Rochel Boimvoll, daughter of a theater family, was born in 1914 in Odessa. During World War II she was evacuated to Tashkent, where the first of her many Russian volumes, The Heart on Guard, was issued in 1943. The poem that follows records the trauma of June 22, 1941, the day of Hitler’s Russian invasion.

 

June 22nd
I went outside, I simply shut the door,
not thinking that it would at once be gone
and that the whole house would be there no more,
that with such ease a house can be undone
and emptied each window and each wall,
that all can burn up in one second, all
that made life livable and free from harm
and kept the hands and spirit warm.

I shut the door behind me and went out,
and never was my coming back in doubt;
who’d think the street that led me forth misled
and was to be a bitter road ahead?
I shut the door for just a little while,
bid nobody goodbye, and with a smile
let myself off to approach the fate
that, lurking in the distance, lay in wait.

I did not know what was to come about,
but now I know it all (or is there more?).
My voice, that was warbler in my throat,
within my breasts is now a lion’s roar.


-Rochel Boimvoll