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DER YIDDISH-VINKL February 6, 2004

Every other week, a page-plus of the Forverts is devoted to “Pearls of Yiddish Poetry,” edited by Eleanor “Chana” Mlotek. Each column carries a standard subhead, “In ondenk fun Yosef Mlotek” (In memory of Joseph Mlotek).

Joseph “Yosl” Mlotek was a multitalented man. Not just a compiler of poems and songs, he was a writer, a performer, an organizer of cultural events, and for years he served as a pivot of Yiddish in America — if not of the world. He also composed his own poem, including this one, which appears in the Mloteks’ compilation “Songs of Generations.” The English version is by Gus Tyler.

Mayne Khaveyrim

Mayne khaveyrim — bloyz arbeter-yatn,

Mit hent fun mazoles un hart

Fintstern op zey’re teg in varshtatn,

Vu teg vert farbitn oyf nakht.

Mayne khaveyrim koym yinglekh fun akhtsn

Gevebt zikh khaloymes fun glik.

Itst vern di troymen fun mayne khaveyrim

Tsemoln oyf shtoyb fun fabrik.

Derfar geyen khevre avek fun fabrikn

Glaykh inem klub, in fareyn,

Un trefn zikh mit mentshn fun arbet,

Mit brider fun noyt un fun payn.

Un bindn tsunoyf zeyer goyrl dem shvern

Mit brider fun nont un fun vayt;

Un zeyen a has kegn di vos farshmakhtn

A yugnt aza far der tsayt.

Derfar hobn khevre a shvue geshvoyrn

A shvue oyf lebn un toyt.

Derfar hobn khevre zey’re blikn gevondn

Tsum morgn vos shaynt oyf hel-royt.

My Comrades

My comrades who are a working folk

With calluses upon their hands

Know lives they live are not a joke

Life treats them rough with its demands.

They still are youngsters in their teens

They dream their dreams of happiness

But soon dreams are a hill of beans.

There’s nothing left. Life’s just a mess.

That’s why my comrades do depart

From factories to join a cause

Where they’re at home in head and heart

With those who see the world’s fierce flaws.

Together we are bound by fate

With brothers here and far away.

Despotic lords we deeply hate

We fight for justice night and day.

That’s why we comrades hereby swear

To take an oath of life and death

To fight in freedom’s cause we dare

We’ll fight until there’s no more breath.


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