Ściskając w ramionach na pół uduszone od dymu niemowlę
biegła z krzykiem schodami podpalonego domu.
Z pierwszego piętra na drugie.
Z drugiego na trzecie.
Z trzeciego na czwarte.
Aż wyskoczyła na dach
i zachłysnąwszy się powietrzem, uczepiona komina
spojrzała w dół, skąd dobiegał
szelest podchodzących coraz wyżej płomieni.
Wtedy znieruchomiała i umilkła.
Milczała już do końca, aż do chwili,
gdy nagle zacisnęła powieki,
zrobiła krok ku krawędzi dachu i wysuwając przed siebie ręce
upuściła dziecko w dół.
Dwie sekundy wcześniej, nim skoczyła sama.
THE GHETTO: A MOTHER
Cuddling in the arms her half-asphyxiated baby, howling,
she ran up the staircase of the apartment building that was set ablaze.
From the first floor to the second.
From the second to the third.
From the third to the fourth.
Until she had jumped onto the roof.
There, having choked with air, clinging to the chimney,
she looked down from where she could hear
the crackle of flames which were reaching higher and higher.
And then she became motionless and silent.
She kept silent to the end, till the moment
at which she suddenly clenched her eyelids,
stepped to the roof edge and, throwing forward her arms,
she dropped her baby down.
Two seconds earlier than she herself leapt down.
ANNA ŚWIRSZCZYŃSKA (1909–1984)
Anna Swirszczyńska (also known as Anna Swir) was born in Warsaw to an artistic though impoverished family. She studied medieval Polish literature. In the 1930s she worked for the teachers’ association, served as an editor, and began publishing poetry. Swirszczyńska joined the Resistance during World War II and worked as a military nurse during the Warsaw Uprising; at one point she came within an hour of being executed before she was spared. In addition to poetry, which deals with themes such as motherhood, the female body, and sensuality, Swirszczyńska wrote plays and stories for children and directed a children’s theater. She lived in Krakow from 1945 until her death in 1984.
- Wiersze i proza (Poems and Prose) (1936)
- Liryki zebrane (Collected Poems) (1958)
- Czarne słowa (Black Words) (1967)
- Wiatr (Wind) (1970)
- Jestem baba (I am a Woman) (1972)
- Poezje wybrane (Selected Poems) (1973)
- Budowałam barykadę (Building the Barricade) (1974)
- Szczęśliwa jak psi ogon (Happy as a Dog’s Tail) (1978)
- Cierpienie i radość (Suffering and Joy) (1985)
Collections in English translation
- Thirty-four Poems on the Warsaw Uprising (1977), New York. Transl.: Magnus Jan Kryński, Robert A. Maguire.
- Building the Barricade (1979), Kraków. Transl.: Magnus Jan Kryński, Robert A. Maguire.
- Happy as a Dog’s Tail (1985), San Diego. Transl.: Czesław Miłosz i Leonard Nathan.
- Fat Like the Sun (1986), London. Transl.: M. Marshment, G. Baran.
- Talking to My Body (Copper Canyon Press, 1996) Transl.: Czesław Miłosz i Leonard Nathan.
- Building the Barricade and Other Poems of Anna Swir Tr. by Piotr Florczyk (Calypso Editions, 2011).