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Children lament their mother in Brestetshke

Updated: Jun 10

'Examples of laments by children', collected by Moyshe Melman in Brestetshke (Beresteczko, Berestetchka, Brestetshke, ברסטצ'ק, Brestitski) in response to the 1928 survey by the YIVO ethnographic commission. Original Yiddish published in Itzik Gottesman, 'Yidishe Klogenishn', YIVO Bleter Vol.4 (2003), p. 137-155. Translated by Annabel Gottfried Cohen. I’m walking slowly along the footpath. Suddenly, I hear a dreadful cry, which pierces the skies and reaches the heart of heaven. I look around me, and I see tragic scene. A woman is laid out on a long stretcher, which is being carried by four people. It is followed by her children, three girls, who are woefully pouring out their hearts for their deceased mother. Their laments picked at the strings of my soul and my eyes welled up with tears. The younger daughter wailed the most, as follows:

Oh dear mother, you have abandoned us to rely on the hands of strangers! You are going into a dark grave – plead merits for us from your resting place, dear mother! Yesterday, you still didn’t know what weight sat on your shoulders – you lived and laughed, and now you are laid out dead on a stretcher. Oh dear God, what have you done to us!

We have lost the crowns from our heads, lost our comfort and consolation. We will forever remain broken orphans!

The beloved summer arrived with a storm this year and carried under its wings a deathly poison for my mother! Mamelyu! How I wish you were back in the village in the fresh air, rather than lying on a stretcher, with a dark, hard, damp grave waiting for you. Oy, oy !

Mame my darling! We barely had a chance to exhaust you, before your holy soul started to waver. We are sinful children.

If only I could take your place in your your grave, so that your other orphans wouldn’t have to lose their dearest love. Oh, are there even enough tears and laments in the world to grieve our bitter fate? Oh, how loyal, and loved and good was our mother!

Oy, to whom can I now pour out my bitter heart, and cry about how unlucky I am? Your lonely orphan girl, alone now in the world, asks you for forgiveness from the bottom of her heart – plead with God for us, dear mother!

This is how these loyal children cried, lamented and said an eternal farewell to their good mother. Understanding they would never see their mother again, they collapsed onto the earth.

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This klogenish (lament) is one of several collected by the YIVO ethnographic commission in the 1920s and 30s. The full collection can be found in an article by Itzik Gottesman, 'Yidishe Klogenishn' (Y


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