Yiddish Glory: The Lost Songs of World War II, with Anna Shternshis
ENGLISH CORNER, CON LINDA JIMÉNEZ – This week’s trivia question: What criteria were used to choose which songs to include on this album?
Yiddish Glory: The Lost Songs of World War II is a recording of music created during the darkest chapter of European Jewish history. In the midst of World War II, Soviet ethnomusicologists from the Kiev Cabinet for Jewish Culture, led by ethnomusicologist Moisei Beregovsky, discovered songs written by Jewish Red Army soldiers, refugees, victims and survivors of Ukrainian ghettos.
Their plans were to publish an anthology of these songs, but the project was never completed as Beregovsky was arrested in 1950 at the height of Stalin’s anti-Jewish purge. The songs were thought to have been lost, but in the 1990s they were discovered in unmarked boxes stored in the archives of the Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine. Librarian Lyudmila Sholokhova then created the first catalogue since the original one was destroyed in the 1940s.
In the early 2000s, a lucky coincidence brought Yiddish Professor Anna Shternshis to Kiev where she learned that these songs had survived all of these decades following the researchers’ arrests. Most of the documents were only written lyrics, and Shternshis worked with Dr. Pavel Lion, better known under his artistic name Psoy Korolenko, who put them to music in order to bring these songs to both academic and popular audiences in 21st century North America and Europe.
The album Yiddish Glory, released in February, 2018, is the fruit of this process. For the first time, we can hear the voices of the Soviet Jews who were thought to be silenced by Hitler and Stalin.
This week we are speaking with Dr. Shternshis about the project and the music.