Łódź Ghetto, 1943 I
Miriam Harel composed the lyrics of the song and set it to a Polish children's song entitled 'Jadą dzieci, jadą droga' (Children are going away). The song was composed after the big deportation from Łódź in September 1942. During eight days of curfew known in Łódź as the groyse shpere (great curfew), 20,000 elderly and sick people and children were deported. This event was one of the most traumatic events in the life of the Łódź ghetto community. Following this event, the streets of the ghetto, the youth clubs and most of the organised cultural events came to an end. Domestic and private singing as Miriam describes it, could go on as long as one went on living.
The Polish children's song on which this is based speaks of children who wonder about the beauty of the world. The contrast between the original tune evoking nostalgic moments from a beautiful world, and the new lyrics about imprisoned, innocent children starving in a world full of death, adds to the tragedy described in this song.
Miriam wrote this song after most of the orphan children of the ghetto were removed, leaving for an unknown destination where death awaited them. By 1941 Miriam knew that adults and children were being deported from the ghetto, never to return.
Miriam was a counsellor in the Gordonya youth movement in the ghetto. Aged 17, she was in charge of a group of thirty children aged eight to ten. She led the group in debates, lectures and singing. She found out that all of them were to be shipped off in a single deportation of orphaned children in 1942. Miriam dedicated this song to these children, remembering their dark, questioning eyes.