Long-lost Hannah Szenes poem comes to light
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Long-lost Hannah Szenes poem comes to light

‘Hora to an exiled girl’ emerges 68 years after the author was executed by a Nazi firing squad

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

Hannah Szenes dressed as a Hungarian soldier on Purim (Wikimedia Commons)
Hannah Szenes dressed as a Hungarian soldier on Purim (Wikimedia Commons)
Hannah Szenes dressed as a Hungarian soldier on Purim (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Hannah Szenes dressed as a Hungarian soldier on Purim (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A long-lost poem by Hannah Szenes, titled “Hora to an exiled girl,” was revealed on Army Radio Sunday morning, 68 years after the its Jewish paratrooper author was executed by a Nazi firing squad.

The poem was attached to a letter sent by Szenes from Cairo to her friend Miriam, a member of Kibbutz Hatzor. Miriam’s daughter Hannah Yasur found the poem in one of her mother’s drawers.

Szenes wrote the poem in 1943 while being trained by the British in Cairo. Her mission was to parachute behind enemy lines in an attempt to save Jews from being sent to Nazi death camps.

After being dropped in Yugoslavia, Szenes was arrested when she tried to cross the Hungarian border. In November 1944, after being tortured, she was executed by a firing squad.

The poem, written in Hebrew, evokes feelings of solitude and the moment of almost grasping something, but having it evade your reach.

Hora to an Exiled Girl / Hannah Szenes

A hora, roaring, tempestuous, blazes around me
With the mystery of rhythm, gladdening and forging,
It tugs at my body and heart
The foot marches, the back quivers, the song is ignited, a searing chorus
Dance and song, a wordless prayer,
Hail to the future, hail to creation

But then a figure flutters before my eyes
My arm has escaped my friends’ embrace
My heart spurns the tempestuous singing,
Far and near it consumes me whole

Blue eyes
Such a bewildered glance
A sad silence and a stubborn mouth
The stillness grows in me
I remain standing
Alone, in a crowd of a hundred, her and I

(Translation by Elie Leshem)

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