LAST LETTERS FROM SOVIET MEN AND WOMEN WHO DIED FIGHTING THE NAZIS
( 1941 -- 1945 )
LEFT BY TATAR POET MUSA JALIL 1943–44
True to its pledge is my heart to the last,
When doom overcasts my brow.
It was songs I gave to my land in the past;
’Tis my life I must give her now.
Singing, I welcomed the fragrance of spring,
Singing, I fought and bled.
Today the last of my songs I sing:
The axe hangs over my head.
It was songs that taught me freedom to prize,
Now they bid me to die as a Fighter.
My life was a love-song that soared to the skies,
Let my death be the battle-song of a fighter.
TO A FRIEND
Friend, do not grieve that we depart so soon.
Death lies in store for everyone on earth.
Man lay the limits of his years himself.
But years are not the yardstick of life’s worth,
Nor is the time between one’s birth and death
A credit worthy measure of its length.
Blood spilled in the defence of a just cause
Brings heroes deathlessness, their cause-immortal
Your song breathes fire, your song breathes love
For your native land-what more?
Nay, soldiers are not famed for songs,
But for their deeds at war.
Say, poet, did you rise and fight
When the hour of battle came?
In crucial times that try men’s souls
The bold alone win fame.
To fight and win, to crush the foe,
One must be firm and brave.
Courage alone brings liberty.
The coward stays a slave.
Entreaties are of no avail
When men succumb to chains.
But he who fights with sword in hand
Forever free remains.
What worth is there in life enthralled,
What happiness in gaol?
Life’s beauty lies in liberty.
All joys before it pale.
Your name lives on when you give your
To free familiar parts.
The traitor’s blood is mixed with mud.
The hero’s fires men’s hearts.
The hero, dying, does not die.
His fame survives his death.
Then fight and glorify your name,
Fight, whilst you draw your breath!
Bluish-grey and snow-bound streets.
Blizzards blow their last.
Three guards with automatic guns
Lead their victim past,
Past houses veiled with falling snow,
Through the silent night.
And there, behind their snow-cloaked
Spring burgeons, fair and bright.
Bluish-grey and snow-bound streets.
Blizzards blow their last.
Three guards are levelling their guns.
Their victim’s days are past.
JALIL’S TESTAMENT WRITTEN ON BACK COVER OF HIS FIRST NOTEBOOK
To the friend who can understand Tatar and will read this notebook.
It was written by the Tatar people’s poet Musa Jalil. After suffering all the horrors of a nazi prison camp without yielding to the fear of the forty deaths, he was taken to Berlin. Here he was accused of being involved in an underground organisation and the distribution of Soviet propaganda ... and put in prison. He will be sentenced to death and die. But he leaves behind 115 poems composed while behind bars. He is concerned for them. Out of the 115 he has therefore attempted to copy at least 60.
If this little book comes into your hands, write out a fair copy carefully and accurately, keep it in a safe place and after the war get it to Kazan, have it published as the poems of the Tatar people’s dead poet. That is my dying wish.
Musa Jalil. 1943. December
INSCRIPTION ON FRONT COVER OF FIRST NOTEBOOK
In prison September 1942-November 1943-wrote 125 verses and one big poem. But will they ever see the light? They’ll die with me.
NOTE ON THE MARGIN OF A GERMAN BOOK
DISCOVERED BY SOVIET SOLDIERS IN MOABIT
Not later than March 1944
I, well-known Tatar poet Musa Jalil, am locked in the Moabit gaol for my politics and am sentenced to be shot.... Please give my best regards to A. Fadeyev, P. Tychina and my family.
Musa Jalil (Musa Zalilov), the celebrated Tatar poet, was born in 1906 into a poor peasant family in the village of Mustafino, near Orenburg. After joining the Y.C.L. m 1919 he began to write poetry, sounding the call for battle for Soviet power. After finishing his studies he took up full-time Y.C.L. work and wrote poetry at the same time. One of his early works was the libretto to the famous Tatar opera Altynchech. In 1939, he was elected President of the Tatar Union of Writers.
At the very outset of the war Musa Jalil joined the army and after taking a political workers’ training course he was posted to the Volkhov Front, to the 2nd Strike Force. In July of 1942, he ran into an ambush near Myasnoi Bor and, badly wounded, was taken prisoner and put in a prison camp near Helm in Poland. At the end of the year he was still a sick man when he was transferred to the Demblinski p.o.w. camp where he commenced his illegal work against the nazis. The next spring Jalil was dispatched to Germany, to the Wustrau camp not far from Berlin. On instructions from the underground he began operating in the "Ideal Urals" committee, which recruited legionnaires for Hitler’s army among the Tatars, Bashkirs and other Soviet eastern nationalities. Utilising his opportunity of visiting many war camps, Jalil did what he could to see that an underground group was operating well in every camp. Together with Jalil in the resistance organisation was Abdulla Alishev, Tatar children’s writer, whom Musa Jalil knew from Kazan, Ahmed Simayev, a Moscow journalist, an old friend of Jalil’s from his Zamoskvorechye days when he worked at a Tatar young workers’ home, Garif Shabayev, insurance agent from Tashkent, engineer Fuad Bulatov, etc.
In early summer 1943, Jalil left for the Tatar legion’s Central Edlin camp, situated near Radom, some 70 miles south of Warsaw. The propaganda company in which Jalil worked was made the underground centre in the Edlin camp. The underground fighters were preparing for an uprising. But on the night of August 12, all the underground members were arrested after being given away by a traitor. First they were sent to a Warsaw gaol, then to Berlin, to the Moabit prison. The investigation dragged on for six months until eventually, in March 1944, a Dresden court sentenced them all to the firing squad. After the sentence, Jalil and his companions languished in Berlin’s Tegel and Spandau gaols. They were executed at the end of the year.
Musa Zalilov (Jalil) was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union and his literary works gained the supreme Soviet award-the Lenin Prize.
His friends kept the three notebooks in which he had written his beautiful poems. The first book contains sixty poems in closely-written Arabic ligature. It was presented to the Tatar Union of Writers in 1946. The second book, containing fifty poems written in Tatar with Latin letters, was handed in at the Soviet Consulate in Brussels in 1947. It had been preserved by Andre Timmermans, a Belgian antifascist who had shared the same cell as Jalil in Moabit. Later on another book came to light.