Ilya Ehrenburg, Life and Poems

Ilya Ehrenburg was born in Kiev in 1891. In his youth the family moved to Moscow, where Ehrenburg was expelled from the sixth grade gymnasium for participating in a Bolshevik strike. In 1908 he emigrated to France, calling it his second Fatherland. In Paris he lived a bohemian lifestyle of a young intellectual poet. He attended poetry readings, and attended the meetings of Russian revolutionaries, including having many conversations with Lenin and his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, who were living in Paris at this time in exile. His first collection was printed in 1910, and his good friend Pablo Picasso made drawings for this collection. He considered himself a poet, but he was an author in almost all fields – journalism, poetry, translation, criticism, political works, etc. In 1922 a wonderful novel was published by him, called Hiloi Hurenito, it even included a forward by Bukharin, a top Communist in the system. He published wonderful poems about the Spanish Civil War, which he also covered as a journalist. During the Second World War he published attacks on fascism. He wrote countless novels and historical works about the war and all that he covered in his extensive travels. Certainly Ehrenburg was favored in the system, he gave in to it and loved it. But he wasn’t selling out like some others, he used his power to help his fellow poets and artists who were true to their art. He helped bring the name of Marina Tsvetaiva to light in the Soviet Union, and organized hundreds of art shows for artists, including Picasso. His poetry is easy flowing and thoughtful. Ehrenburg is more important in the history of Russia, or Soviet Russia, for he had a part in some of its most precious times, like the Great Patriotic War, and he was liked during his life by many writers and people in general. When the lonely, hungry, Russian soldiers would sit in their trench holes making cigarettes out of newspaper, they used to say, “we wouldn’t smoke his articles.”


It was a quite day like that of every Fall.
I could have written or not written:
Nobody, now, will care to find their way into my heart,
and the quietest of quiet, and the smoothest of peace.
The trees are naked and black
On this my eyes, on that window,
Just like my attempts at deciphering a formula,
yet it’s all been deciphered long ago.
And then with a scared gust of wind,
the dead leaves flew up,
already trampled over, profaned,
but still, completely pure — like love.
Big, yellow and red,
and even with a happy green,
they didn’t finish living, didn’t survive,
and now they’re flying before me.
But is it possible to be so clean?
And not a word out of place.
They live, but they aren’t written,
They flew up, but they are silent.


I could have lived a completely different life,
and the soul was once created
for some kind of Moscow dacha,
where from the walls drips the dew.
Where you walk awakened by the sunrise
to the slope of the rivers shore,
and to see how in the dreamy humidity
little funny spiders run around.
My dear, my distant, please relate,
why have you become my torment,
why I will never come to you,
not able to come to you forever? …

One Response

  1. I am looking for a poem by him, the title is questionable because I heard it in my native language of Hungarian. The title maybe : Sirok (I am crying) or Sirok (graves). Unfortunately I cannot spell it differently because I have an American keyboard, but the second “sirok” the letter “i” had this ‘ above, so it may sound different but it means different with the different i. The poem is about his visit in Auschwitz, about the white bow in a hair, behind the glass where human hair were displayed. I actually saw that myself too in person. Please, assist.

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