In the 12 years of the commemoration some of the poems originally written in the Dutch or Belarusian were translated in English. Some poems were written in English. We present them here, beginning with the poem “4 trees for belarus” by Leo Mesman which is also translated in the Belarusian language as Чатыры дрэвы. With this poem started a tradition of writing poems dedicated to the four disappeared men, their families and the commemoration.

The Dutch originals or translations in Dutch can be found here (including downloads).


4 trees for belarus (Leo Mesman 2008)

4 men

who stood up against the one
that took the people’s freedom
and disappeared

4 trees

planted here as living signs
so that we won’t forget a single day
to mourn for

4 men

who stood up against the one
that took the people’s freedom
and disappeared

Чатыры дрэвы (Лео Мэсман 2008)

Чацьвёра мужчын
паўсталi супроць аднаго
што адняў у народу свабоду.

Чатыры дрэвы,
як сымбаль жывы,
у жалобным смутку

Чацьвёра мужчын
паўсталi супроць аднаго
што адняу у народу свабоду.


ПАМЯЦІ ЗНІКЛЫХ (Владимир Некляев 2012)

Няма вас сярод мёртвых і жывых.
Вы на зямлі не дажылі да смерці.
Пакінуўшы і родных, і чужых,
Вы проста зніклі, як знікае вецер.

А мы жывём, бо трэба жыць далей,
Каб зразумець, як дорага мы плацім
За ўсё –
і што за ўсё найдаражэй
над якімі можна плакаць…


In memory of the disappeared (Vladimir Neklyaev 2012)

You are neither among the dead, nor among the living.
You have not reached death on this earth.
Having left your beloved ones as well as strangers behind,
You have disappeared, just like the wind.

And we go on living, because we have to,
To understand the price we pay
For everything –
And that is the most precious price of all:
The absence of graves,
Where we can shed our tears.

Letter from Minsk (Piet van den Boom 2011)

dear boy I wish that you were here
but nobody knows where you are.
I miss you every second every day
and all I know is that you are not here.

things here still are as they were:
the winters long and cold and wet
and summers humid and unstable,
you understand what I try to say.

most people stand by and watch.
they have the things they need
and do not want to lose it all
and think we get what we deserve.

the neighbors do not seem to miss you.
they never ask about you anymore.
they act as if you never existed
and no longer wait for your return.

friends look at me with compassion
and a shadow of impatience.
with their deafening silence
they plead themselves free of guilt.

sometimes I try to fool myself
and think you forgot our phone number
or maybe the postman always
misreads the address

or is it that you departed
to a city that does not exist?
or are you detained
in a prison that does not exist?

it seems as if you dissolved in the air.
so sometimes I take a deep deep
breath and hope that something
of you is here with me again.

Scary-tale (Piet van den Boom 2012)

Once upon a time
not far away not in the past
there was a cruel landlord,
who hated the people
as much as they feared him.

He was surrounded
by a band of scoundrels
wild, merciless and grim,
to protect him against those
brave enough to tell the truth.

In the night and in the day
he sent his blood hounds out
to spread fear and terror
and hunt down all and every one
that stood him in the way.

The hounds went into town
to drag with vicious violence
people from home and streets
and made them disappear
without a sign or trace.

The shepherd saw all this
with worry and disgrace
and hurried to the landlord
to lodge his serious complaint
and offered him advice.

‘Dogs are there to guard
and to protect’ he said
in a soft but firm voice
‘so bring your angry dogs to me
let me teach them that’.

The shepherd ordered
his dogs to show the hounds
overt an patiently
how they did operate
to keep order in the herd.

Smart silently and smooth
they took their positions
never barked or growled
they hardly showed their fangs
and yet the sheep obeyed.

The hounds learned greedily
how to observe their prey
to stalk and ambush him silently
strike fast with sharp precision,
snatch, grab and drag him away.

Back again in their own town
they used these skills to terrorize,
and to intimidate the citizens
with a whisper or a phone call
and a can of pepper spray.

The shepherd saw it happen
and cried out loud ‘Oh nay,
this is not as it should be!
Call back your hounds and
make them listen to me!’

The landlord grinned in reply
‘Now I will teach you some respect’
he took the shepherd’s staff
to beat him up with it
and had him locked away.

This is to cheated teachers,
shepherds of the world:
don’t lend the leader of the pack
your cloak and staff and wit:
there only comes mischief from it

Oaks in September (Arjen van Halem 2012)

oaks in September
sun, strong and still, shadow tears.
four starlings watching

Torch (Catharina Boer 2013)

Grey silence obviously is
the law for anyone who remains
fearfully captured behind walls
in the shadow of cruel dictatorships.

Who protests gets caught
and nothing is heard from him again
or from the man who broke him,
if his body is ever found at all.

The free voice only breaks the law
with the light that writers shine
on this injustice like a torch to be
handed over against torture and murder