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[Page 227]

Malka the Radovicher[1]

by Z. Weinper (New York)

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Donated by Rebeca Gilad

Much more than all the small villages in the entire area
They spoke about the small village of Radoviche[2]) with love
And this love was spread by the old Malka[3]).
Even gentiles crossed themselves and murmured: “A pity,”
When Malka closed her good eyes for eternity.
Peasants with their scythes and [female] peasants knitting
Talked among themselves for a long time with regret
Whoever spoke, among the Jewish dorfsgeyer [village peddlers],
There is no end to their sadness even today.
Malka is not here and who can take Malka's place?

And the great landowner of the small village of Radoviche
Who because of the rhyme I call Mister Liadoviche –
This landowner, like all landowners of his class,
Ran his “city” from somewhere in a distant land;
The small village here he left in Bunem's hands.
And here, Reb Bunem was known everywhere
As the Jew with the long, angry eyebrows,
Who could not even shame a fly.
A Jew, simple, quiet. Reb Bunen, Malka's husband
[It was only he] who contended with the Ivans and Mechalkes.

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And Radoviche itself – a small village in Volyn,
Like all small villages, white in winter and green in summer.
A church that appears higher than all of the cottages.
White peasant cottages with straw roofs,
Still higher than the large house of Reb Bunem,
Still higher than the poles near the wells,
Where peasants with pails come to draw water
For themselves, for their horses, for cows and for lambs,
Gardens and orchards and an old, grey cross
That is crumbling, one might as well go ahead and peel it.

Reb Bunem in the fields with the peasants near the haystacks
And Malka at the threshold of the house looks out
At a visitor – a Jew, a gentile – what is the difference?
The house has doors as with our father Abraham
And she? If God had ordained and she has to live
She needs to crown God's name here
With what she can, with whatever she possesses in her house.
Her Bunen is still very busy day and night in the field.
But thank God, he brings and she has something to give [to people].
Let us hope that her life will not be any worse.

Not in vain were visitors were drawn to her threshold.
The quiet one, the old arendar [lessee], Reb Bunem
Meddled very little in his house.
Why? The “busybody” always interfered
At the oven, at the pot of warm soup.
And a person who has just arrived with a groan
Was heard by Malka immediately.
And whatever God had lavished in the pot
Was immediately in bowls for the guests
And Malka asked: Perhaps a little more?

Welcoming a guest was the main thing for her.
What more did she need? Even for the inebriated,
The old, homeless and barefoot Mechalke
The old, good Malka always had

[Page 228]

A place [for him] to sleep near the oven.
“Probably, that is what was wanted from above,
That Mechalke should be a gentile, an inebriated one,”
Malka would always say
And, at the same time, would raise her hands, as if giving a blessing
“Alas, who are we to judge a person!”

And now she is not here – so let this story
About her remain as the story of the goat, the white one,
About whom we so loved to sing and hear.
Oy, perhaps people will reflect and ponder
And become better, more loving to one another.
This life is short and passes quickly,
The end is dust, even for the most beautiful rose.
I stand now and look through my window in thought.
The large city suffocates during the clear day,
But there are no Malkas here at the threshold.

 
Footnotes

  1. Reprinted from Z. Weinper's book, Geklibene Lider [Collected Poems]. Return
  2. Radoviche – a village on the road between Trusk and Kovel. Return
  3. Malka the Radovicher's grandchild, Rayle Baczkowska lives in Argentina now and a second grandchild, Leibl Perel, is now in Mexico. Return

 

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