Black eyes, why do you cry?

Author: Jan Horvath
Location: Stories Exchange Project Workshop #4
EastWest Institute
At the third international poetry festival in Lanciano, Italy I competed with other Romanies in Europe and ranked third. I had submitted a poem which I wrote after visiting Auschwitz.
I had many impressions from this visit, and I worked them into a poem about how Romanies suffered there.
I recited this poem at the festival, and this resulted in another experience that I will never forget.
Mateo Maximov, the great Romany writer from France came to talk me on the stage. His people came from Russia to France, and then he and his family were sent to Auschwitz. He was the only one in his family to survive the Auschwitz hell.
After I recited the poem, he came to me weeping and thanked me on behalf of his family who had perished there. This was a very strong – I don’t have words for this experience. I will never forget it.
The poem is quite long, and I’m not able to remember all of it. But I’ll try to give you the basic thought.
It talks about the Romanies sleeping in their village and the Germans coming in the middle of the night and dragging all the sleeping people out of their homes, telling them that they are going to get some work. So they take them on trucks to the railway station and from the railway station they send them to Auschwitz.
Romanies from all over Europe were brought to Auschwitz, and in the poem I talk about how the Romanies were humiliated in the camp, and that their future was the huge smokestack from the crematorium.
The final verse says even God forgot the Romanies. Women ask, " Where are you, Lord? How can you make my children die?”
I also wrote another poem entitled “Black Rose.”
Uninvited, unwanted, unplanted.
Who needs it?
Black eyes, black eyes:
Why do they weep?
We had hunger, poverty, pain:
Who had mercy on us?
Black eyes, black eyes:
Why do they cry?
No one would give water to the black rose,
But she goes on growing.
Black eyes, black eyes:
Why do they smile?
The black rose is alone no longer:
Her white sister is growing beside her.
One next to the other,
They will not let each other die.
You may be interested in looking at other stories by Janko Horvath here in the Broken Mirror menu of Stories and Responses:
“He deserves our admiration, gratitude and reverence”
“His tunes meant bread,water,fire,rain and sun”
“To retain your humanity in any circumstances”
“We must never lose our Romany spirit, language and culture”
Pavel KOLLER at responded 5 December 2002:
I am a Romany journalist and I knew nothing about the history of this poem until now. When I read it some years ago in a book by professorHubschmannova the same explanation came to my mind too. I am happy thatthere are such writers as Mr. Horvath among the Roma. Thanks to him and other people like him we will always remember the suffering of our ancestors. It is impossible to forget it.

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