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Do the Russians Want War?

O, do the Russians long for war?

ask of the stillness evermore,

ask of the field, or ask the breeze,

and ask the birch and poplar trees.

Ask of the soldiers who now lie

beneath the birch trees and the sky,

and let their sons tell you once more

whether the Russians long,

whether the Russians long,

whether the Russians long for war.

Not only at their country’s call

did Russian soldiers fight and fall;

they died that men from ev’ry shore

might live without the fear of war.

Ask those who fought, and those erased,

ask those who at the Elbe you embraced.

These monuments are only for

to show if Russians long,

to show if Russians long,

to show if Russians long for war.

Yes, we can fight when fight we must;

be we don’t wish to breathe the dust

of soldiers brave from ev’ry clime

who give up life before their time.

Ask of the women in our life,

ask of our mothers –ask my wife–,

and you will never wonder more

whether the Russians long,

whether the Russians long,

whether the Russians long for war.

Their answer rises loud and clear

for all men, ev’rywhere, to hear.

The message now is as before:

the Russians do not long,

the Russians do not long,

the Russians do not long for war.

Babi Yar

No monument stands over Babi Yar.

A drop sheer as a crude gravestone.

I am afraid.

Today I am as old in years

as all the Jewish people.

Now I seem to be

a Jew.

Here I plod through ancient Egypt.

Here I perish crucified on the cross,

and to this day I bear the scars of nails.

I seem to be


The Philistine

is both informer and judge.

I am behind bars.

Beset on every side.


spat on,


Squealing, dainty ladies in flounced Brussels lace

stick their parasols into my face.

I seem to be then

a young boy in Byelostok.

Blood runs, spilling over the floors.

The barroom rabble-rousers

give off a stench of vodka and onion.

A boot kicks me aside, helpless.

In vain I plead with these pogrom bullies.

While they jeer and shout,

'Beat the Yids. Save Russia!'

Some grain-marketer beats up my mother.

O my Russian people!

I know


are international to the core.

But those with unclean hands

have often made a jingle of your purest name.

I know the goodness of my land.

How vile these antisemites—

without a qualm

they pompously called themselves

the Union of the Russian People!

I seem to be

Anne Frank


as a branch in April.

And I love.

And have no need of phrases.

My need

is that we gaze into each other.

How little we can see

or smell!

We are denied the leaves,

we are denied the sky.

Yet we can do so much—


embrace each other in a darkened room.

They're coming here?

Be not afraid. Those are the booming

sounds of spring:

spring is coming here.

Come then to me.

Quick, give me your lips.

Are they smashing down the door?

No, it's the ice breaking . . .

The wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar.

The trees look ominous,

like judges.

Here all things scream silently,

and, baring my head,

slowly I feel myself

turning grey.

And I myself

am one massive, soundless scream

above the thousand thousand buried here.

I am

each old man

here shot dead.

I am

every child

here shot dead.

Nothing in me

shall ever forget!

The 'Internationale,' let it


when the last antisemite on earth

is buried for ever.

In my blood there is no Jewish blood.

In their callous rage, all antisemites

must hate me now as a Jew.

For that reason

I am a true Russian!