shvakhn un farvigst
biz der mitog kert tsurik.
Un du roymst undz ale ayn –
S’vet fun itst shoyn beser zayn.

Unidentified voice: Alevay!

1) Silent, silent evening wind
you are now coming from afar.
You come from the endless steppes.
You come from the seas which have no end.
Where the grasses sway back and forth;
where the waves whisper to each other.

2) Cool, quiet evening wind,
you refresh us now:
nice scents from the field,
good news to the world.
And you whisper to everyone:
it will be better from now on.

3)  Happy is he who keeps watch as you,
bringing the lonely their peace.
You comfort the weak and lull to sleep,
till the noon hour returns.
And you whisper to everyone –
It will be better from now on.

Spoken by unidentified person:  “Alevay!”  [If only it comes true!]
shtiler1sthiler2

One Song – Three Pogroms

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2015 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The last day of Passover 1903 coincided with Easter that year, and the tragic Kishinev pogrom began on that date. keshenevKishinev, aftermath of the pogrom (YIVO Archives)

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) sang this version of a song about the pogrom which was adapted for other pogroms, or perhaps  was itself already an adaptation of an earlier pogrom song. In this post we note two other pogroms with versions of the song.

A version of the same pogrom song is sung by the actress/singer Miriam Kressyn about Bialystok on the LP record Dos Goldene Land. Kressyn was from Bialystok, and the Bialystoker pogroms took place in 1905 – 1906.  (Thanks to Lorin Sklamberg and the YIVO Sound Archives for providing this recording)

The third pogrom where this song was used was in Volodarka, Ukraine. This pogrom took place in July 1919 amidst the Russian Civil War. The lyrics (as collected by S. Kupershmid) appears in the Tsaytshrift far yidisher geshikhte, demografye un ekonomik literatur-forshung, shprakh-visnshaft un etnografye 2-3 (Minsk, 1928) page 803. It too contains the lines of walking through feathers as through snow in winter, and this emerged as one of the primary pogrom images, as we see in our Kishinev pogrom examples and others.

volodarkaOn the Workmen Circle’s LP “Amol iz geven a mayse”, Sidor Belarsky sings two verses of an abbreviated version of The Kishiniev Pogrom song. The song begins at this link – double click on “Amol iz geven a mayse (cont.)”  and go to 12:30 minutes.

In the chapter “The Pogrom As Poem” in David G. Roskies’ work Against the Apocalypse: Responses to Catastrophe in Modern Jewish Culture (1984) the author examines how the same pogrom song was adapted for different pogroms. He remarks “even when the singer invoked historical facts, the relics of the violence were organized into public symbols and thematic formulas, so that the details were applicable anywhere and only the place-name would have to be changed.”

Transliteration/Translation of LSW’s version:

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman “Lid funem Keshenever Pogrom”, recorded by Leybl Kahn, Bronx, 1954

Akhron Shel Peysekh af der nakht
iz aroys a nayer “rozkaz.”
Az yidn zoln lign bahaltn.
Zey torn zikh nisht dreyen in gas.

Oy, ziser got in himl,
kuk shoyn arop af dr’erd.
Ze nor dem rash un getuml.
Vos hobn di yidn far a vert?

A hoyz fun dray gorn
hot men geleygt biz tsu dem grint.
Betgevant hot men gerisn,
di federn gelozt of dem vint.

In di federn iz men gegangen
azoy vi vinter in shney.
Vayber hot men geshlogn;
mener gerisn of tsvey.
Vayber hot men geshlogn;
Di mener tserisn of tsvey.

Ziser got in himl
kik shoyn arup af dr’erd
Vuz zenen di yidn azoy zindik
Vus zey hobn gur keyn vert?

The last day of Passover
a new regulation was issued.
That Jews should lie hidden;
they aren’t allowed in the street.

Oy sweet God in heaven,
Look already down on the earth.
See the tumult and chaos.
Are the Jews worth anything?

A house three stories high
was destroyed down to the ground.
Bedding was torn apart;
the feathers blew in the wind.

In the feathers they walked
as in winter in snow.
Women were beaten;
men torn in two.

Sweet God in heaven
Look already down to the Earth.
Have the Jews so sinned
that they are of no worth. Lifshe PogromLifshe Pogrom2

Shmad Ballads Performed by Zelda Roif and Libe Manuel

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2014 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

When ballads have been presented on the Yiddish Song of the Week we have sometimes emphasized the parallels with other international ballads. This week we present a ballad type that is not to be found internationally, certainly not in the Anglo-British-American tradition – a ballad that describes the conversion of a child to the Christian faith; a shmad-ballad. The verb shmadn in Yiddish means to convert to Christianity.

This week’s entry has two versions of the same shmad-ballad. There are a number of others and judging by the geographic spread of the singers, we could conclude that it is at least as old as the 19th century.

1) The first version Zitst di mome (As Mother is Sitting) comes to us courtesy of the AHEYM (Archives of Historical and Ethnographic Yiddish Memoirs) project at the University of Indiana in Bloomington. This project has been directed by professors Dov-Ber Kerler and Jeff Weidlinger. Special thanks to AHEYM project manager Anya Quilitzch who prepared the video clip.

The singer Zelda Roif  of Kishinev (Chișinău), Moldova, sings in her Bessarabian dialect, marked especially by her toto-mome-loshn. Tate (father) in her dialect becomes tote, mame becomes mome and geshmadt becomes geshmodt (converted). Her version has a distinctly Romanian flavor since the daughter Sonyele falls in love with a shepherd (cioban).

In classic ballad form, the first few verses set the action then turn into a dialogue between mother and daughter, in which the mother tries to convince her daughter not to convert. The mother fails and the last two lines spoken by the daughter – “I can’t stand the Jewish faith” is quite a powerful (unhappy) ending.

2) The second ballad Bentsik der shoykhet (Bentsik the Ritual Slaughterer) is sung by Lillian Manuel of Suchowola in northeast Poland, and the recording and comments were provided by her grandson, the Yiddish linguist Dovid Braun.

By comparing the two ballads we see the similar dialogue structure though in different settings. The ending of Bentsik der shoykhet is also quite shocking.

The Yiddish shmad-ballad song type deserves a longer analysis than is possible here. Among other versions collected is one in Sofia Magid’s work printed in “Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin” edited by Elvira Grozinger and Susi Hudak-Lazic (Harrasowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2008) – “Rokhele” (pages 288-289) recorded in Volyn, 1928. The Magid version is a variant of the two presented today and recounts how Rokhele ran away with the priest’s son. In the longer text provided (page 555) a similar dialogue between parent and daughter can be found. A recording of the song is included in the DVD that comes with the volume.

Please find Yiddish texts at the end of this posting.

ZITST DI MAME (Performed by Zelda Roif, Kishinev, Moldova)


Zitst di mame un
arbet a zok.
Kimt men ir zogn,
az ir tokhter Sonyele hot zikh geshmodt.


Mother is sitting and
mending a sock,
when they come to tell her
that her Sonyele has converted.

Loyft zi zi zikhn,
tsvishn ole shkheynim.
In ir tokhter Sonyele
iz nishtu bay keynem.

So she runs to search her
among all the neighbors.
And her daughter Sonyele
is not found by anyone.

Loyft zi zi zikhn
tsi tshubanes tir.
In ir tokhter Sonyele
shteynt akeygn ir.

So she runs to look for her
at the door of the shepherd.
And her daughter Sonyele
is standing across from her.

Sonyele, Sonyele
kim tsu mir aheym.
Ikh vel dir gibn
vus di vi’st aleyn.

Sonyele, Sonyele
Come home to me.
I will give you
whatever you want.

Ikh vel dir gibn
kleyder un dan..
in a yidish yingele
far ayn man.

I will give you
clothes and then..
and a Jewish boy
for a husband.

Bay mir bisti ‘gan
mit shikh un kaloshn.
Vest khasene hobm far tshuban (In Romanian= cioban)
vesti oysgeyn far a groshn.

At my place you wore
shoes and boots.
If you marry the shepherd
you will die for a penny.

Bay mir bisti ‘gan
mit a vas, zadn kleyd.
Vest khasene hobn far Tshuban
vesti vashn yidish greyt.

With me, you wore
a white, silk dress.
If you marry the shepherd
you will wash Jewish laundry.

[Spoken]
Hot zi geentfert der miter:
She answered her mother:

Trabt avek man miter
ikh ken zi nisht ladn.
Di yidishe nemune
Ikh ken zi nisht farladn.

Drive away my mother,
I can’t stand her.
The Jewish faith
I can’t stand it.

BENTSIK DER SHOYKHET (sung by Lillian Manuel, known in her shtetl Suchowola, NE Poland, as “Libe Yankl dem shvartsns”, to her grandson David / Dovid Braun, in the Workmen’s Circle Home for the Aged, Bronx, NY, ca. 1988)  *see comments by David/Dovid Braun at the end of this translation.

Bentsik der shoykhet mitn zaydenem khalat;
Feygele zayn tokhter hot zikh opgeshmadt.

Bentsik the [kosher] slaughterer with his silken robe;
Feygele his daughter has converted to Christianity.

Bentsik der shoykhet shpant ayn ferd-un-vogn
kedey er zol kenen zayn Feygelen deryogn.

Bentsik the slaughterer hitched up his horse and wagon,
So that he could catch up to his Feygele.

Bentsik der shoykhet geyt arayn in a kvartir.
Gefunen hot er Feygelen bam kloyster fun tir [in kloyster bam tir].

Bentsik the slaughterer goes into an inn.
What he’s found is Feygele in church by the door.

“Kum aher mayn tokhter, kum tsu mir aheym.
Ikh vel dir gebn vos du vilst aleyn.”

“Come here my daughter, come home to me.
I will give you whatever you want.

Ikh vel dir gebn gelt un nadan
un tsu dertsu a sheynem yungn-man.”

I will give you money and dowry
and on top of that a handsome young man.”

Bentsik der shoykhet, er falt tsu di fis
un im af tselokhes dem sheygets a kish.

Bentsik the slaughterer, he falls to their feet
and to spite him, [she gives] the gentile boy a kiss.

Bentsik der shoykhet, er falt tsu di tishn [griber]
un im af tselokhes tseylemt zi zikh iber.

Bentsik the slaughterer falls to the tables [graves, pits],
and to spite him she crosses herself.

Feygele iz gegangen in zaydene zokn.
Az zi vet peygern vet klingen di glokn.

Feygele was wearing silken socks/stockings.
When she croaks, the [church] bells will ring.

Af morgn bay tog:   a yomer, a klog!
Bentsik der shoykhet iz geshtorbn in mitn tog.

The next afternoon:   alas and alack!
Bentsik the slaughterer died in the middle of the day.

Notes by David Braun:

In the Yiddish original, I have placed in square brackets [ ] a few words Mrs. Manuel sang on an occasion a few years earlier when in better health and with a yet crisper memory. It is clear how those words make better sense and/or form a more satisfactory rhyme. Also, the final two stanzas were reversed in that earlier rendition, which makes more sense: walking neither with shoes nor barefoot but in socks or stockings is a sign of mourning. So first her father Bentsik has died, then she has donned traditional Jewish mourning garb, and finally we are warned that when the end comes for her, the apostate, mourning will be signaled by church bells.

After first becoming acquainted with this song in her repertoire, I compared her version to others in the folkloristic literature and discovered that in some, the gentile youth who is the object of Feygele’s romantic interest is named. With that information, I jogged her memory and ended up eliciting this additional stanza that she doesn’t sing on the recording – it clearly belongs after the stanza following Bentsik’s promise of dowry and all other good things. Feygele insists:

Kh’vil nit kayne kleyder, kh’vil nit kayn nadan.
Aleksandern hob ikh lib un er vet zayn mayn man.

‘I don’t want any clothes, I don’t want any dowry.
Alexander is who I love and he will be my husband.’

With this stanza, we’re enlightened as to what’s behind Feygele’s conversion from yiddishkayt, and religious philosophy doesn’t seem to be the motivating factor.
zitstdimome

zitztdimome2

 

bentzishokhet

“Nakhtishe lider” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The author of the text to “Nakhtishe lider”, Herz Rivkin was born Herzl Heisiner in Capresti, Bessarabia (today Moldova) in 1908, and died in a Soviet gulag, November 14, 1951. The poem is taken from  his only printed poetry collection “In shkheynishn dorf”  [From the Neighboring Village], Bucharest, 1938. Reprinted in Bucharest, 1977.

Herz Rivkin

The composer of the melody is unknown. The performer of this week’s posting, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (my mother), learned this song in Chernovitz in the 1930s. The only recording of the song is by Arkady Gendler on his CD “My Hometown Soroke”,  2001. That version is incomplete with two verses by Rivkin, and a third by Gendler.  Gendler titles the song “Nakhtike lider” which is the original title in Rivkin’s book.

Singer Michael Alpert has initiated and directs a concert program with singer/bandura player Julian Kytasty which brings together Jewish and Ukrainian singers and musicians in a collaborative program, the title of which “Night Songs from a Neighboring Village” was inspired by this song.

I recorded my mother’s performance of “Nakhtishe lider” at home in the Bronx in the 1980s. The audio quality of the recording is unfortunately not stable (be careful when listening – the volume increases significantly at 0:27), but Schaechter-Gottesman’s singing here is a wonderful example of what I would call urban interwar Yiddish singing and contrasts powerfully with the older plaintive, communal shtetl-style of her mother Lifshe Schaechter-Widman.

Nakhtishe lider fun shkheynishn dorf
farblondzen amol tsu mayn ganik.
Zey leshn mayn troyer; zey gletn mayn umet.
Zey flisn vi zaftiker honig.

Night Songs from the neighboring village.
Lose their way to my porch.
They extinguish my sadness; they caress my melancholy.
They flow like juicy honey.

Lider khakhlatske, muntere, frishe.
Vos shmekn mit feld un mit shayer.
Zey filn di luft un mit varemkeyt liber,
vos shtromt fun a heymishn fayer.

Ukrainian Songs, upbeat and fresh
that smell with field and barn.
They fill the air with a loving warmth,
that streams from an intimiate fire.

Nakht iz in shtetl, ikh lig afn ganik.
Ver darf haynt der mames geleyger?
Iz vos, az s’iz eyns? Iz vos, az s’iz tsvey?
Iz vos az shlogt dray shoyn der zeyger?

It’s nighttime in town; I lay on my porch.
Who needs today my mother’s place to sleep?
So what if it’s one? So what if it’s two?
So what if the clock strikes three?

Her ikh un ikh veys nisht iz yontif in dorf.
Tsi es hilyen zikh glat azoy yingen.
Az vos iz der khilek? Oyb s’vet bald, mir dakht
di levone oykh onheybn tsu zingen.

I listen and I don’t know if it’s a celebration in the village,
or just some kids are singing.
But what is the difference? If soon, it seems
The moon will also start to sing.

Azoy gisn amol zikh fun skheynishn dorf
heymishe, zaftike tener.
Biz s’heybt on frimorgn tsu vargn di nakht
un ez heybn on kreyen shoyn di heyner.

In this way pours out, from the neighboring village
intimate, juicy melodies.
Until the early morning begins to choke the night
and the roosters start to crow.

“Sara troyer” Performed by I. Berkovitch

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The singer of Sara troyer, a Romanian Yiddish partisan song from the second world war, is the Yiddish poet Israel Berkovitch (Israil Berovici). He was born in 1921 in Botoshan, Moldavia and died in Bucharest in 1988. He directed the Jewish State Theater of Bucharest, a Yiddish theater which still exists, for many years. For more on his life, see Dr. Elvira Grozinger‘s essay from the book Under the Red Banner at this link. His archives are at the University of Potsdam, Germany.

In 1985, I traveled to Romania with my parents to visit ‟the old country‟, and particularly my father‘s hometown Siret. At that time, we still had relatives living in Bucharest and Suceava. While in Bucharest we were able to get together with some of the Yiddish writers and activists living there then: writer Chaim Goldenstein, journalist and translator Anton Celaru (Yosl Faierstein) and Israel Berkovitch. At one get-together, I believe at the Berkovitches apartment, I asked if someone knew Yiddish songs, and Berkovitch took me to a back room, so no one else would hear, and sang this song for me. Ceausescu was still the dictator then, and everyone in Bucharest was very wary of everything, so I guess he didn‘t want others to know about the song. I have not found any other information on the song or variants.

Sara troyer in di Moldavishe stepn.

Sara troyer in di Moldavishe stepn.
Vi umetik un troyerik s‘iz dort.
Es benkt un es veynt zikh nokh epes,
tor me nisht redn keyn vort.

Such a sadness in the Moldavian steppes.
How lonesome and gloomy it is there.
One longs and cries for something,
but not one word is allowed to be spoken.

Teg un nekht zenen tribe.
Es busheven zhandarmen, politsay.
Akh! Basarabye mayn libe!
Ven vestu zayn amol fray?

The days and nights are sad,
Gendarmes and police run rampant.
Oh! My dear Bessarabia!
When will you ever by free?