Nina Kossman. You’ll have a good sleep where we’re going to lie down together.

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babiyar6b_0 (1)
A general view of Babi Yar in 1961. From the archives of Yad Vashem via Emmanuel (Amik) Diamant.
Nina Kossman. You’ll have a good sleep where we’re going to lie down together.

Babi Yar
Where’s your good-for-nothing sister, said his mother.
Today we are going to die together, as a family.
Don’t you hear, the Krauts are knocking at the door again!
Collect yourself quickly, and why take so many books.
Where you’re going, you’ll manage without them.
You’re always the last one, son, said his mother.
Time to get ready, and now you want to sleep!
You’ll have a good sleep where we’re going to lie down together.
Rather than slip books in your bag, find your sister.
Well, what a fool you are, indeed, what station?
There’s your sister, found at last, the whole family lies here together.
And the one who led their column to slaughter
lived to collect his pension, to have grandchildren
and even great-grandchildren, all of whom are so sensitive,
they’d be hurt by talk about some sort of forest,
so what, aren’t there all kinds of forests in the world,
so what, no one is going to rise from there,
so don’t talk about how he aimed for the mother,
and about how her youngest boy wanted to sleep,
and how his body fell on the mother’s, and how the books
and some chalk dropped from his hand onto the bodies . . .
Keep silent, why tell the grandson about that forest.
* * *

The Original
Где сестра твоя непутёвая, говорила мать.
Сегодня мы всей семьёй идём умирать.
В дверь, слышь, фрицы опять стучат.
Собирайся быстрей, зачем тебе столько книг.
Там, где мы будем, обойдёшься без них.
Всегда ты последний, сынок, говорила мать.
Ну вот, собрались, а теперь ему хочется спать!
Выспишься там, где будем вместе лежать.
Чем книги в мешок совать, сестру б отыскал.
Ну что за дурак, в самом деле, какой вокзал?
Вот и сестра нашлась, лежат всей семьёй.
А тот, что колонну их вёл на убой,
до пенсии дожил, до внуков и даже до пра-,
у внуков натуры тонкие, не надо их тра-
вмировать болтовней про какой-то лес,
что с того, да мало ль на свете мест,
что с того, что овраг, ведь никто не воскрес;
а про то, как дед их метился в мать,
да про то, как младшему хотелось спать,
а когда упал на мать и из рук выпал мешок,
посыпались на тела книги да какой-то мелок…
Молчите, зачем вы внуку-то про ваш лесок.


About the Author:

Nina Kossman
New York, USA

Nina Kossman’s (Нина Косман) nine books include three books of poems, two books of short stories, an anthology she put together for Oxford University Press, and a novel. Her work has been translated from English into French, Spanish, Greek, Japanese, Hebrew, Persian, Chinese, Russian, Italian, Danish, and Dutch. Her Russian work was published in Russian periodicals in and outside of Russia. She is a recipient of an NEA fellowship, the UNESCO/PEN Short Story award, grants from the Onassis Foundation and the Foundation for Hellenic Culture. Her website is

Nina Kossman Нина Косман
by Mark Budman

Every character in these twenty-two interlinked stories is an immigrant from a place real or imaginary. (Magic realism/immigrant fiction.)

by Andrey Kneller

In this collection, Andrey Kneller has woven together his own poems with his translations of one of the most recognized and celebrated contemporary Russian poets, Vera Pavlova.

by Osip Mandelstam

This collection, compiled, translated, and edited by poet and scholar Ian Probstein, provides Anglophone audiences with a powerful selection of Mandelstam’s most beloved and haunting poems.

by Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry

Four teenagers grow inseparable in the last days of the Soviet Union—but not all of them will live to see the new world arrive in this powerful debut novel, loosely based on Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard.


by Victor Enyutin

A book of poems in Russian by Victor Enyutin (San Francisco, 1983). Victor  Enyutin is a Russian writer, poet, and sociologist who emigrated to the US from the Soviet Union in 1975.

by Nina Kossman

A collection of poems in Russian. Published by Khudozhestvennaya literatura (Художественная литература). Moscow, 1990.

Three Questions. A Documentary by Vita Shtivelman
Play Video
Poetry Reading in Honor of Brodsky’s 81st Birthday
Length: 1:35:40