Archive for USSR

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

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2021 by yiddishsong

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

“Arele kumt in vald” Performed by Larisa Pechersky

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2015 by yiddishsong

This week’s blog post – song and commentary – was submitted by Larisa Pechersky, who also performs on the recording.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make my grandmother’s name known and maybe remembered by people who often ask me how I know so many Yiddish songs. I always tell them that it’s because of my grandmother. Now, I hope her story, name, and image will be shared with them for the first time. As always, I dedicate all my work in the field of Jewish folklore and education to her blessed memory. Milya on 20th birthday Horki

Milya Shagalova (nee Mikhlya Fle’er / Fleyer), grandmother of Larisa Pechersky in Horki on her 20th birthday

I learned this song from my maternal grandmother when I was a toddler in the late 70s . She lived with my mother and me, and took care of me while my mom worked. All day long, as she worked around the house, she sang hundreds of Yiddish songs and encouraged me to sing along.

She would stop many times during a song to comment and make connections to her life in a Belorussian shtetl, to the experiences of her family and friends, and whatever lessons she wanted me to take away from each song. She often acted out the songs with me and showed me how to express a variety of feelings through a nign without words (just like in this song, Arele, she emphasized how the same nign after each verse can express fear, despair, or relief).

She made each song a window into Jewish life for me, a child growing up in a big city of Leningrad, the cultural capital of the Soviet Union, where forced assimilation was the norm for its more than 150,000 Jews. Assimilation was out of the question for my family, where my grandmother wanted me to know Yiddish and grow up proudly Jewish. Milya and Larisa

Larisa Pechersky (age 3) and her grandmother, Milya Shagalova, at home in Leningrad

My grandmother, Milya Shagalova (nee Mikhlya Fle’er / Fleyer), was born in 1914 in Propoysk, a shtetl in Mogilievske Guberniye, Belorussia. In the post-revolution years, her father, Zalmen, received a warning that he was to be arrested, stripped of his possessions, and exiled for owning four cows and employing one housekeeper. To avoid this fate, the family fled to Horki, a larger shtetl in the region, his birthplace.

As the third daughter in a family with no sons at the time, little Mikhlya was sent to a traditional all-boys kheyder to study. She told me compassionate stories of the cruel pranks the boys did to the poor old rebbe that she, as the only girl, felt so bad about. Later, she graduated from a seven-year school, where all of the subjects were taught in Yiddish. She wanted to continue on to the Jewish (Yiddish) teachers’ college, but it was no longer possible.

In 1934, as a newlywed, she moved to Leningrad with her husband Naum (Nokhom-Abram), where they lived  their whole life afterwards. Despite knowing Russian as well as if it were their native tongue, they always spoke Yiddish at home and with many friends, never missed a Jewish concert or event, and subscribed to Jewish periodicals when it was still possible.

During World War II, my grandma miraculously survived the horrific siege of Leningrad with my three-month old mom, but lost her five-year old son, who was with his grandparents in Horki for the summer, during which the Nazis invaded it and killed 7,500 Jews, including the boy, his four grandparents, and 38 more of our relatives.

My grandpa Naum, who came back from the front without a leg, learned of his son’s initial rescue, swift betrayal, and killing from his former neighbors. My grandma’s lament and guilt that she “sent her own child to death with her own hands” by letting him travel to Belorussia before the war “nobody expected to happen” was one of the stories that she would tell me often. Milya with Larisa

Larisa and Milya on summer vacation in Ukraine

When the Perestroika had just begun, the very first signs of the Jewish renewal were two concerts of Jewish music at the end of 1988 in Leningrad. My grandma did not miss them despite her poor health and the two of us went together. She felt that they “added seven more years of life” to her. This is how highly she regarded Jewish songs.

To my greatest regret, she passed away in January 1989 before I went to synagogue for the first time and matriculated at the newly created Jewish University that same year. I never recorded any of her songs, but kept hundreds of them in my memory. I still remember some ballads, just partially, and feel terrible that I can’t recall all the words or find them published anywhere.

When my friends and I started a Jewish school in Leningrad, I dedicated my work to giving my students the same as what my grandmother gave me – teaching them every and any thing Jewish through our amazing multi-layered Yiddish songs. Researching Yiddish musical folklore became my profession, passion, and a tribute to my grandma’s bravery and real heroism in passing our musical tradition to new generations amid the tribulations she lived through.

Arele kumt in vald (Arele Comes to the Woods)

This is how I remember learning the words as a child. I understand they sound not totally grammatically correct, but this is how I sang it as a kid.

Most of the time, we sang the second and third verses in the reverse order. The line in question meant Arele wasn’t taken aback; didn’t fear (I don’t remember the Yiddish word). When it was sung as the second verse, it made his attempt to escape appear to be futile given the next stanza (he thought he could run away, but now he can clearly see the dire situation – the mouth, the paws, etc). This way the time between his climbing up the tree, crying in despair, and eventual rescue was much longer and more terrifying in his eyes.

This was the order of the verses my grandma usually used. Switching the verses makes his actions appear more brave (he didn’t lose his head despite realizing all the details of the dangerous situation beforehand). Also, we sang it a bit slower, in a more storytelling manner, than I did in this recording.The English transliteration reflects the Yiddish dialect more than the Yiddish transcription.

Arele kumt in vald,
Dreyt zikh ‘hin un ‘her.
Ven er dremlt bald
kumt a greyser ber!

Der ber mit lapes greyse!
G’valt, dos iz nit gut!
Fun eygn trern heyse,
Ot iz sheyn kaput!

Arele is nit flit [foyl?]
Eyfn beym er kletert.
Un der ber mit ofn mul,
G’valt, nito keyn reter!

A reter iz ba sholem,
A greyser nes getrofn!
Geven iz dos a kholem,
Ven Arel iz geshlofn!

Arele comes to the woods,
wanders here and there.
When he slumbers, right away comes
a great big bear.

The bear with giant paws!
Help, this is not good.
From his eyes hot tears stream.
Now all is kaput.

Arele is not lazy
and on the tree he climbs.
And the bear with an open mouth
Help, there is no rescue!

A rescue did come in peace;
a great miracle happened.
This was all a dream
while Arele was sleeping.

arele1 arele2