Pula is a charming little town in the Istrian Peninsula, in a deep bay of the Adriatic Sea. It has a Roman amphitheater and a triumphal gate, a medieval main square and a Renaissance town hall, a Venetian fortress, a Monarchy-era market hall, and a permanently closed archaeological museum. And a hundred years ago it also had a military port.
In 1859, the Habsburg navy chose the port of Pula as its main base and center of shipbuilding. So it remained until 31 October 1918, the last day of the war, when a handful of Italian military officers, inspired by D’Annunzio, carried out the most spectacular achievement of the Italian navy, and secretly blew up in the port of Pula the battleship Viribus Unitis, the flagship of the Monarchy. The fly in the ointment was that the heroes did not know that the war was over, and the ship had been handed over to the newly formed South Slav state, whose four hundred sailors thus perished in the explosion.
This also shows that the fleet’s crew had always been multi-ethnic, like the Monarchy itself. Today, the Czechs in particular feel great nostalgia for the first and last sea of their history – if we do not count the one that Shakespeare gave them –, and last year they commemorated this with a large exhibition and volumes of memoirs of the Czech and Moravian marines of the Monarchy, about which we will report soon. According to statistics, they and the Germans provided mostly technical and organizational tasks, the majority of the gunners were Hungarian, while the sailors were mostly Italian and Croatian. But we also know of Rusyn, Polish and Romanian marines, and around the turn of the century, four Jewish naval officers also served in Pola. However, there was only one Hebrew sailor in the Monarchy: Aurél Göndör, the popular comic actor of Budapest.
Aurél Göndör: Héber tengerész (Hebrew sailor), c. 1909
|Tudja rólam mindenki, hogy nem vagyok merész|
Leider mégis vagyok én egy héber tengerész.
Tauli * lettem, be is hívtak engemet Pólába
S ott tartottak tengerésznek ebbe a gúnyába
Hej, mondd Lipi, hitted-e, hogy tengerész leszel
Hogy életedben a hajón szolgálatot teszel
No de sebaj, nem busulok, sorsom bár nehéz:
Én vagyok az egyedűli Jordán-tengerész.
Hogyha már a kegyetlen sors engem idetett,
Ó, Jehova, hallgasd meg az én kérésemet:
Zsidó vagyok, vitorlázom sima Adrián,
Add meg nékem, Jordán vizén legyek kapitány.
Refr, azzal az utolsó sorral:
…én vagyok az egyedűli zsidó tengerész.
Hogyha járnak dühös szelek, s minden háborog
A hajó kész ringlispíl, amely forog-forog.
Én áthajlok a korláton, s mérgem kiadom
Fájó lelkem ott kóvályog zsidó piacon (?)
…én vagyok az egyedűli Jordán-tengerész.
Én Istenem, hogy hiányzik a hajón a nő.
Éjjel csupa tűz a testem, és a fejem fő.
A tengertől ovakodjék Izráel szent népe:
Csak álmában áll előtte Vénusz asszonyképe.
Lipi, Lipi, ne busulj, ha letelik időm
Hazamegyek, szabad leszek, lesz is szeretőm
Szőke-barna, mindenfajta, zsidó-keresztény,
Minden leány így kiált: Lipi derék legény!
|Everyone knows I’m not adventurous,|
Leider, I have become a Hebrew sailor.
I was tauli, * so I was taken to Pula,
I was kept there as a sailor in this uniform.
Have you, Lipi, ever thought of becoming a sailor?
or that you would ever serve on a ship?
Never mind, although your fate is heavy:
I am the only Jordan sailor.
Once cruel fate put me here,
oh, Jehova, hear my plea:
I’m a Jew, I’m sailing on the smooth Adriatic,
but let me once be a captain on the river Jordan.
Chorus, with the last verse:
…I am the only Jewish sailor.
When angry winds come, and all is stirred up,
the ship is a carousel that is turning around.
I bend over the railing, I pour out my anger,
and my soul is walking on a Jewish market.
…I am the only Jordan sailor.
Oh my God, how much I miss women on the ship
At night my body is all on fire, and my head burning.
Let the holy people of Israel beware of the sea
where they see beautiful Venus only in dreams.
Lipi, Lipi, do not mind, once my time is over
I go home, I’ll be free, I will have plenty of lovers.
Blondes, brunettes, any kind, Jews and Christians,
all the girls will cry: Lipi is a brave lad.
I’m not quite sure how I should render the “Jordan sailor”. It cannot be a people name like “Hebrew” and “Jewish” are. The author obviously could not have in mind the Jordanian kingdom which became independent in 1946, and with which he would have not identified himself anyway. Perhaps he rather imagines himself as a sailor on the Jordan, as he also asks this in his prayer. This reference shows the song’s post quem, the turn of the century, when both Zionism and the singer achieved their first major success. And the fact that he can openly give voice to his craving for Christian women, refers to a sad ante quem, which he fortunately did not live to see. He died in 1917, even before the dissolution of Austro-Hungarian Pula.
Is it perhaps him, Aurél Göndör, on leave in Pula? (Fortepan)
The gramophone disc, published around 1909, was digitized by Gramofon Online, together with several other discs by Aurél Göndör. And now the Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives of Budapest have hailed it with their centenary exhibition to be opened tomorrow, Saturday evening at 20:15. A visit to which we recommend to all our readers. Mazel tov!