23 August - The European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Totalitarian Regimes

publication / 23-08-2021

On this day the Platform with its member organisations commemorates the European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes. This date coincides with the date of signing of the Molotov– Ribbentrop agreement in 1939, the non-aggression pact between the USSR and Nazi Germany which divided Eastern Europe into designated German and Soviet spheres of influence.

The poem “Stalin Epigram” was written by the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam. Born in Warsaw, of Jewish origin. As the influence of the Bolsheviks grew and the Soviet Union was established, he strongly opposed Stalin’s government and refused to consent to any form of political intrusion in his art. After being arrested twice he was sent for forced labour in the Gulag and died in the Vtoraya Rechka transit camp on his way to Vladivostok in December 1938. The poem illustrates his strong opposition to Stalin, whom he describes as a murderer and a dictator. The poem is recited by 13 representatives of the Platform's member institutions from 11 countries. The Remebrance and Future Centre / The Depot History Centre (Ośrodek „Pamięć i Przyszłość”/ Centrum Historii Zajezdnia) has been a member of of European Memory and Conscience since 2012.

"The Stalin Epigram" by Osip Mandelstam:

Our lives no longer feel ground under them.
At ten paces you can’t hear our words.

But whenever there’s a snatch of talk
it turns to the Kremlin mountaineer,

the ten thick worms his fingers,
his words like measures of weight,

the huge laughing cockroaches on his top lip,
the glitter of his boot-rims.

Ringed with a scum of chicken-necked bosses
he toys with the tributes of half-men.

One whistles, another meows, a third snivels.
He pokes out his finger and he alone goes boom.

He forges decrees in a line like horseshoes,
One for the groin, one the forehead, temple, eye.

He rolls the executions on his tongue like berries.
He wishes he could hug them like big friends from home.

The second poem that has been prepared, “The Butterfly” was written by the young Jewish Czechoslovak poet Pavel Friedmann in the Terezín concentration camp on 4 June 1942. On 29 September 1944, he was deported to Auschwitz, where he was later murdered. In Friedmann’s poem, the butterfly, with its story of rebirth and transformation into a new life, becomes a symbol of liberation from oppression, intolerance and hatred.

“The Butterfly” by Pavel Friedmann

The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.
Perhaps if the sun's tears would sing
against a white stone...

Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly ‘way up high.
It went away I'm sure because it wished
to kiss the world goodbye.

For seven weeks I've lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto
But I have found my people here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut candles in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.

That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don't live in here,
In the ghetto.