Hej Tam Na Górce

Analysis and contextual notes by D. Zisl Slepovitch.
All songs transcribed, translated, scored, arranged, and produced by Dmitri Zisl Slepovitch.


Yaakov B. (HVT-3829) was born in Hrubieszów, Poland in 1926, the youngest of three children. He recounts his brother’s death from pneumonia; attending a Jewish school; compulsory transfer to a public school; antisemitic harassment; working in his father’s business from age fourteen; German, then brief Soviet occupation; traveling with his father to an uncle in Volodymyret︠s︡ʹ; their return home; German occupation; ghettoization; forced labor; deportation with his family to Sobibór in spring 1942; separation from his mother and sister; slave labor with his father cutting trees and cleaning box cars; trying to protect his father when he had typhus; German officials killing his father; killings as reprisals for escape attempts and for “sport”; public hangings; slave labor constructing barracks; a planned uprising and escape headed by Alexander Pechersky, a former Soviet soldier; escaping during the uprising in October 1943; living in the forest for four months; encountering other escapees in Iwanki; assistance from local villagers; Jewish partisans refusing to accept them; working for a Polish farmer; joining a Soviet partisan unit; raiding villages and blowing up railroads; battles with Germans; encountering a partisan group that included Ukrainians who had been guards in Sobibór; and discharge from the partisans.

Mr. B. recounts returning home; attempting to recover family property; arrest and release; traveling to Lublin; enlisting in the Polish military in Trawniki; combat in Warsaw; assisting Jews who had been hiding; clearing mines in Staszów, Pińczów, and Pacanów; leaving the unit due to antisemitic harassment; arrest for desertion; imprisonment in Busko-Zdrój; Armia Krajowa freeing some prisoners, though not him; transfer to Pawiak prison; a death sentence for desertion, then its commutation; orders to rejoin his unit; disobeying; joining Betar in Lublin; being smuggled to Austria; living on a Betar kibbutz; attacking police officers in Graz who had harassed Jews; moving to Föhrenwald displaced persons camp; assistance from UNRRA; illegal emigration to Palestine by ship from Italy; British interdiction; incarceration on Cyprus; conflicts among Zionist groups; marriage; arrival in Israel in 1949; and the births of four children. Mr. B. discusses testifying in war crimes trials in Germany and the Eichmann trial; a meeting of Sobibór survivors; and sharing his experiences with his children.

Unedited Testimony

Hej Tam Na Górce (Hey, There On The Hill)

Music and lyrics: traditional; arrangement: D. Zisl Slepovitch

Yaakov B. (HVT-3829) was born in Hrubieszów, Poland in 1926, the youngest of three children. He first attended the Jewish school, but then underwent a compulsory transfer to the public (Polish) school. From those years he remembers walking around the town with the girls and learning funny and frivolous songs from them. Hej tam na górce is a traditional Polish song with a pronounced 3/4 dance feel. This has inspired us to match the song with the oberek, one of the most widespread Polish dance genres, from the microregion Rezyczyca, a town located 50 km (a little over 30 miles) from Yaakov’s hometown Hrubieszów. This oberek was documented in 1987 by notable Polish ethnomusicologist Andrzej Bieńkowski. The song itself belongs to the group of light-hearted Polish songs about a soldier flirting with a young girl. It is hard to say if Yaakov B. added his own name in the song, or if it originally had the Jewish name in it (Jakow, then Jankiel), or if the original name was the Polish Jakub modified by someone (perhaps Yaakov) to sound more Jewish.

1. Hej tam na górce przy bramce,
Hej tam na górce przy bramce, przy bramce
Stoi tam Jakow na rance, na rance
Stoi tam Jakow na rance.

2. A stary żołnierz pilnuje.
A stary żołnierz pilnuje, pilnuje,
A młody Jankiel całuje, całuje,
A młody Jankiel całuje.

3. Nie całuj tyle tych, a mnie.
Nie całuj tyle tych, a mnie, tych, a mnie.
Bo ta opowie swej mamie, swej mamie,
Bo ta opowie swej mamie.

1. Over there on the hill, by the gate,
Over there on the hill, by the gate, by the gate,
Yakov is standing there in the morning, oh in the morning
Yakov is standing there in the morning

2. And the old soldier is guarding.
And the old soldier is watching and guarding,
And young Yankel is kissing, oh kissing,
Young Yankel is kissing.

3. Don’t kiss so many, just me.
Don’t kiss so many, just me, not those, but me.
Because that one will tell her mother, oh her mother,
Because that one will tell her mother.