Today, we’re excited to feature a beautiful selection of poems by Matilda Olkin translated from the Lithuanian by Laima Vincė. Matilda (Masle) Olkin was a young, gifted poet who was shot and killed by the Nazis along with her entire family in 1941 when she was only 19 years old. The story behind the recovery of her poems and diary is as astonishing as the poems themselves, and Laima Vincė gives a moving account in her translator note. Olkin’s father had managed to pass on her notebook of poems and diary to a priest friend who hid them under the altar of the church before being exiled to Siberia by the Soviets. Upon his return, he passed on the diary and poems to his organist, who brought them for safekeeping to the literary critic Dr. Irena Veisaite, herself a Holocaust survivor. In 2019, The Lithuanian Institute of Literature and Folklore is publishing the illustrated hardcover book that includes an essay on the life and poetry of Matilda Olkin, Matilda’s diary, and Matilda’s poems. The publication of Matilda’s book in Lithuanian was ENTIRELY FUNDED by donations from Lithuanian people who believe strongly in healing the wounds of the Holocaust in Lithuania.
We’re very happy to share with you these new gems that have travelled such a long way to get here. Accompanying the poems are Vincė’s luminous paintings inspired by Lithuanian myths and symbols. Tell us what you think using @TranslateMonth and #NTM2018!
—Claudia Serea and Loren Kleinman