Babi Yar by Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Translated by Ben Okopnik
No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A steep cliff only, like the rudest headstone.
I am afraid.
Today, I am as old
As the entire Jewish race itself.
I see myself an ancient Israelite.
I wander o'er the roads of ancient Egypt
And here, upon the cross, I perish, tortured
And even now, I bear the marks of nails.
It seems to me that Dreyfus is myself.
The Philistines betrayed me - and now judge.
I'm in a cage. Surrounded and trapped,
I'm persecuted, spat on, slandered, and
The dainty dollies in their Brussels frills
Squeal, as they stab umbrellas at my face.
I see myself a boy in Belostok
Blood spills, and runs upon the floors,
The chiefs of bar and pub rage unimpeded
And reek of vodka and of onion, half and half.
I'm thrown back by a boot, I have no strength left,
In vain I beg the rabble of pogrom,
To jeers of "Kill the Jews, and save our Russia!"
My mother's being beaten by a clerk.
O, Russia of my heart, I know that you
Are international, by inner nature.
But often those whose hands are steeped in filth
Abused your purest name, in name of hatred.
I know the kindness of my native land.
How vile, that without the slightest quiver
The antisemites have proclaimed themselves
The "Union of the Russian People!"
It seems to me that I am Anna Frank,
Transparent, as the thinnest branch in April,
And I'm in love, and have no need of phrases,
But only that we gaze into each other's eyes.
How little one can see, or even sense!
Leaves are forbidden, so is sky,
But much is still allowed - very gently
In darkened rooms each other to embrace.
-"No, fear not - those are sounds
Of spring itself. She's coming soon.
Quickly, your lips!"
-"They break the door!"
-"No, river ice is breaking..."
Wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar,
The trees look sternly, as if passing judgement.
Here, silently, all screams, and, hat in hand,
I feel my hair changing shade to gray.
And I myself, like one long soundless scream
Above the thousands of thousands interred,
I'm every old man executed here,
As I am every child murdered here.
No fiber of my body will forget this.
May "Internationale" thunder and ring
When, for all time, is buried and forgotten
The last of antisemites on this earth.
There is no Jewish blood that's blood of mine,
But, hated with a passion that's corrosive
Am I by antisemites like a Jew.
And that is why I call myself a Russian!
commentary and translation
(Russian version in transliteration)
Nad Babim Yarom pamyatnikov nyet.
Krutoi obryv, kak gruboye nadgrobye.
mne sevodnya stolko let,
kak samomu yevreiskomu narodu.
Mne kazhetsa seichas — ya yudei.
Vot ya bryedu pa dryevnemu Egiptu.
A vot ya, na kryeste raspyaty, gibnu,
i da sikh por na mne — sledi gvazdey.
Mne kazhetsa, shto Dreifus — eta ya.
Meshchanstvo — moi danoschik i sudya!
Ya za reshotkoy, ya papal v koltso,
zatravlennyi, oplyovannyi, obolgannyi,
damachki s bryusselshmi oborkami,
viszha, zontami tichut mne v litso.
Mne kazhetsa, ya — malchik v Bielostoke.
Krov lyotsya, rastekayas pa palam.
Beschinstvuyut vozhdi traktirnoy stoiki.
I pakhaut vodkoy s lukom popolam.
Ya, sapagom otbroshennyi, bessilny,
naprasna ya pogromshchikov molyu.
Pad gogot: “Bey zhidov! Spasai Rossiyu!”
Labaznik izbivaet mat moyu.
O russhy moi narod, ya znayu,
ty pa sushchnosti internatsionalen,
no chasta te, chi ruki nechisti,
tvoim chisteishim imyenem bryatsali.
Ya znayu dobrotu moyei zyemli.
Kak podla, shto i zhilachkoi ne drognuv,
antisemity narekli sibya:
“Soyuzom russkova naroda.”
Mne kazhetsa, ya — eta Anna Frank,
prozrachnaya, kak vyetochka v aprele,
i ya lyublyu, i mne nye nado fraz,
no nado, shtob drug v druga my smotreli.
Kak malo mozhno videt, obonyat!
Nelzya nam listev i nelzya nan neba,
no mozhno ochen mnoga —
eta nezhno drug druga
vtyomnoy komnate obnyat!
— “Syuda idut!”
— “Nye boysa. Eta guly samoi vesny,
ona idyot syuda.
Idi ko mne,
dai mne skoreye guby!”
— “Lomayut dver!”
— “Nyet! Eta ledokhod!”
Nad Babim Yarom shelest dihkh trav,
dyerevya smotryat grozno, po-sudeiski.
Zdes molcha vsyo krichit,
i, shapku snyav,
ya chuvstvuyu, kak myediemo sedeyu.
I sam ya, kak sploshnoy bezzvuchny krik,
nad tysyachami tysyach pogrebyonnykh,
Ya — kazhdy zdes rasstrelyanny starik,
Ya — kazhdy zdes rasstrelyanny rebyonok.
Nishto vo mne pro eta nye zabudet.
“Internatsional” pust progremit,
kogda naveh pokhoronen budet
pasledni na zyemle antisemit.
Yevreiskoy krovi nyet v krovi moyei,
no nenavisten zloboy zaskaruzloy
ya vsem antisemitam kak yevrei,
ipatomu ya nastoyashchiy russkiy!