Selma, Czernowitz, May 1940
July 7, 1941
I want to live.
I want to laugh and give comfort,
fight battles, love and hate,
hold heaven in my hand,
be free to breathe and shout:
I don’t want to die. No!
December 23, 1941
The heaviest weight of all: to see
that no one needs me,
to know, to think,
I'll fade into nothingness like smoke
“And even if you clutch a thousand stars, she’s strong enough to carry myriads more.” So wrote seventeen-year-old Selma in one of fifty-seven poems in a booklet that she wished to give to her eighteen-year-old boyfriend, Leiser Fichman.
Selma was born in 1924 in Czernowitz, Bukovina and began to write poetry as a teenager. She met Leiser in the Ha-Shomer ha-Tsa’ir movement and their romance blossomed. At the beginning of the Nazi occupation, Leiser was taken to a forced-labor camp.
In October 1941, Selma and her parents were interned in the ghetto. In June 1942, the family was deported to Transnistria. After an exhausting march, they were sent to the Michailowka labor camp, where the Germans and Ukrainians starved and terrorized the prisoners mercilessly. In July, Selma wrote her last letter to her friend: “I can’t take any more; I’m giving up now.... Kisses, be strong, Selma.” She died of typhus on December 16, 1942. Her parents died a short time later.
Leiser kept the notebook of poems in the camp until 1944, when he sent it to Else, Selma’s friend, in Czernowitz. He boarded the Mefkure, a clandestine immigrant vessel headed to the Land of Israel. The Mefkure sank in the Black Sea; Leiser perished without knowing that Selma had died.