“By the time Elisheva and Tomkus entered the shade of the Zelenaya Roshcha the sun had emerged in its full glory from the womb of the night, to illuminate the world. It blinded them and Elisheva had to wipe away the tears that gilded her eyes with her sleeve.
“Where are the maple trees you stood under?” she asked.
“Over there,” said Tomkus, pointing towards a copse of trees behind which a long trench was visible, covered with sand and littered with fallen trees.
“You can go back to your service now. I want to be alone here, without anyone watching over me,” Elisheva said. “I know the way to the farm as well as I know the five fingers of my hand. I won’t lose my way.”
“Fine,” he said. But he didn’t move.
“Leave! You’re not needed here now,” Elisheva said quietly and headed toward the maples.
For a long time Juozas did not move; he watched from a distance as she bowed in prayer. Guttural, incomprehensible words reached him. The day was quiet, undisturbed by wind or birds or the rustling of trees. It didn’t seem to be a woman who bent over the ravine, but some kind of wondrous bird that had flown there from a burning desert; a bird without wings or feathers, only a huge beak, from which there emerged a moaning and sobbing that filled the copse of trees and rose to the very throne of God.
Juozas shifted his rifle to his left hand and, after making the sign of the cross three times in the direction Elisheva knelt, headed back to Mishkine.
By Grigory Kanovich
Translated by Yisrael Elliot Cohen
Published by Noir Press (February 2019)
The book is shortlisted for the EBRD Literature Prize 2020
Born in 1929, Grigory Kanovich, is one of the most prominent living Jewish writers and winner of the Lithuanian National Prize for Culture and Arts for 2014. Kanovich’s works, translated into 14 languages, form an epic Litvak Saga – a memorial and a requiem to a community now vanished.
Yisrael Elliot Cohen, B.A. Harvard College, Ph.D. Yale University, taught Russian literature and humanities at the University of Illinois. He settled in Israel in 1979, working as a professional translator from Russian into English and as an English-language editor. At Hebrew University he was co-editor of Jews in Russia and Eastern Europe and worked on a bibliography project for the Centre for the Study of Anti-Semitism. Currently at Yad Vashem, he is working on The Untold Stories: Holocaust Murder Sites in the Soviet Union. Dr. Cohen has translated several books. His nonacademic interests are his grandchildren and attempting to apply the teachings of the Biblical prophets to the contemporary social and political situation.