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Natan Gross

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Natan Gross

Cracow Autumn

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Transl. Antony Polonsky
At this season, the chestnut trees are wet from the rain in Cracow.
It is already autumn on the Planty and winter in our hearts.
Darkness falls. It is time to return. The gates are closing.
It is slipping away, my unforgettable Cracow.
The Cracow, which is no more.

We gather like the chestnuts on the Planty of Cracow.
We thread a chain of memory longer than slavery;
Our idyllic Cracow childhood,
Days of struggle and exaltation, days of youth and pranks,
Days of love, days of happiness, days of disaster, days of sadness.
Who knows as well as you, you Cracow streets,
What once pained us, what still pains us –
Our Jewish fate.

Where is Cracow? Where is the Vistula? What has happened to us?
“Where is Rome, where Crimea, and where Poland?”
Our Cracow stretches for many kilometers,
From Płaszów to the Urals, to Sverdlovsk.
From Auschwitz to Siberia it accompanies us,
To Paris, London, New York, to all corners of the world.
And we who still survive after so much, after so many years,
We gather and remember, we gather and remember.

In Kazimierz the ghosts of the past still walk.
The Old Synagogue is falling down from age
And perhaps from sadness and shame…
On Józefa Street, on Ester, on Dietla,
Jewish beggars no longer know on the doors.
On Szeroka, Skawińska, Wąska
The wind howls and weeps.
The tramway runs
Along Krakowska Street.
Here you heard Yiddish,
Here you could smell Jewish sorrow,
Here were spread before you the Planty on Dietla Street,
Here the Jewish holidays were celebrated
with the help of God.

Today, there only remain
Desecrated scrolls
And Azkarot —
Memorial services for the departed.

For those who raised the standard of revolt in the ghetto,
For our Jewish fighters - the soldiers of hope,
Thrown like a stone by God against the ramparts.
Thus they went in turn to their deaths.

At this time in Cracow, you heard the yearning voice of the shofar,
and the prayers of the faithful rose hopefully to heaven.
The banner of Zion on the Cracow streets.
“Jerusalem” and “The Pogrom in Przytyk,”
“Hitler” and “The White Paper,” “Disturbances in Hebron:
The tower of the Virgin’s Church still stands, so does the Sukiennice
And Mickiewicz still looks out over the Rynek.
The same houses, shops, churches, and streets.

Wawel stands as it always has. But at the Dragon’s Cave
There are no Jewish children.

At this season, the chestnut trees are wet from the rain in Cracow.
It is already autumn on the Planty and winter in our hearts.
Darkness falls. It is time to return. The gates are closing.
It is slipping away, my unforgettable Cracow.
The Cracow, which is no more.
Transl. Antony Polonsky
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Natan Gross

(16 Nov 1919, Kraków – 5 Oct 2005, Tel Aviv), film director, screenwriter and producer, critic, writer, translator, poet, journalist, closely affiliated with Kraków throughout his entire life. His law education at Jagiellonian University was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. He survived the war on “Aryan papers” as Franciszek Grymek and described those times in the book called Who Are You, Mr. Grymek? (1991). After the war, he directed Yiddish films in the Kinor Studio, such as Undzere kinder (Our Children, 1948), Mir lebn geblibene/Am Yisroel Chai (We Are Still Alive, 1948). In 1950 he emigrated to Israel, where he became one of the pioneers of Israeli cinematography, specializing in documentaries. He published also in Polish till the end of his life: poetry, e.g. Co nam zostało z tych lat (What Has Remained from Those Years, 1971), Okruszyny młodości (Crumbs of Youth, 1976) and monographs on Jewish Film in Poland(1990), Israeli film (1991), and on Jewish Bard, Mordechai Gebirtig(2000).

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