Oleksa Veretenchenko


Somewhere in the distant wild North,
From the Far East to the Ural Mountains,
Girded by triple barbed wire,
Stand a thousand concentration camps.
The slogan of complete collectivization
Was put out by the hangman of the country in Moscow
To crush freedom and drive people
Into slavery by taking away their land.
It was the spring of the cursed Black year 1933.

My impoverished Ukrainian people,
Ukraine, mother of Cossacks,
Where are your banners and regalia,
Where the mace that stands for your independence?

The sound of eagles far above
Has long been gone from the steppes.
Grey-haired kobzars no longer sing
About the glory of Khmelnytsky and Mazepa.

Only the clanking of chains is heard
On the Solovetsky islands, Siberia, and Kolyma.
Our Cossack nation, nation of hetmans,
Is dying in Muscovite bondage.

What has happened to the laughter,
To the bonfires girls used to light on Midsummer's Eve?
Where are the Ukrainian villages
And the cherry orchards by the houses?

Everything has vanished in a ravenous fire
Mothers are devouring their children,
Madmen are selling human flesh
At the markets.

Everything has vanished, and our drunken enemies
Banquet in the ruins.
Ukrainians are dying in Ukraine,
Beyond Lake Baikal, and in Kolyma.

No, we will rise like a crowd!
No, we will strike like lightning!
There is a punishment for every crime.
What, then, will be the punishment for this one?


Oleksa Veretenchenko's cycle of poems "1933" was first published in the newspaper Nova Ukraina ("New Ukraine") in 1943. Music by Leonid Haidamaka.