Angelica’s pass time – writing poems in 5 languages

26.02.2016 Posted in Red Writing No Comments

Those who have been following my blog know that I have a book coming out about Angelica Balabanoff by McFarland Publishers in March, The Strange Comrade Balabanoff: The Life of a Communist RebelA Caricature in the NY press about Angelica writing poems in 5 languages. To celebrate the book launch, for the time being I will dedicate my blog to various themes about Angelica and amongst others her favorite pass time (see previous article Angelica’s pass time – Drinking Tea with Jam (varenije)).

It was in the 1920s that Angeica has first started to write poems. She felt that poems helped her express her feelings, cope with her misfortunes and brighten her life.

Gifted for langauges she composed in five languages, translating her own poems in all five of them. Her talent did not pass unnoticed making headlines and caricatures in the New York press at the end of the 1930s.

Angelica was probably not the most talented poet. However her poems served at least two great reasons. Firstly, they made her fell better and helped her to go through years of hardships. Secondly, they were of great help to me as her biographer, providing a better insight into her feelings, life and events which she had often tried to conceal.

In the poem “There is no Sunshine, no Happiness at all in my Bereaved Soul”, written after being expelled from the Soviet Union in 1921, disillusioned with the October Revolution of the 1917, she confessed:

“My Soul

Is burning into thirst of liberty for all;

My Soul

Is longing for a slice of bread for all;

My Soul

Is striving for the happiness for all;

My Soul

Is tortured by the pain for all;

My Soul

Is crying with tears for all;

My Soul

Is dying of the frailty and the sadness of the whole.”*

*Balabanoff A. Tears. New York: E. Laub Publishing Co., 1943.There is no Sunshine, no Happiness at all in my Bereaved Soul, St. Tropez, 1928.

And here is one of Angelica’ poems in French, written in a moment of a great dispair on the New Year’s Eve of 1933, which reveals her suisidal thoughts at that time, and that she had never mentioned anywhere else.

“Et je veux lorsque l’heure arrive

Où je dois passer sur l’autre rive

Je sois tranquille et calme

Et ne verse point de larmes,

Et que ce qui me verront mourir

De ma mort n’emporte qu’un souvenir :


*Balabanoff, A. Tears. New York: E. Laub Publishing Co, 1943. Paris, December 31, 1933.

(And I would like when the time comes

For me to trespass to the other side

I remain quiet and calm

And shall not cry,

And those who will see me die

Will keep from my death only one memory:


tr. Maria Lafont)

To know more about Angelica please consult the page About Angelica.

Illustration, IISH Archives, Angelica Balabanoff papers.

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