The Scroll Of My Life
(Siemiatycze, Poland)

52°27' / 22°53'

Translation of Di Megile Fun Mayn Lebn

Written by: Michel (Mikhl) Radzinski

Dictated in Yiddish to Shimen Kants

Privately Printed

Printed by permission of the author's son:
Daniel Radzinski, Palo Alto, California


Project Coordinator and Translator

Leonard Prager z”l


This is a translation from: Di Megile Fun Mayn Lebn by Michel (Mikhl) Radzinski of Semyatitsh, Poland; Lima, Peru;
and Tel Aviv, Israel and was dictated in Yiddish to Shimen Kants, and was ultimately translated into English by Leonard Prager of Haifa, Israel and was also edited by him.

That translation of Di Megile Fun Mayn Lebn was privately printed under the title The Scroll of My Life. The present edition incorporates minor corrections.

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Translator and Editor's Preface
Michel (Mikhl) Radzinski and His Memoirs
The Manuscript
A Word on the Translation and the Notes
The Scroll of My Life
My Beloved Semyatitsh
Chapter  1 Semyatitsh (Polish: Siemiatycze)
Chapter  2 In the Yeshiva
Chapter  3 World War One
Chapter  4 Fairs
Chapter  5 Self-Defense
Chapter  6 Khaye-Odem Besmedresh
The Jewish Holidays
Chapter  7 During the Days of Spiritual Awakening
Chapter  8 The Blowing of the Shofer
Chapter  9 Feast of Tabernacles (Sukes)
Chapter 10 Rejoicing of the Law (Simkhes-Toyre)
Chapter 11 Hanukkah
Chapter 12 Purim
Chapter 13 Passover
Chapter 14 The Night of the Seyder
Chapter 15 Counting of the Omer and Legboymer
Chapter 16 The Feast of Weeks
Chapter 17 Days of Mourning
Chapter 18 The Ninth of Ab
Leaving My Shtetl Semyatitsh
Chapter 19 Hakhshara
Chapter 20 Polish Antisemitism
Chapter 21 Warsaw
Chapter 22 Trip to Paris
Chapter 23 Ship Voyage
Chapter 24 Panama
Chapter 25 David (Chiriqui)
A New Life in South America
Chapter 26 Peru
Chapter 27 Rabbi Avrom-Moyshe Brener
Chapter 28 Knitwear
Chapter 29 Saving Relatives
Chapter 30 Adolfo and Isabel Barrios
Chapter 31 The Ban on Peddling
Chapter 32 Yiddish Theater
Afterword and a Farewell
Afterword - Daniel Radzinski
Farewell to a Friend
References, Glossary, and Lists
List of Persons and Places
Subject List


Translator's Preface

Michel (Mikhl) Radzinski and His Memoirs

In the course of many weeks of immersion in the translation of a very personal kind of composition – a book of memoirs – one begins to feel that the author is someone one knows.  This is so even though the author has consciously avoided large spheres of personal life out of a powerful need to describe to his children and children's children what he considered to be the crucial experiences of his generation.  Thus Michel (Mikhl) Radzinski concentrates on memories of life in Semyatitsh.  The Shoa and loss of much of his own family lend pathos to his emotional and highly idealized account of shtetl life.  While possessing documentary value, this material is perhaps principally valuable as illumination of the author's inner life.  We clearly see how strong was his desire to leave a record of what he regarded as his most important experiences. He came to this task in his middle-seventies when his sight was deteriorating and when he was suffering from Parkinson's Disease, both of which made the use of an amanuensis necessary.  I am certain that it would have given this very determined man great satisfaction to know that his memoirs will be read – if only, alas, in translation – by his grandchildren.

The Manuscript

Close examination of the manuscript shows that it was never properly edited by either the author or Shimen Kants, to whom the memoirs were dictated.  Consequently, there are a number of repetitions and discontinuities.  Only occasionally are section headings provided. Moreover, we find many Germanisms and certain stylistic features which clearly do not originate with the author.  The work was never properly finished, but this does not necessarily mean it is incomplete – this is an important distinction.  I have cut out some repetitious phrases and added a few subtitles, but essentially the work before you has been lightly edited and faithfully reflects the manuscript as I received it.

A Word on the Translation and the Notes

Ideally a good translation does not read like a translation. Traces of the translated language may mar the idiomaticity of the finished work, but there are also cases when the translator might wish to keep some flavor of the original. To do so without offending the syntax or stylistic options of the target language is something of an art.

Chaucer and others have shown that a sprinkling of untranslated words can flavor an entire text; a sampling of non-native syntax may have a similar effect. In the present translation, I am decidedly not interested in communicating the flavor of Yiddish syntax a la Leo Rosten, a strategy which mocks the speaker. I try to imitate the mood of the original in an informal English which is analagous in as many ways as possible to the author's Yiddish. However, I do not want the reader to forget that the original text is rooted in a mental climate different from his own. By giving key terms and names in romanized Yiddish in parentheses (used principally for this purpose) immediately following the translation gives some of the sense or feel of the world in which the text originated. It also enables the reader to judge and thus accept or reject the English rendition (which is sometimes very approximate). At the risk of cluttering the page, I romanize and gloss in the following fashion: beautiful character (sheyne mides); good deeds (maysim toyvim); the old home (di alte heym).  When the original Yiddish expression is long I often place it in a footnote. Romanizations are given selectively, but most of them can also be found in the Glossary at the end. I also give footnotes for matters that cannot be explained adequately in a gloss – identifications of persons, organizations, places, events. Hopefully these may help the reader to enter the world of these memoirs more fully. Footnotes are also where I indicate puzzles, problems in the manuscript, and where I ask for help from others in matters I have not been able to explain. The two Lists (Persons and Places; Subject) can easily be searched in this digitalized edition.  They help the reader scan the variety of subjects in the memoirs.

Leonard Prager, Haifa, Israel

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