Ch2C_Y.Rottenberg (México)




(Some memories)


This happened in the beginnings of 20's. The literary "group" headed by PERETZ MARKISH conquered Jewish Warsaw. This literary group met in Klomatzke St. 13, and became an interest  focus. In those days, I had concluded Warsaw Teachers Seminar and went teaching to Kartuz Bereza, where Polish régime installed the famous concentration field. The town was known by its two schools, one in Hebrew and other in Yiddish. Their youth highlighted for leafy cultural attitude: library, choir, wind instruments orchestra, and a drama theater group. It is necessary to highlight that  youth was active and didn't had a rest.


First questions residents of Bereza - when I arrived -  made me, were: What is happening in Warsaw? You - as for granted know PERETZ MARKISH - , is it truth he is a great writer? I didn't have doubts that each one of those that asked me, had read his famous composition "Di Kupe" (The mound), and for sure they were embarrassed of not having understood it.  


In a School meeting, I suggested to invite MARKISH for a conference, and the surprise was so big that reigned complete silence. Finally, the President asked: do you are maybe talking seriously? Would this be possible? My suggestion was accepted, we communicated immediately with Warsaw but we didn't receive an answer.


After two weeks I received a postcard of MARKISH, in answer to my invitation. He communicated that he would arrive for three days, from Friday until Sunday. It is obvious to say that from this moment MARKISH's "visit " to our town began. I worried that MARKISH would not disappoint the community, and could behave himself in front of it. I knew very well his spirit and his whims. He was used to  Warsaw's din, and I hoped he would not be depressed in our small town. 


That Friday, together with my friends of  School administration, went to train station that was distant some km. of the city. Before train arrived, I commented my friends that MARKISH would be for granted in bad mood after a long trip during whole night (the trip from Warsaw to Bereza, lapsed from 11 p.m.  up to 8 a.m.). We came closer to the cart that was waiting for us. The cart driver, father of school students, asked me with smiling eyes: this is your MARKISH ? . The famous hair cowlick of MARKISH was jumbled. His face was gray and tired, his eyes were almost closed. He was as he had shortened, due to morning cold, and he were smaller. When we sit down in the car, we hardly speak. Finally we arrived at hotel that was end of  town. We waited him until he ordered himself in his room, took a bath and had breakfast. I didn't wanted to leave him alone, and suggested him to sleep.  Also explained him that I would sleep, because that day had not to  teach.  


"Then, I go with you, I won't stay here alone ", he said. 

"He already begins" I thought, and  told him aloud: "Well, they come with me"


It was a pleasant summer day and the distance between the hotel and my house was not too much. When we entered my room, sun shone all corners. Windows were open, and of the orchard  came up fruits smell. "This is a true paradise, said MARKISH" and added smiling: "Do you remember MOTEL, PEISY's the "Chazan" (ritual chantor) son?. Do you teach in school symbolic aspect of this issue?. This book is a blessing!. With only this issue, could be filled the whole studies system".


MARKISH began to  step along the room, and each instant he came closer to the open window. His face was illuminated as if it absorbed all garden light.



At evening after  dinner, MARSKIH's  conference was delivered in living room of Yiddish School Theater  (it was a wooden construction, kind of summer theater that was settled down with the effort of school activists). The living room was full. The spirit was high. There was a feast sensation. Not only youths, also old men and children came to see and to listen MARKISH. When the poet saw the auditory, he was moved a lot. "It is a long time" murmured "I do not feel fear before public". His eyes irradiated light and warmth.


"It is good to be able to speak to this public" he murmured. "They understand and they feel", I answered  him.


The issue was "The essence of poetry". We defined that conference would last one hour, or as maximum one and a half hours. MARKISH began his speech, and an absolute calm reigned in  living room. At the beginning his voice was weak and trembling, but soon he exalted, his voice grew, his eyes glowed, and his face paled and for moments blushed. Everybody had the sensation that this man fought with his multiple thoughts and feelings, and his effort was to be able to express them in a clear and evident language. I listened   MARKISH many times , but this time was for my a new revelation. All his body trembled. His hands, as wings, looked for to draw images in the air, and his voice ascended and lowered, filling any hole in living room. 


When MARKISH finished his conference, calm still reigned. Listeners were not willing to  end his words. Some minutes later, applauses exploded. MARKISH sat down when his legs trembled. "One more minute and I fell" murmured. Was pale, covered with perspiration and  breathed with difficulty. His speech lasted three hours!.


After conference a snack in  one of the activists house was served . Atmosphere was warm and sincere, and there were not speeches. MARKISH understood very well recognition,  love and enthusiasm of people present there. He was excited as a boy.  He came close to each one and  kissed him. Many people present were simple town people, the house owner was also a typical character of "Tevie the Milkman"[ii] stories.


MARKISH enjoyed his own jokes and his humor. At  reception end, when MARKISH rises to say some words, his eyes were full with tears. "I cannot speak dear people, I love you  so much ...I decided not to travel on Sunday ...I will stay with you"!. It is easy to imagine happiness that out brake after poet's announcement. "Then it is obvious that we will toast a "Lechaim"[iii] in honor to our dear guest"! one of the participants said. I was perturbed, I did  not suspect that house owner would offer drinks immediately. MARKISH had asked me to keep him form drinking alcohol. I should had announce that they don't serve alcoholic drinks, but I forgot. Participants were surprised, how could I forget such an important matter? There was an agreement: I would be forgiven of not having warned[iv], with the condition that the following day fault was fixed...[v]


Next day on Saturday afternoon, was to be delivered MARKISH's  second conference, about "The idea on modern literature". Some hours before noon he was going for a walk in the garden near my room. I hardly entered, when he continued with our interrupted previous day chat.



I remained silent. In front of me was great poet MARKISH who more than anybody introduced in Yiddish poetry the flame of  Russian Revolution, and was one of most important poets. MARKISH had faith in  Russian Revolution as a religious Jew has faith in Messiah's arrival. His second conference was not less successful than the first one. MARKISH developed thoughts of  modern literature, and mainly of poetry. In doing this, he reflected the  chaos of revolutionary storm. The old forms of life would be destroyed, and new poetry is not a sensible and very balanced thing, at the light of irrational human instincts.


At evening was carried out a farewell meeting. Participated a lot of people. There were speeches and drinks. The meeting  became a popular party. People danced and  sang. MARKISH "stepped out the measure" (drank too much). Meeting lasted until very late and when public dispersed, we loaded the poet that was intoxicated of drink and of participants' warmth.


In spite of his desire, MARKISH was not able to remain more time in town, and following morning we accompanied him to train station. Suddenly, we listen a sharp scream. We went back and saw MARKISH amid the route Brest-Moscow with hands extended toward sky, claiming: "I want to return home! To my house, to the country of  Revolution! ." We grabbed him and brought him to hotel room, removed his clothes, put him on bed, and took care of him whole night. The following morning, he told me a little embarrassed: "I asked you not to give me alcoholic drinks..."


In train station, MARKISH looked to town with nostalgia and murmured for himself "How wonderful  is Kartuz Bereza!  So dear Jews! For sure there are many towns like this! They are a spring of Jewish life! It is necessary to repair Jewish thought!"


From time to time I remember that night scene when  Jewish poet PERETZ MARKISH stood in the means of the route and  said:  


"I want to return to my house, to the country of  Revolution!..." 


In that moment we did not think of the possibility. Neither PERETZ MARKISH thought that in the fire of that burning bramble, its most faithful children would immolate on the blaze, those  who gave their lives to revolutionary ideal, among them  own MARKISH. 


Redaction Note: PERETZ MARKISH was murdered by communists headed by Stalin (his descendants arrived to Jewish State)


[i] TN See translation in previous chapter

[ii] TN Book by famous writer  SHOLEM ALEICHEM

[iii] TN See translation in previous chapter

[iv] TN not to offer alcoholic drinks

[v] TN and in this moment alcoholic drinks would be served

[vi] TN wise man of old time who introduced fundamental renovation in normative Jewish thought

[vii] TN Encounter places to study Bible an religious norms

[viii] TN Religious movement appeared at the end of XIX century, which introduced popular character of faith, accessible to everyone.

[ix] TN Jewish workers socialist movement