Here you should see a photo that I did not make. The place where it was not made was Děčín, the last Czech railway station before the German border, when, due to Covid closures, it was only possible to travel between the two countries on wild boar routes. I hurried from the late arriving Prague train to the local bus that would have taken me to the border path, so I could only register with my eyes the gorgeous graffiti covering the whole long wall of the railway underpassage with the thousand pandas and the inscription PANDEMIE above them. Maybe it is still there today, but to see it, I’d have to pass through Děčín again, which might happen next time during the sixth wave.

The joke expressed visually in Děčín also has a verbal counterpart:

“An adult panda feeds for fourteen hours a day. Just like an adult person in quarantine. That’s why we call the epidemic a pandemic.”

A joke with whiskers? Yes. I have to admit again that I should have published my impressions at the right time. As well as the video below about the pandemic, which was also published at that time by Daniel Kahn and The Painted Bird, specialized in Yiddish chansons, not so far from there, in Berlin, as the backgrounds with the shabby industrial buildings demonstrate.

Here’s the Spanish. We are afraid.
It freezes bones and marrow.
Many people who have never died
will die today and tomorrow.

(Dezső Kosztolányi, 1918)
Actually, I am not so late with that. After all, the chanson was written in 1916 by Solomon Smulewitz, an American Yiddish singer and ballad writer from Pinsk. True, at that time pandas were not yet so well known, so the epidemic was not called a pandemic, but “Spanish flu”, as only Spain, which did not take part in the world war, dared to publish real death statistics about it, and these were far superior to the cosmeticized ones of the warring states.

Nowadays, a war is once again pushing into the background the pandemic that just recently covered the front pages of the newspapers. Still it is worth listening to this song that expresses the anxiety and bewilderment of the whole world. It also comes in handy if you want to comfort yourself during the sixth wave.

Gor a shreklekhe mageyfe
geyt fun land tsu land
Mit der shnelkayt fun a sreyfe
fun a fayerbrand
Makhtloz iz dem mentshns zinen
S’blaybt di khokhme shtil
S’iz keyn mitl tsu gefinen kegn
a batsil

גאָר אַ שרעקלעכע מגפֿה
גײט פֿון לאַנד צו לאַנד
מיט דער שנעלקײַט פֿון אַ שׂריפֿה
פֿון אַ פֿײַערבראַנד
מאַכטלאָז איז דעם מענטשנס זינען
ס׳בלײַבט די חכמה שטיל
ס׳איז קײן מיטל צו געפֿינען קעגן
אַ באַציל

A terrible plague is spreading
from country to country
with the speed of fire
with the power of a conflagration.
Human reason is powerless,
science is at a loss:
you cannot find any remedy against
– a bacillus.

Mikrobn, batsiln, vos vilt ir
Zogt, vemes shlikhes derfilt ir
Ir frest di korbones gor on a rakhmones
In bliyende lebn nor tsilt ir
Ir bodt zikh in treren fun veyner
Ir tsit oys dem markh fun di beyner
Ir samt di gederim,
ir krikhnde verem,
mikrobn, batsiln, vos vilt ir

מיקראָבן, באַצילן, וואָס ווילט איר
זאָגט, וועמעס שליחות דערפֿילט איר
איר פֿרעסט די קרבנות גאָר אָן אַ רחמנות
אין בליענדע לעבן נאָר צילט איר
איר באָדט זיך אין טרערן פֿון ווײנער
איר ציט אויס דעם מאַרך פֿון די בײנער
איר סמט די געדערים,
איר קריכנדע ווערעם
מיקראָבן, באַצילן, וואָס ווילט איר

Microbes, bacilli, what do you want?
Tell me, whose orders are you following?
You mercilessly devour your victim,
you take prosperous lives.
You bathe in our tears,
suck the marrow out of our bones.
You poison our insides,
you crawling worms.
Microbes, bacilli, what do you want?

In di lungen tif bagrobn
voynt di blase pest
Di batsiln, di mikrobn
boyen zeyer nest
Fresn undzer layb un lebn
frukhpern zikh pek
Un mir muzn zelbst farshvebn
far der tsayt avek
Un mir filn vi mir geyen
shtil un langzam oys
Un di shmertsn un di veyen
zenen shreklekh groys
Un di fintstere makhshoves
gresern dem shmarts
Yorn ligt der malekh-hamoves
tif bay undz in harts.

אין די לונגען טיף באַגראָבן
וווינט די בלאַסע פּעסט
די באַצילן, די מיקראָבן
בויען זײער נעסט
פֿרעסן אונדזער לײַב און לעבן
פֿרוכפּערן זיך פּעק
און מיר מוזן זעלבסט פֿאַרשוועבן
פֿאַר דער צײַט אַוועק
און מיר פֿילן ווי מיר גײען
שטיל און לאַנגזאַם אויס
און די שמערצן און די ווײען
זענען שרעקלעך גרויס
און די פֿינטצטערע מחשבֿות
גרעסערן דעם שמאַרץ
יאָרן ליגט דער מלאך-המװת
טיף בײַ אונדז אין האַרץ

Buried deep in the lungs
the pale plague rages:
the bacilli, the microbes
build their nest there.
They devour our bodies and lives,
they multiply abundantly,
and we die before our time,
and we feel being slowly,
silently eaten away.
Unbearable is
the pain and suffering.
Dark thoughts
add to our agony:
the Angel of Death
resides in our hearts.

Droysn zenen do vampirn
Um tsu lebn gut
undzer pratse zey rabirn
trinken undzer blut
Un farshlepn in di zumpn
undzer oyg in kop
Oy, ir niderike lumpn
Aykh halt keyn zakh op
Un tsekriplte un toyte
faln do un dort
Naye lebns ongegreyte
filn oys dem ort
un in groyse tife kvorim
pakt men laykhes fil
Un di hersher, di keysorim
shpiln shakhmat shpil

דרויסן זענען דאָ וואַמפּירן
אום צו לעבן גוט
אונדזער פּראַצע זײ ראַבירן
טרינקען אונדזער בלוט
און פֿאַרשלעפּן אין די זומפּן
אונדזער אויג אין קאָפּ
אוי, איר נידעריקע לומפּן
אײַך האַלט קײן זאַך אָפּ
און צעקריפּלטע און טויטע
פֿאַלן דאָ און דאָרט
נײַע לעבנס אָנגעגרײטע
פֿילן אויס דעם אָרט
און אין גרויסע טיפֿע קבֿרים
פּאַקט מען לײַכעס פֿיל
און די הערשער, די קײסאָרים
שפּילן שאַכמאַט שפּיל

You are vampires,
who for your own pleasure
deprive us from our work,
you drink our blood,
you gouge out our eyes,
you drag us into swamp.
Despicable thugs,
so nothing can stop you?
The crippled and the dead
are falling right and left,
and new lives take their places.
Huge, deep graves
are filled with corpses
while the rulers, the emperors
play their chess game.

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