Political Relevance – “Hey Zhankoye”

This song is an example of how a piece of music can lead you into a search of history. The Zhankoye memorialized in this song was a Jewish collective farm established during the Stalin era in the Crimean region of the Ukraine. There are a few, rather dated, recordings of this Yiddish song with lyrics translated by Pete Seeger. Among others, the Limeliters recorded it in the early 1960s. My version reflects their translation (Alex Hassilev?), that differs slightly from the one by Pete Seeger. The liner notes to the Limeliters’ recording describe the song as, “a farm song from Jewish settlements in the Crimea in the middle “20’s”. In addition to the Limeliters’ version, there is an early recording by Pete Seeger, and one by Theodore Bikel, both who provided a different translation/version.

The political relevance is, of course, the recent events in the region that have resulted in Russia resuming a claim on this territory.

I do not yet attempt the Yiddish lyrics in my performance of this song. Perhaps I will make the effort to learn them and do so. The Limeliters’ version of original Yiddish lyrics are:

As men fort kine Sevastopol
Iz nit veit fun Simferopol
Dortin iz a stantzi faran
Ver darf zuchen niye glikken
S’iz a stanziye an antikel
In Zhankoye, Dzhan, dzan, dzhan

Hey Zhan hey Zhankoye
Hey Zhanvili, hey Zhankoye
Hey Zhankoye, Dzhan, Dzhan, Dzhan
Hey Zhan hey Zhankoye
Hey Zhanvili, hey Zhankoye
Hey Zhankoye, Dzhan, Dzhan, Dzhan

Enfert Yidden af mine Kashe
Vi’z mine brider, v’iz Abrashe
S’gayt ba im der traktor vi a bahn
Di mime Layre ba der kosilke
Bayle ba der molotilke
In Zhankoye, Dzhan, Dzhan, Dzhan

Repeat Chorus

Ver zogt az Yidden kene nit handlen
Essen fette yoich mit mandlen
Nor nit zine kine arbitsman?
Doss kenen zogen nor di sonim
Yidden shpite zay on in ponim
Tit a kik af Dzhan, Dzhan, Dzhan

Repeat Chorus

Hey Zhankoye (translated – as sung by Pat McCaskey)
Traditional w/lyric adapted by: Pete Seeger & Alex Hassilev

If you go to Sevastopol
On the way to Sinferopol
Just you go a little further down
There we have a railroad station
Known quite well throughout the nation
As Zhankoye, Dzhan

Hey Zhan, hey Zhankoye
Hey Zhanvili, hey Zhankoye
Hey Zhankoye, Dzhan, Dzhan, Dzhan

Now if you look for Paradise
You’ll see it there before your eyes
Stop your search and go no further on
There we had a collective farm
All run by husky Jewish arms
In Zhankoye, Dzhan


Aunt Natasha drives the tractor
Grandma runs the cream extractor
Work together hand in hand
Help to build a better land
In Zhankoye, Dzhan


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