The Poems of Rajzel Zychlinsky z"l, Great Yiddish Poet from Gombin, Poland

Rajzel zychlinsky as a Young Girl in Gombin
Rajzel Zychlinsky, great Yiddish poet, winner of Itzik Manger's Price, granted at Tel Aviv on 9 June 1975. Rajzel Zychlinsky was born in Gombin, Poland.
The photograph was dedicated by her to my aunt, Rachel Gostinska and is part of my father, Meir Holtzman' Album. Rajzel is photographed in the woods of Gombin 1934.

Rajzel Zychlinsky z"l
by Marek Kanter, Son

Rajzel Zychlinksy z"l, a Yiddishe Poet
 July 27th, 1910  Gombin, Poland - June 13th, 2001 , Concord, U.S.A.

Marek Kanter:


Rajzel Zychlinsky, the famous Yiddish poet, passed away on June 13,  2001 in Concord, California, after a long struggle with pneumonia.


She would have been 91 on July 27, 2001. She was well known for her  holocaust poetry and received the Manger prize in 1975 in Israel. One of  relatively few living Yiddish poets, the widely published Zychlinsky has  been writing since the 1920's. Between 1939 and 1993 she published seven  books of poetry in Yiddish. A collection of poems, "God Hid His face",  was translated to English and published in 1997. She has been  extensively translated and anthologized. She was included in  Aaron  Kramer's well known anthology: "A Century of Yiddish Poetry."




For the last two years she resided in a nursing home in Walnut Creek,  California, where her son Marek Kanter paid her weekly visits. On these occasions she enjoyed being read poems from her book  "God Hid His Face."


One of her favorite poems was about a neighbor across the street where she  lived in Brooklyn. It was performed by the Traveling Jewish Theater  in San Francisco as part of their 1998-99 production "Diamonds in the Rough." 


The Undarkened Window


In the daytime, I see him in the street

in a dark suit,



wearing a tie -

at night the light shines in his window

across from my window.

A survivor

of Hitler's gas chambers,

he sails at night around

his undarkened window -

a wandering ship

on oceans of darkness,

and no port

allows it to enter,

so it may anchor

and darken.

Only in the mornings

does it go out,

the sickly yellow light

in his window.


An article about Rajzel Zychlinsky appeared in the January 29, 1999  issue of the Northern California Jewish Bulletin, which contained the remainder  of Zychlinsky's poems performed by the Traveling Jewish Theater.


Rajzel Zychlinzky was born in Gombin, Poland.  She emigrated to the United States in 1950, with her husband and son,  having survived the holocaust by fleeing to Russia.  She continued to suggest changes and corrections to her  poems up till four months before her death. The last revisions she made were to her poem about a walk in a park in Warsaw, shortly before she fled to Russia.


I Remember


I remember-

It was a day

like today-

I was alone in a park.

The benches were empty and abandoned,

as if they knew

that never again

would anyone sit on them.

Slowly the leaves were falling,

counting the autumns on the earth.

Silence was all around,

as before a storm.

In what country was that?

In what city?

It was a temple

without a God

and without worshipers.

And how did I rise up from there

and save myself?


Most visits to the nursing home ended  with the recital of one of the most powerful of her poems.


God Hid His Face.


All the roads led to death,

all the roads.


All the winds breathed betrayal,

all the winds.


At all the doorways angry dogs barked,

at all the doorways.


All the waters laughed at us,

all the waters.


All the nights fattened on our dread,

all the nights.


And the heavens were bare and empty,

all the heavens.


God hid his face.


As she requested, she will be cremated and her ashes will be scattered  in the ocean. A poem from her book, "God Hid His Face", will be read at  the ceremony. She is survived by her son, Marek Kanter.


The Poet Rajzel Zychlinsky z"l in the film "Back to Gombin" filmed shortly before her death: "Like we hear the water flow, GOD must exist somewhere..."



List of Published Books

Article about Rajzel Zychlinsky Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, Jan. 29 1999

שווייגנדיקע טירן - לידער  - "Mute Doors"

"GOD Hid His Face" - the Book with the  Translated Poems in English


פון א וואלקן קוקט אויף מיר די מאמע   "My Mother Looks at Me from the Cloud"

  כ'געדענק "I Remember"

גאט האט פארנאהאלטן זיין פנים  "God Hid His Face"

איך וויל נאך אמאל דא גיין איבערן גראז   "I Want to Walk Here Once More"

מיר לעבן וויטער  "We Go On Living"

Who calls me here in the meadow?
Who still knows my name?
A thorn bush burns in the field--
a child cries from the flames.

I take off my shoes and approach
the little son of my neighbor;
his little hands are charcoal,
but his eyes are open still.

I am leaving you, shtetl,
your roads are blue as before.
You will celebrate autumns and fairs,
and the river will flow through the valley.


Last Updated December 2nd, 2003



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