Home       l       Site Map      l      Exhibitions      l     About the Museum       l      Education      l     Contact Us       l      Links

Czernowitz: Town With a Jewish Past

Voices of Czernowitz:
Itzik Manger

Itzik Manger
cir 1960s


Itzik Manger (May 30, 1901-February 21, 1969) was a prominent Yiddish poet and playwright, a self-proclaimed folk bard, visionary, and ‘master tailor’ of the written word.

Manger was born in Czernowitz (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but today in the Ukraine.) His father, Hillel Manger, was a skilled tailor in love with literature, which he referred to as ‘literatoyreh’ (a portmanteau of the Yiddish words literatura and Toyreh). As a teenager, Manger attended the Kaiser Königlicher Dritter Staats-Gymnasium, where he studied German literature until he was expelled for pranks and bad behavior. He exchanged this traditional education for the backstage atmosphere of the Yiddish theatre.
In 1921, Manger began publishing his early poems and ballads in several new literary journals founded in the aftermath of World War I. Soon afterwards, he settled in Bucharest and wrote for the local Yiddish newspapers while giving occasional lectures on Spanish, Romanian, and Gypsy folklore.

In 1927, Manger came to Warsaw, the spiritual and intellectual center of Ashkenazi Jewry and “the most inspiring city in Poland." Manger lived in the capital of the Yiddish cultural world for the next decade, which became the most productive years of his entire career. In 1929, Manger published his first book of poetry, Shtern afn dakh (Stars on the Roof), in Warsaw to critical acclaim. By the following year, Manger was so well known that he was admitted to the select Yiddish P.E.N. club, along with Isaac Bashevis, Israel Rabon, and I. Papiernikov.

Between 1929 and 1938, Manger took the Warsaw literary world by storm. He gave frequent readings of his own poetry at the Writers' Club, was interviewed by all the major Warsaw Yiddish papers, published articles in the prestigious journal Literarishe Bleter (Literary Pages), issued his own literary journal called Chosen Words filled with his poetry, fiction, and artistic manifestos. At the same time, Manger continued to publish his own works, including a series of modernist poems.

With widespread anti-Semitism in the highest levels of Polish government and society, Jewish life in Warsaw became increasingly dire. Manger decided to leave for Paris in 1938, an exile from his creative homeland. However, Paris was not safe for long. In 1940, Manger fled to Marseilles, Tunis, Liverpool, and finally London, where he became a British citizen and remained unhappily for the next eleven years. Disillusioned and unproductive, Manger immigrated to Israel in 1958, where he remained until his death in Tel Aviv in 1969.

The text on this page has been adapted from the Wikipedia web page for Itzik Manger and can be found here.

  Hear Itzik Manger recite two of his poems, "oyf der stantsye Kolomey" and "lomir zhe zingen."
Presented is the Yiddish text, using Hebrew letters, as well as the transliterated Yidddish.
Also the English translation of each poem is presented.

 oyf der stantsye Kolomey (1m, 34 s)
At the Kolomey Station
(translated by Martha Birnbaum)

oyf der stantsye Kolomey
tsvishn a gantser eyde,
shteyen gehoykert shotns tsvey,
mayn bobe un mayn zeyde.

zogt der zeyde: «Sheyndl, du herst
– un zayne oygn brenen –
undzer eynikl kumt tsu gast,
vi azoy veln mir im derkenen?

vayl ven Khave hot zayn vig gevigt
zenen mir shoyn beyde gelegn
unter di grozn, untern vint
oyf yener zayt fun di vegn.»

shmeykhlt di bobe, in ire hent
tsitert a bintl blumen –
brumt der zeyde: «beheyme, tsu vos
hostu dos mitgenumen?»

zogt di bobe: «kh'hob, Itsik kroyn,
di blumen in feld opgerisn,
s'iz a mode bay hayntike layt
azoy a gast tsu bagrisn.»

zey shvaygn. s'shrayt a lokomotiv
«tsi kumt er? tsi vet er kumen?»
un in der bobes dare hent
tsitert dos bintl blumen.

«dos eynikl, zogt men, iz–u-va!
a vazhner knaker in gramen,
in zayne gramen tsitert un veynt
di neshome fun zayn mamen.»

di bobe dreyt avek dem kop
mit epes ibergenumen.
di bobe veynt, in ire hent
tsitert dos bintl blumen...



At the Kolomey station

in a large gathering,

stand two stooped shadows

my grandma and my grandpa.


Grandpa speaks: “Sheyndl, - you hear -

- and his eyes are burning -

our grandson is coming to visit,

how will we ever recognize him?


When Chava rocked his cradle

both of us were already lying

under the earth, under the wind

on the other side of the road.”


Grandma smiled, in her hand

trembled a bouquet of flowers –

Grumbles grandpa: “You ox, why

did you bring those along?”


Grandma says: “Itsik, my treasure,

I plucked the flowers in the field,

It’s a custom in today’s world

to greet a guest like this.”


They were silent. The train cries

“Is it coming? Will it come?”

And in grandma’s thin hand

the bouquet of flowers trembled.


“Our grandson, they say, is –a splendid boy!

a  wonderful poet,

in his poems trembles and cries

the soul of his mother.”

Grandma turns her head

overcome by some emotion.

She cries, in her hands

trembles the little bouquet…


אױף דער סטאַנציע קאָלאָמײ
צװישן אַ גאַנצער עדה,
שטײען געהױקערט שאָטנס צװײ,
מײַן באָבע און מײַן זײדע.

זאָגט דער זײדע: «שײנדל, דו הערסט
– און זײַנע אױגן ברענען –
אונדזער אײניקל קומט צו גאַסט,
װי אַזױ װעלן מיר אים דערקענען?

װײַל װען כאַװע האָט זײַן װיג געװיגט
זענען מיר שױן בײדע געלעגן
אונטער די גראָזן, אונטערן װינט
אױף יענער זײַט פֿון די װעגן.»

שמײכלט די באָבע, אין אירע הענט
ציטערט אַ בינטל בלומען –
ברומט דער זײדע: «בהמה, צו װאָס
האָסטו דאָס מיטגענומען?»

זאָגט די באָבע: «כ'האָב, איציק קרױן,
די בלומען אין פֿעלד אָפּגעריסן,
ס'איז אַ מאָדע בײַ הײַנטיקע לײַט
אַזױ אַ גאַסט צו באַגריסן.»

זײ שװײַגן. ס'שרײַט אַ לאָקאָמאָטיװ
«צי קומט ער? צי װעט ער קומען?»
און אין דער באָבעס דאַרע הענט
ציטערט דאָס בינטל בלומען.

«דאָס אײניקל, זאָגט מען, איז – או־װאַ!
אַ װאַזשנער קנאַקער אין גראַמען,
אין זײַנע גראַמען ציטערט און װײנט
די נשמה פֿון זײַן מאַמען.»

די באָבע דרײט אַװעק דעם קאָפּ
מיט עפּעס איבערגענומען.
די באָבע װײנט, אין אירע הענט
ציטערט דאָס בינטל בלומען...

  lomir zhe zingen (2m, 5s)

Let Us Sing Simply
(translated by Meinhard E. Mayer)

lomir zhe zingen poshet un prost
fun alts, vos iz heymish, lib un tayer:
fun alte betler, vos sheltn dem frost
un fun mames, vos bentshn dos fayer.

fun oreme kales, vos shteyen mit likht
far blinde shpiglen shpet bay nakht,
un yede zukht dos noente gezikht,
vos hot ir libe oysgelakht.

fun goyrl-varfer, vos redn farshtelt
un narn di letste groshns oys
bay agunes, vos sheltn di velt,
un geyen durkh hinter-tirn aroys.

fun dinstn, vos horeven biter-shver
un bahaltn dem bestn bisn
far di zelner, vos kumen bay nakht,
di balebatim zoln nisht visn.

lomir zhe zingen poshet un prost
fun alts, vos iz heymish, lib un tayer:
fun oreme mames, vos sheltn dem frost
un fun betlers, vos bentshn dos fayer.

fun meydlekh, vos varfn zumertsayt
mamzeyrim hinter fremde tirn
un tsitern far mundirte layt,
vos kenen derfar in tfise firn.

fun katerinkes, vos skripen shver
fraytik bay tog, in oreme hoyfn,
fun ganovim, vos hobn farpast,
un muzn iber di dekher antloyfn.

fun shmate-kloyber, vos grablen in mist,
un meynen: zey veln an oytser gefinen,
fun dikhter, vos hobn gegloybt umzist
di shtern – un zenen arop fun zinen.

lomir zhe zingen poshet un prost
fun alts, vos iz heymish, lib un tayer:
fun alte layt, vos sheltn dem frost
un fun kinder, vos bentshn dos fayer.

Let us sing simply, directly, and plain

Of all that’s familiar, beloved, and dear:

Of aged beggars who curse the frost

And of mothers blessing the fire.

Of poor brides who stand by candlelight, 

At sightless mirrors, late at night,

And each searches for the beloved face,

Which made fun of their love-embrace.

Of fortune tellers who speak in riddles, 

And steal the last pennies from

Deserted wives who curse the world,

And exit through the back doors.

Of maids, who toil bitterly, 

And hide the best morsels

For the soldiers who visit them at night,

So the masters will not find out.

Let us sing simply, directly, and plain

Of all that’s familiar and dear:

Of poor mothers who curse the frost

And of beggars blessing the fire.

Of young girls, who each summer drop

Their bastards at a stranger’s door,

And tremble at the sight of a uniformed cop

Who could put them in jail therefore.

Of organ grinders that lament in tact,

On Fridays in the backyards of the poor.

And of the thieves caught in the act,

Who flee over roofs and into the sewer.

Of rag pickers who search in a trashcan

Hoping a treasure there to find.

Of poets who trusted the stars in vain, 

And then went out of their mind.


Let us sing simply, directly, and plain

Of all that’s familiar, beloved, and dear:

Of old people who curse the frost

And of children blessing the fire. 

לאָמיר זשע זינגען פּשוט און פּראָסט
פֿון אַלץ, װאָס איז הײמיש, ליב און טײַער
פֿון אַלטע בעטלער, װאָס שעלטן דעם פּראָסט
און פֿון מאַמעס, װאָס בענטשן דאָס פֿײַער.

פֿון אָרעמע כּלות, װאָס שטײען מיט ליכט
פֿאַר בלינדע שפּיגלען שפּעט בײַ נאַכט
און יעדע זוכט דאָס נאָענטע געזיכט
װאָס האָט איר ליבע אױסגעלאַכט.

פֿון גורל־װאַר פֿער, װאָס רעדן פֿאַרשטעלט
און נאַרן די לעצטע גראָשנס אױס
בײַ עגונות װאָס שעלטן די װעלט
און גײען דורך הינטער־טירן אַרױס

פֿון דינסטן, װאָס האָרעװען ביטער־שװער
און באַהאַלטן דעם בעסטן ביסן
פֿאַר די זעלנער, װאָס קומען בײַ נאַכט
די באַלעבאַטים זאָלן נישט װיסן

לאָמיר זשע זינגען פּשוט און פּראָסט
פֿון אַלץ, װאָס איז הײמיש, ליב און טײַער
פֿון אורעמע מאַמעס, װאָס שעלטן דעם פּראָסט
און פֿון בעטלער, װאָס בענטשן דאָס פֿײַער

פֿון מײדלעך, װאָס װאַרפֿן זומער־צײַט
ממזרים הינטער פֿרעמדע טירן
און ציטערן פֿאַר מונדירטע לײַט
װאָס קענען דערפֿאַר אין תּפֿיסה פֿירן

פֿון קאַטערינקעס, װאָס סקריפּן שװער
פֿרײַטיק בײַ נאַכט אין אָרעמע הױפֿן
פֿון גנבֿים, װאָס האָבן פֿאַרפֿאַסט
און מוזן איבער די דעכער אַנטלױפֿן

פֿון שמאַטע־קלױבער, װאָס גראַבלען אין מיסט
און מײנען זײ װעלן אַן אוצר געפֿינען
פֿון דיכטער, װאָס האָבן געל ױבט אומזיסט
די שטערן – און זײַנען אַראָפּ פֿון זינען

לאָמיר זשע זינגען פּשוט און פּראָסט
פֿון אַלץ, װאָס איז הײמיש, ליב און טײַער
פֿון אַלטע לייט, װאָס שעלטן דעם פּראָסט
און פֿון קינדער, װאָס בענטשן דאָס פֿײַער


What's New       |       Opportunities       |       Downloads       |      FAQs       |      Credits       |       Guestbook       |       Help

Copyright © 2007-9. Museum of Family History.  All rights reserved.  Image Use Policy.