Non Omnis Moriar

for soprano solo and SSAA choir

Alison Willis

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for soprano solo and SSAA choir

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Composer Alison Willis
Year of Composition 2018
Duration 4'45"
Categories (all composers) , ,
Catalogue ID ce-aw1nom1


Zuzanna Ginczanka’s Jewish parents fled the Russian Civil War, settling in 1922 in pre-War Poland. Although, as a poet, she published only a single collection of poetry in her lifetime, the book O centaurach (“About the Centaurs”), it created a sensation.

Ginczanka left Warsaw in June 1939 to spend her summer vacations with her grandmother. Following the outbreak of the Second World War her grandmother’s business was immediately expropriated and their living quarters requisitioned for Soviet officials. This forced Ginczanka to move to the larger and more anonymous Polish city of Lvov. Before they left, her grandmother packed all the family heirlooms and valuables like table silver into her luggage, both as a means of keeping it safe and to provide for Ginczanka’s future dowry. Once she arrived in Lvov Ginczanka narrowly managed to avoid arrest by Ukrainian forces targeting Jewish population.

Nazi Germany invaded Poland on 22 June 1941. The female concierge in the building where Ginczanka rented a flat saw her opportunity to rid herself of the unwelcome tenant and at the same time enrich herself. In the summer of 1942 she denounced Ginczanka to the Nazi authorities as a Jew hiding in her building on false papers. The Nazi police immediately attempted to arrest Ginczanka, but other residents of the building helped her escape. They finally succeeded in capturing her but this arrest did not result in Ginczanka’s execution as on this occasion she escaped from captivity. The incident led Ginczanka to write her best known poem “Non omnis moriar”.

Zuzanna Ginczanka frequently changed hiding places, but was eventually detained in the notorious Nazi prison, Montelupich but she never admitted to being Jewish. There is no certainty as to the exact place of Ginczanka’s death but there is a broad consensus on her having been executed by firearm, either by single firearm or by firing squad. Ginczanka was 27 years old.

In a bitter footnote, Zuzanna Ginczanka’s betrayers were arrested and tried for collaborationism. “Non omnis moriar” formed part of the evidence against them. (This is considered by many scholars to be the only instance in the annals of history of a poem being entered in evidence in a criminal trial).

Despite the quality of her poetry, Ginczanka was ignored and forgotten in post-war Poland, as communist censors deemed her work to be undesirable.

The text used is based on a translation by Marek Kazmierski with permission.