by Yevgeny Yevtushenko
No memorial stands above Babi Yar –
Only a precipice, a crude gravestone.
Terror comes over me. I’m today
As old as the Jewish people themselves.
It seems to me now that I’m a Jew –
I’m wandering along ancient Egypt.
And now I’m nailed right to the cross,
And to this day my stigmata are visible.
It seems to me that I’m Alfred Dreyfus –
The Philistines my informers and judges.
thrown into a cell,
While genteel ladies
sporting frills and flounces
Poke me in the face
with parasols as they squeal.
It seems I’m the boy from the pogrom,
The blood pours out,
spills along the edge,
Reeking of onions dipped in vodka,
The lords of taverns pillage and plunder.
Shoved under the murderer’s boot,
I beg for mercy in vain. Howling
“Kill the Jews and save Mother Russia!”
The wholesale grain merchant
rapes my mother.
Oh, people of Russia!
I know –
You are in essence internationalist.
But sometimes hands that are impure
Have taken your pure name in vain.
I know the goodness of your native land.
that, hardly moving a muscle,
The anti-Semites have puffed
With the name “Union of the
It seems to me that I am Anna Frank,
Transparent like an April bough.
I am in love,
I don’t need many words.
What we need is
to look into each other’s eyes.
How our sense of sight
Our sense of smell!
The leaves of the spring trees
are beyond our reach
as is the sky above.
Yet, we can still do much –
To touch each other in the dark.
Are they moving towards us?
Have no fear –
You can hear
The rumble of spring itself
Come to me.
Give me now your lips.
Are they breaking down the door?
No, the winter ice is cracking…
The wild grass rustles above Babi Yar.
The trees look down in dread
Everything here howls silently,
Lowering my hat,
I feel myself slowly turning grey,
Turning into a shriek,
a monolithic slab
Above tens of thousands
I stand here like
every old man shot,
Like every infant, baby shot.
Every nerve in me remembers!
Let the “Internationale”
When the last anti-Semite on Earth
There is no Jewish blood in me.
Yet, I am hated with calloused rage
By every anti-Semite – like a Jew,
And that is why …
I am a true Russian!
Benjamin Sher Russian Translator
January 2, 2006