Blog  Using Poetry to Reflect

Using Poetry to Reflect

Celia G. is a junior from Chevy Chase, MD. She belongs to Temple Sinai in Washington, DC. and is active in NFTY-MAR. On the recent Poland trip, she wrote reflective poems that described her feelings.

Warsaw ResizedDay 1: Warsaw- We learned of many men, women, and groups of people that took part in continuing Jewish life even as it was being forcefully stripped from them. As I heard of these many stories, the most prominent in my mind was the story of Janusz Crovczek, who, although he had the option to be smuggled out of the ghetto to survive, decided to stay with his children until they were all taken to Treblinka and all perished. Even through this dark time, Crovczek continued to make life as happy and
carefree for his children as possible. He would
help them put on plays, dance, and sing.

my children, let us dance
let us dance and sing
and laugh like there is no tomorrow

like no one is watching
like no one can hear us
like the whole world will laugh along with us

for tomorrow we must learn the new steps
of a dance we’ve never been taught

and tomorrow we must hum a new tune
one we’ve never heard

and even tomorrow our laughter must not cease
though we will set out on a journey unknown

so today, my children, let us dance
let us dance and sing
and laugh like there is no tomorrow

Tykocin and Lepochova ResizedDay 2: Tykocin-Tykocin was a once lively shtetl for a large Jewish community. It was a passionate and lively community until it was invaded by Nazis and the residents marched to their deaths. They were taken to a mass grave, lined up along the edge of the grave, and each shot one by one, their bodies falling into the massive pit. On their humiliating march to the graves, they were further mocked by Nazis as they were asked to sing Hatikva (The Hope) while they marched to create irony; these Jews had no hope.

kol od balevav penima
what is going on? where are they taking us?
nefesh yehudi homiah
I am forced into an overcrowded car. I see my neighbor sprinting behind the car that drives down a never-ending road, her two children held tightly in her arms
ufatei mizrach kadimah
I’m scared. I’m sure we’ve only been driving a few minutes but time seems to move on a different scale.
ayin letsion tsofiyah
I hear a loud bang. the kids in my car cower in corners. their parents unsuccessfully try not to look afraid. My neighbor is no longer running behind the car. In fact, she is not moving. Her children do not stir either. Mom tells me to look away.
od lo avda tikvateinu
We are instructed to leave the car. we begin to talk down a winding path through the forest, cold and afraid.
hatikva bat shnot alpayim
we are forced to sing. they laugh at us. “you jews have no hope,” they mock.
leyihot am chofshi beartseinu
We arrive in front of 3 large pits. Several of our friends and family are already naked and lined up along the edge. Every few seconds, a large bang, and another body disappears into the pits. “Run,” dad tells me.
eretz tzion v’yerushalayim

Day 5- Auschwitz How can I even put into words what I felt at Auschwitz. I mean, this is the hell on earth that every Jew hears of. The horrors of Auschwitz are incomparable. I think the poems speak better for themselves. The first one, however, was inspired by a poem written by someone who was secluded in a ghetto. “There Are No Butterflies in the Ghetto” by Pavel Friedmann symbolizes the lack of hope of the Jews.
(I actually wrote this one before I left for Poland, but I still wanted to include it here.)

I swear I saw a butterfly
I must be mistaken
because something so pure
does not belong
near a history so black

maybe it is a sign
a soul
a soul we were sure we had lost
but maybe the jubilant path, the musical flutter means
“here we still are,
here I still am
our prayers still resonate
we will continue to soar!”

it is ironic
such beauty and such darkness
juxtaposed to create such horror

but in the shadows
somewhere between the gas chambers and “Arbeit Macht Frei,”
I swore I saw a butterfly

(this one was at Birkenau)

Let us remember
Let us remember the man who lost his faith;
The boy who told himself one day he would reunite with his family
as his family went up in smoke;
The woman whose baby was torn from her arms;
Those who lost all desire to live,
or any hope of living,
or any memory or what it means to be alive.

But let us also recognise
Let us recognise the birds’ nests in the trees,
Symbols of the continuation of life;
the woman that survived;
The man that gave his life to save another;
let us recognise that even at Auschwitz, seasons change;
even at Auschwitz, the sun rises
and sets;
and people will come back for generations
to remember
and to recognise;
so let us remember the horror
and never forget
that we lost 6 million battles
but won the war.

You can read more from our students on Ariella’s class blog: Kitat Arava Fall 15.