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From WOMEN ON WAR: An Anthology of Women's Writings from Antiquity to the Present edited by Daniela Gioseffi,and published by The Feminist Press @ CUNY Graduate Center, NY, March 2003. All rights reserved.

Marina Tsvetayeva


Translated by Daniela Gioseffi with Sophia Buzevska

Marina Tsvetayeva (1892-1941) is considered by many to be among the finest poets Russia ever produced. Pasternak, among others, offered praise for her passionate work. She led a tragic life, caught between her husband's political loyalties to the White Russian Army and the Bolshevik revolution. Much of her life was disrupted by wars and political turmoil. She knew war's resultant poverty and periods of political exile. Though she declared that art for her was apolitical, she wrote many verses in a spirit of opposition to what Akhmatova, Pasternak, Mandelstam or others called “the terrible Years” of purges under Stalin's dictatorship. She lost her youngest daughter to starvation during the Moscow famine of l9l9 and suffered great despair when her husband was accused of being a Soviet agent. She and her family were suspected of working against the government. Her daughter, Alya, and her husband were arrested, and Marina was evacuated to Yelabuga. In l94l, in total despair, she committed suicide by hanging herself. In the following poem, Tsvetayeva is referring to the German invaders and the country we now know as Czechoslovakia, an area she called “Chekhia.” She portrays the eternal greed of invaders throughout history.


From Poem of the End (Stanzas from Part 12)

as a horse's mane
in our eyes. Hills ahead
We've passed the outskirts

Now we're far from town.
Rain insanely tears at us.
We stand and part from each other.
In three months, we hope for
few moments of sharing.
Outside! We're nationless! That
means we've passed the walls within.
Life's a place where it's forbidden to
live. Like the Hebrew quarter.

Isn't it more worthy to become
an eternal Jew? Anyone
not a viper suffers
the same pogrom. Life's
for converts only: Judases of all faiths.
Let's live on segregated, leprous islands
or in hell, anywhere, only not in
a compromised life nurturing traitors,
among those who are sheep to butchers. This
passport which gives me the right to live—I stamp.
Under my feet. Destroy as vengeance for the star of
David. For heaps of corpses and
their executioners (Toothsome!) saying after
all, the Jews didn't want to live.

Ghetto of the resolute! Beyond this ditch,
no mercy abounds; in
this most Christian of worlds all
poets of truth are Jews.


From: Verses to Chekhia, l938

They grabbed fast, they grabbed big,
grabbed the mountains and their innards.
They grabbed our coal, and grabbed our steel
from us. They grabbed our lead and crystal.

They grabbed the sugar, and they grabbed the clover.
They grabbed the North and grabbed the West.
They grabbed the hive and grabbed the haystack.
They grabbed the South from us and grabbed the East.
They grabbed Vary and grabbed Tatras.
They grabbed the near at hand and the far off.
But worse than grabbing heaven on earth from us,
they won the fight for our native land.
They stole our bullets from us. They stole our rifles.
They grabbed our minerals and our loved ones, too.
But while our mouths hold spit,
the entire country remains armed.
Such weeping now fills our eyes,
crying with anger and passion.
Chekia's weeping.
Spain lying in its own blood,
and what a dark mountain now shades the earth from light. Now's the time, now's the time, now's the time to give the billet back to God. I decline to exist in the crazy house
of the inhuman.
I decline to go on living
in the marketplace of wolves.

I won't howl,
among the sharks of the field.
I won't swim beneath
the waves of squirming backs.
I have no need of holes for hearing
or seeing eyes.
To your crazed world there's
only one answer: No!