Discussions / War Against Ukraine

Monday, March 07, 2022

A Voice from the Past

The Yiddish poet David Hofshteyn was in Kyiv in 1919, when the city was attacked again and again by different forces. He writes about the experience. The city is besieged; fires are burning, even whole neighborhoods are on fire. He is guarding a building; his shift is for three hours, and he is grateful for the structure the schedule gives him, as a defense against the “terrifying form” that the next moment could bring. The inhabitants of the building take shelter in the basement, and Hofshteyn notes that in the past people used to open the door for those who rang the bell for their neighbors. He wants to know what “they,” the attackers, shooting at the city, are thinking. The question resounds loudly today.

Hofshteyn, “Bayamim ha’hem,” Davar, November 18, 1925. I am grateful to Daria Semenova, PhD. Candidate in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Dr. Sergii Gurbych for the translation. Their home is also Kyiv.

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