Carpe Diem Haiku *Birobidzhan*

Located between 2 rivers – the Bira and the Bidzhan, the town Birobidzhan (Биробиджан) seems to have gotten its name in a rather natural and logical way. In 1915 there was only a railway station Tihonkaya (the Silent One) on the Trans-Siberian rail route in the Russian Far East but with time it transformed into a town and the administrative center of the Jewish Autonomous Region. Jewish culture was revived here much earlier than elsewhere in the Soviet Union.

In 1980s – 1990s during the wave of emigration many residents of Birobidzan moved to Israel therefore the statement “Birobidzhan – a place where there are no Jews, but everyone keeps pretending they are still there” is not very far from truth. The number of Jewish people currently living in Birobidzhan is only around 5 percent of the town’s total population.

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migratory birds
unknown routes to discover
trees with empty nests

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Carpe Diem Haiku Kai

Līgo Haibun Challenge: Remember To Forget


This week there are two prompts for the Līgo Haibun Challenge: Siberia or South America. Since all the way through January I have been writing haibun for Carpe Diem Haiku journey across the Soviet Union, the word I have chosen couldn’ t be different…

He never talked about it. At first because it was a secret to be kept – a personal secret, a seal of shame. The one you want to keep only to yourself, trying to avoid from spreading like some disease also on the ones you love. With time it became trendy to talk about the past and reveal everything but he still preferred not to. He didn’ t want people to glance at him with that look, that mute “I am so sorry!” in their eyes. He didn’ t need neither their sympathy, nor their promises about how history will never be forgotten. He didn’ t need to tell to remember.

After returning he never took a train again. Not even once. Maybe because he would still flinch in sleep, almost feeling the odor of human fear in a stuffed cattle freight wagon. Or freeze from the clickety-clack sound of the railroad…it reminded him of that word. The one he had avoided mentioning for so long. S…i…b..e…r…i..a. And then there was winter. Yes, he couldn’ t…he just never could fall in love with it again. White stopped to be the colour of innocence and hope for him many years ago. It was the colour of bitter cold and silent forests where his own thoughts were louder than axes and saws. Anger was white. And dispair. Hope could be only green, the colour of the first burgeons because it meant he had survived. Survived yet another winter. And after everything else had gone numb, hope was the only thing he had left. Hope to return. Not to return and to tell, just simply to return.

year’ s coldest day
behind the locked door
memories survive

PS: Shortly before, during and immediately after World War II, Stalin (de facto leader of the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953) conducted a series of deportations on a huge scale which profoundly affected the ethnic map of the Soviet Union. It is estimated that between 1941 and 1949 nearly 3.3 million were deported to Siberia. By some estimates up to 43% of the resettled population died of diseases and malnutrition.

Līgo Haibun Challenge