Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ten Posts Dedicated to Polish Jews: A Response to the Anti-Semitic Buffoon in Wroclaw

Jankiel by Maurycy Trebacz Source: Wikipedia 
Recently an anti-Semitic hatemonger, idiot, and buffoon burned an effigy of a Jew in Wroclaw, Poland. Such acts are always abhorrent, but it's especially abhorrent that this happened in Poland. Not by our wishes and not by our hands, millions of Jews were, indeed, burned in Nazi-occupied Poland.

We've been discussing this; see here.

I believe in free speech. I believe the antidote to hateful speech is not less speech but more speech. 

This blog will never make international news as the buffoon in Wroclaw did, but I will do my part. 

The next ten posts in this blog will salute Polish Jews. 

We begin, of course, with Jankiel, a significant character in the Polish national epic poem Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz. Jankiel is an admirable character. It is he who brings the Polish national anthem to the hinterlands. 

Here he is in Leonard Kress' translation of Pan Tadeusz into English: 

Jankiel himself was a famous musician.
He played the cymbalom, the instrument
of his nation in court and royal mansion,
where he sang with sweet and polished intent.
A Jew whose Polish was both clear and pure,
he also had a love of Polish music,
learned on journeys to places near and far
beyond the Nieman: from Carpathian Halicz
he brought kolomajkas, and from Mazovia
he knew mazurkas. But his true fame
(at least some claim here in Lithuania)
stems from that glorious day when he first came
bearing the song he learned in Italy—
played by trumpeters of the Polish legion—
the well-known March of Dombrowski,
―Poland has not yet perished… In this region
of Lithuania, a singing talent
is well loved and well-rewarded; it can bring
riches and fame. And thus, Jankiel, content
with his fortune, tired of wandering,
hung his sweet-stringed cymbalom on a peg,
and settled down to family, inn, and wife.

But there is more: often neighbors would beg
advice on matters of domestic life.
He served as Rabbi in a nearby town;
he knew the river-barge business and grain,
once so important to sustain the crown:
that he was a good Pole, all would maintain.
Jankiel was quick to reconcile all quarrels,
often bloody, between establishments,
since he leased both of them. And those in brawls
both sides respected him--the adherents
of Horeszko as well as Soplica‘s men.
Jankiel alone could gain the upper hand
over Horeszko‘s terrible Warden
and the spiteful Steward. When he‘d stand
in front of them, old grudges were dismissed

Protazy‘s tongue stifled, Gervazy‘s fist.

You can read all of Leonard Kress' translation here


  1. If you get no comments for this, Danusha, it doesn't necessarily mean that nobody is reading it. Good work and thank you.

  2. Also think of Berek Jozelewicz, who formed a Jewish legion that found alongside Kosciuszko in the ill-fated 1794 Uprising.

    Think also of Rabbi Dov Meisels, who rallied the Warsaw Jews to the Polish cause in the January 1863 Insurrection.

  3. Sometimes life is larger than fiction.
    It is probable that the character of Jankiel was based on Rabbi Jakub Natan.

    Mr Peczkis,
    You have really set the bar high.




Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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