Hey Dzhankoye

Having watched Geoff Giudice’s funeral I thought about what music would mean the most to me played at my own funeral. This one crosses so many lines for me – in Yiddish, sung by Pete Seeger on the banjo, from the optimistic days of Russian communism so loved by my parents – that I put it on and it made me weep for a life gone by and for the people, now all departed, from whom I learned the song. I even used to play it on the banjo myself and can still recite the words in Yiddish.

In Yiddish

Az men fort kayn sevastopol,

Iz nit vayt fun simferopol,

Dortn iz a stantsie faran.

Ver darf zuchn naye glikn?

S’iz a stantsie an antikl.

In dzhankoye, dzhan, dzhan, dzhan.

Refrain: Hey, dzhan, hey dzhankoye, Hey dzhanvili, hey dzhankoye, Hey dzhankoye, dzhan, dzhan, dzhan.

 

Enfert yidn af mayn kashe,

Vu’z mayn bruder, vu’z abrashe?

S’geyt ba im der trakter vi a ban.

Di mume leye ba der kosilke, Beyle ba der molotilke.

In dzhankoye, dzhan, dzhan, dzhan.

Refrain: Hey, dzhan, hey dzhankoye, Hey dzhanvili, hey dzhankoye, Hey dzhankoye, dzhan, dzhan, dzhan.

 

Ver zogt as yidn konen nor handlen,

Esn fete yoych mit mandlen,

Nor nit zayn kayn arbetsman?

Dos konen zogn nor di sonim —

Yidn, shpayt zey on in ponim,

Tut a kuk af dzhan, dzhan, dzhan.

Refrain: Hey, dzhan, hey dzhankoye, Hey dzhanvili, hey dzhankoye, Hey dzhankoye, dzhan, dzhan, dzhan.

 

And in English translation

When you go to Sevastopol,

Not too far from Simferopol,

There’s a little depot there.

Why seek your luck elsewhere?

It’s a special kind of depot.

In Zhankoye, zhan, zhan, zhan.

Hey, zhan, hey Zhankoye, Hey, zhanvili, hey Zhankoye, Hey Zhankoye, zhan, zhan, zhan.

Jews, answer my question,

Where’s my brother Abrasha ?

He who rides his tractor like a train.

Aunt Leah is at the mower,

Bella is working the thresher,

In Zhankoye, zhan, zhan, zhan.

Who says that Jews can only be traders

And eat fat soup with soup nuts

But cannot be workingmen?

Only our enemies can say that—

Jews, let’s spit right in their faces,

Simply look at zhan, zhan, zhan.

And here are The Travellers with the same song but with some background on the song. Also with the banjo.

The Travellers I remember almost as well as Pete Seeger: this is who they were. And as for where I am from, I used to go to Camp Naivelt when I was very very young, perhaps even was there in 1953!. Incidentally, Camp Naivelt (Camp New World) is where I first heard Pete Seeger live who was grateful for any gig he could find during the McCarthy era.

Folk music group The Travellers was formed at Camp Naivelt in Brampton, Ontario, during the summer of 1953. Founding members included Jerry Gray (banjo and lead singer), Sid Dolgay (mandocello), and the singers Helen Gray, Jerry Goodis and Oscar Ross. At first, they sang with the left-leaning United Jewish Peoples Order, with which they shared a commitment to the labourpeace and civil liberties movements. Then, piggybacking on the popularity of the folk music revival, The Travellers modelled their act after the popular American folk group The Weavers and were encouraged by legendary American folksinger Pete Seeger.

Also remember the UJPO, and The Weavers.

This is of course how it should be sung, from Martha Schlamme as I first heard it. This is from 1957.

 

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