Building the Barricade

We were afraid as we built the barricade
under fire.

The tavern-keeper, the jeweler’s mistress, the barber
all of us cowards.
The servant-girl fell to the ground
as she lugged a paving stone, we were terribly afraid
all of us cowards —
the janitor, the market-woman, the pensioner.

The pharmacist fell to the ground
as he dragged the door of a toilet,
we were even more afraid, the smuggler-woman,
the dressmaker, the streetcar driver,
all of us cowards.

A kid from reform school fell
as he dragged a sandbag,
you see we were really

Though no one forced us,
we did build the barricade
under fire.

— Anna Świrszczyńska
(Trans. by Piotr Florczyk)

An editor and poet, Anna Świrszczyńska (Swir) joined the Polish resistance movement during WWII, where she wrote for underground publications. She worked as a nurse during the 63-day Warsaw Uprising against German occupation forces. More than 650,000 people joined the Polish resistance — in one form or another — to fight the Nazi army.