This version of the song which was sung in the Vilna Ghetto, was published by Shmerke Kaczerginski in 1947. He notes that almost every program in the ghetto opened with it. Original words by A. L. Wolfson (1867-1946) and music by Alexander Olshanetsky (1892-1946) were printed in the compilation Vilne, 1935. The song was revived by Adrienne Cooper in Irena Klepfisz’s play Bread and Candy, presented at the Jewish Museum in 1991, and at KlezKamp in 1992. Joseph Rumshinsky also wrote music to the poem.

Illustration of musical notes from the books


Vilna — city of spirit and innocence.
Vilna — conceived in Jewish ways,
Where quiet prayers murmured
Soft secrets of the night.
I often see you in my dreams,
Dearly beloved Vilna of mine,
And the old Vilna ghetto
In a foggy glow.

Vilna, Vilna, our hometown,
Our longing and desire.
Ah, how often your name calls forth
A tear from my eye.
Vilna streets, Vilna rivers,
Vilna forests, mountains and valleys.
Something gnaws at me,
Makes me yearn for the days of long ago.

I see the Zakret forest,
Enveloped in its shadows,
Where teachers secretly slaked our thirst for knowledge.
Vilna sewed the first thread
of our flag of freedom,
And inspired its children
With a gentle spirit.

Vilne — shtot fun gayst un tmimes,
Vilne — yidishlekh fartrakht,
Vu es murmlen shtile tfiles,
Shtile soydes fun der nakht.
Oft mol ze ikh dir in kholem,
Heys-gelibte vilne mayn,
Un di alte vilner geto
In a nepldikn shayn.

Vilne, vilne, undzer heymshtot,
Undzer benkshaft un bager.
Akh, vi oft es ruft dayn nomen
Fun inayn oyf aroys a trer.
Vilner geslekh, vilner taykhn,
Vilner velder, barg un tol.
Epes noyet, epes benkt zikli
Nokh di tsaytn fun amol.

Kh’ze dem veldele zakreter
In zayn shotn ayngehilt,
Vu geheym es hobn lerer
Undzer visndursht geshtilt.
Vilne hot dem ershtn fodem
Fun der frayheyts-fon gevebt
Un di libe kinder ire —
Mit a tsartn gayst balebt

װילנע — שטאָט פֿון גײַסט און תּמימות,
װילנע — ײַדישלעך פֿאַרטראַכט,
װוּ עס מורמלען שטילע תּפֿילות
שטילע סודות פֿון דער נאַכט.
אָפֿט מאֶל זע איך דיר אין חלוס,
הײס–געליבטע װילנע מײַן,
און די אַלטע װילנער געטאָ
אין אַ נעפּלדיקן שײַן.

װילנע, װילנע, אונדזער הײימשטאָט,
אונדזער בענקשאַפֿט און באָגער;
אָך, װי אָפֿט עס רופֿט דײַן נאָמען
פֿון מײן אױג אַרױס אַ טרער.
װילנער געסלעך, װילנער טײַכן,
װילנער װעלדער, בערג און טאָל,
עפעס נאָיעט, עפּעס בענקט זיך
נאָך די צײַטן פֿון אַמאָל.

כ׳זע דעס װעלדעלע זאַקרעטער
אין זײַן שאָטן אײַנגעהילט,
װוּ געהײס עס האָבן לערער
אונהזער װיסנדורשט געשטילט.
װילנע האָט דעם ערשטן פֿאָדעם
פֿון דער פֿרײהײַטס-פֿאָן געװעבט
און דִי ליבע קינדער אירע —
מיט אַ צאַרטן גײַסט באַלעבט.

Song Title: Vilne

Composer: Alexander Olshanetsky
Composer’s Yiddish Name: אַלעקסאַנדער אָלשאַנעצקי
Lyricist: A. L. Wolfson
Lyricist’s Yiddish Name: אַ. ל. װאָלפֿסאָן
Time Period: Unspecified

This Song is Part of a Collection

Songs of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Song

The Songs of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Song anthology comprises songs that were either never printed before or appeared in rare and inaccessible publications — sometimes in different versions and without proper sources. Most of the songs in this book were submitted by readers of Chana and Yosl’s column “Perl fun der yidisher poezye” (Pearls of Yiddish Poetry) in the Yiddish newspaper Der Forverts (The Forward), initiated in October, 1970. Over 25 years, thousands of songs were collected in correspondence and on cassettes from readers throughout the world, and they represent a veritable national Yiddish song archive. Chana Mlotek, in her introduction, writes, “In the course of years the inquiries, contributions and enthusiasm of these readers have kept our own interest unflagging and have reinforced our dedication to this effort. And in recent years our participants have also been augmented by new readers from the former Soviet Russia, who receive our newspaper there or from newly-arrived immigrants in this country and Israel.”

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