Translated by: Avi Pitchon
Image: Oren Vermus
An excerpt from the testimony by Tilda Death – born in the Polish town of Mozjitz, who managed as a teenager to survive the tribulations of WWII, join the partisans, and immigrate to Palestine/Israel.
Tilda makes use of the art of spoken poetry, a tool she acquired during her time in the forests in order to utter things that should be said.
Her stage name – MC-Tilda-Death, was already given to her back in the day, when horrors of war were forged into national mythologies. It referred to her macabre disposition and the total, uncompromising quality of her work.
In 45 that goddamned party was over. Europe turned the smoke machine off, took the disco ball down and the DJ went off to trade in the stock market and sell snacks at NATO’s canteen.I then feel that I’ll never be able to leave that rave in the forests, that there will never be another rave for me. As we’re being dispersed, I start to feel a terrible longing for the forest, for my women fighters. A great big sisterly grave in Auntie L’s heart.
I board a ship heading to the States. To the Amerikakers. Don’t know what came over me, something drew me there. Back then I wasn’t yet sure what it was. I take care of exchanging my excellence medals while still in Europe. Right after the Amerikakers and the Russians got in I managed exchanging them for a few dozens of dollars and a 210 Sig-Sauer pistol. Don’t want the degenerators over there think we’re communists.
Arriving in New York. What can I tell ya, America ain’t my Kugel pie. I’ll never forgove those kakers for the time they took. I never cared for people watching from the sidelines. Such perverts.
To begin with, everything felt pretty shitty. I didn’t find myself there among the concrete and hot dogs. I wandered around Brooklyn for a few good weeks and the longing crushed my heart.
I’m heading up north one day and suddenly a familiar smell catches my nose. I go further and as if out of nowhere I discover a small forest, that they called it Centrum Park Forest. I can’t hold myself. The feet take off as if by themselves. I just run, for maybe four and a half hours, and the body remembers on its own. How happy I felt. I practice Ninjutsu rolls in the snow, wash my clothes in a tiny lake that’s around, even fix a campfire, just from the longing. I might have overdid it a bit when out of all that excitement I hunted a couple of cocker-spaniels.
At Centrum Park Forest I accidentally bumped into Elinora for the first time. You probably know her as Billie. Holiday. She might have been ten years older than me but we got along just wonderfully great. “Urbanerian Partisan” that’s how I called her. All her life she ran away from pimps and racists and vilde chayes. She didn’t have it easy. She was a ninja. She reminded me so much of my Atka, of the Partisaners. Took me along with her, in Harlem, where finally I feel a little bit at home again. Elinora takes me out to a jazz club where she was playing and singing. There on 52nd Street with Billie I suddenly feel just like by the campfire. That’s when I realise why did I arrive over there. Those Afro-Americaners in their ‘hoods, they knew something about my boom boom click. They had that groove. I play Billie one of my spoken partisan numbers from the times back in the forests, and it drives her nuts. She tells me, Edith, this is just like our blues. It fit like a glove, like a jock strap. What can ya say, when you’re persecuted – the froove has no other choice, it just comes out of you. That’s how they did it, the hobos with the blues. Just like for us in Sachsenhausen, life itself was a miracle.
One night we’re sitting at the club and this Dun Juan walks in and everybody stands up as he comes in. Billie tells me – that’s something special, he and his saxophone is the revival of jazz. And he really plays very nicely but I feel it can be helped a bit. I walk over and ask him his name – says his name’s Charlie. Charlie what? Charlie Parker. Pleased to meet you, Charlie – Tilda Death. Listen, that was really something but hear me out – you should speed it up a bit, spice it up a little, shake it up a bit more, so it has more juice. He replies, sister, this is New Orleans jazz, this is how we play it in the ghetto. I tell him, sister, this is spoken partisan from the black forest, that’s how we used to play it in the ghetto. While he’s still thinking about it, I grab the saxophone – it was pretty much like the clarinet my dad used to have when he played in weddings in Modzitz, so I knew more or less what to do – and I show him what ragtime pixieland pipe and drum free spirit spoken partisam jazz is. He goes nuts about it. I knew he’d be. It’s spoken partisan – the jazz impulse. Jazz is anarchism. A man hadn’t seen music notes in his life yet he already knows he’s got it and plays like a devil. As I already said – groove.
At one point, trouble stir up at the club. All sorts of bastards from the mob start showing up. Weapons, threats, protection. The white people’s police gave us hell. In our club they were all delicate artists, nobody knew how to handle a gun. So I tell’em, everybody, chill. I happen to be a pro. That’s how I start working as an official bouncer for the club at 52nd Street. After the wise guys see what Tilda can do with an automatic Browning rifle, they first come over to apologise, and then to take lessons. Those were very fine times for me.
This excerpt is part of the show “Tilda Death”
Text: Neta Weiner
Concept, performed and directed by: Raz Weiner