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“I’ll hide in the wall, I’ll go into the wall / like a centipede. / Everyone will die, and I / ...
2019-08-01 05:00:00

Three Poems on the Warsaw Uprising

Lunch in the ruins, photo by Karol Szczeciński/PAP
Three Poems on the Warsaw Uprising
Three Poems on the Warsaw Uprising


I will survive. 

I’ll find the deepest basement,
shut myself inside, won’t let anybody in, 
I’ll dig a hole in the ground,
chew out the bricks,
I’ll hide in the wall, I’ll go into the wall 
like a centipede. 

Everyone will die, and I 
will survive. 




I run through the streets of corpses 
I jump over corpses,
on the chest under my blouse 
warm lice 

Only they and I are alive,
it’s what we have in common. 
They give me their movements 
in the city of corpses,
where nothing moves anymore. 
Weak like me,
they want to live like I do. 

But when I run out of the city of corpses, 
when a living human
opens for me the door of a living house, 
I’ll toss into the fire the blouse with lice, 
which like me 
wanted to live. 




Those who gave the first order to fight 
let them now count our corpses. 

Let them go through the streets 
that are not there
through the city
that is not there 
let them count for weeks for months 
let them count our corpses
till death. 



Translated from the Polish by Piotr Florczyk

Poems come from Anna Świrszczyńska’s Building the Barricade (Tavern Books, 2016)


Read an introduction to these poems.


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Anna Świrszczyńska

was a Polish poet born in Warsaw in 1909. She attended Warsaw University where she studied medieval and baroque Polish literature. She began publishing poems in the 1930s. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, Świrszczyńska joined the Polish Resistance and was a military nurse during the Warsaw Uprising. This experience became then the subject of her book "Building the Barricade", published for the first time in 1974. Świrszczyńska died in Krakow of cancer in 1984. Her poems (published as Anna Swir) were translated by among others Czesław Miłosz.