Spark by Hannah Senesh

Translated from the Hungarian & edited by

Thomas Ország-Land (July 2017)



Hannah Senesh, 1921-1944, (Hungarian spelling Hanna Szenes), poet, farmer, soldier, emigrated as a youth to Palestine to escape rising Fascism in Europe, and eventually joined the British Army there. She was parachuted into partisan-held territory in Croatia from where she trekked to her native Hungary with a mission to rescue downed Allied aircrews and assist the Zionist resistance to the mass murder of Jews. She was betrayed, imprisoned, tortured and murdered. She is revered today as a war hero; and her songs, mostly about love, faith and nature, are sung the world over.


The following poem was its author’s final testament.





A spark burns out when she ignites a flame.

She is fulfilled in a flame igniting a blaze.


I would give all for a blaze to light up the hearts,

to light up the world, to raise a hope for life.





My cell: just seven steps by two. I can even tell

how long my life will last: two days at the least.


I won’t be 23 in July. I knew the risks.

The stakes were high. I played for life. I lost.


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THOMAS ORSZÁG-LAND is a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent who writes for New English Review on Europe and the Middle East. His last book was Survivors: Hungarian Jewish Poets of the Holocaust (Smokestack, 2014) and his last E-chapbook, Reading for Rush Hour: A Pamphlet in Praise of Passion (Snakeskin, 2016), both in England. His work appears also in current issues of Acumen, Standpoint and The Transnational.

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