We present here the complete poetry of Yossel Birstein, and recount his story as a young man. Talented translators of Australia, USA, UK, and Israel have come together to render his work in English and in Hebrew.

A teenager travels across the world to Australia for a better life. Then he finds he is a poet. And commits to his own tongue, Yiddish – already, in the 1930’s, an unusual, even remarkable choice. At 20, his poems are of sadness and alienation. He misses his family back in Poland.

At 24, he learns that his mother and father and younger brother and sister are gone – it must be accepted, in the smoke of Treblinka.

And now his poetry rises to the task of commemorating them, and people of his hometown Biala as well - in unsentimental yet heartrending lyrical verses that were set to music.

His book is patronized by the great reviewers of the day; incredibly (from today’s perspective) they make no mention of the 15 poem Biala sequence that opens the book.

For the remainder of his life, Birstein sticks to prose – becoming one of Israel’s outstanding storytellers, in Yiddish and in Hebrew. His poems however have been unjustly overlooked. It is time to reconsider them.

Click here for more on -
His poetry
His Melbourne years

Unter Fremde Himlen
By Yossel Birstein

Illustration - Yosl Bergner
אונטער פרעמדע הימלען
יאָסל בירשטיין


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