1914 – Osip Mandelstam

The Greeks planned for war
On the delightful island of Salamis.
From the harbor of Athens, you could see it
Seized by the enemy’s hand.

And now our friends the islanders
Are fitting out our ships.
Earlier the English didn’t love
The sweet European soil.

O, Europe, new Hellas,
Save the Acropolis and Pireus.
We do not need the island’s gifts,
A forest of uninvited ships

Osip 1891 Warsaw (then a part of Russia) – 1938 Died a political prisoner in Siberia

A diehard

One of Russia’s greatest poets, Osip was a diehard nonconformist, his attempts to maintain his artistic independence after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 resulted in ostracism, exile, and ultimately, death in Stalin’s labour camps. After Stalin’s death in 1953 (and long after his own death), Mandelstam was “rehabilitated” and his work has undergone a revival. He described his ethnic background as “Jewish chaos,” 

Mandelstam sped his own demise when he wrote, in 1933, a satirical poem characterizing Stalin as a gleeful executioner with a cockroach moustache. This sixteen-line poem, known as the “Stalin Epigram.” 

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