“I don’t know if you’re alive or dead”- A poem by Anna Achmatova

Context: Anna Achmatova (1889-1966) is one of the most famous Russian poets of all time. Her poetry was heavily censored during the Communist era and many of her closets family members were harassed and killed during the repression and Stalin’s terror. She is notable for choosing not to emigrate, and remaining in Russia, acting as witness to the events around her. Her first husband was killed by the Soviet secret police. Her partner Nikolai Punin died in a labour camp. Her son Lev spent many years as a political prisoner in the Gulag camps.

Themes: uncertainty, morning, loss.

I don’t know if you’re alive or dead

I don’t know if you’re alive or dead.
Can you on earth be sought,
Or only when the sunsets fade
Be mourned serenely in my thought?

All is for you: the daily prayer,
The sleepless heat at night,
And of my verses, the white
Flock, and of my eyes, the blue fire.

No-one was more cherished, no-one tortured
Me more, not
Even the one who betrayed me to torture,
Not even the one who caressed me and forgot.


The translation of this poem was found on wikiquote. It doesn’t provide who made the English translation as there been numerous translations of her works over the years. Wikiquote content is licensed under the CC-BY-SA and GFDL. Fair Use.

Anna Achmatova, 1924.

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