Samuel Rovinski (1934-2013) — Escritor, dramaturgo judío-costarricense/Costa Rican-Jewish Writer, Playwright — “Las naranjas de la pascua”/”The Oranges of Passover”

Samuel-Rovinski
Samuel Rovinski

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Samuel Rovinski Gruszco es autor judío-costarricense de numerosas obras

de teatro, novelas, cuentos y ensayos. De sus 16 obras de teatro, las de mayor éxito

han sido: Las fisgonas de Paso Ancho, Un modelo para Rosaura (Premio Editorial

Costa Rica, 1974, y Premio Nacional Aquileo Echeverría 1975), El martirio del

pastor (Finalista del premio Casa de las Américas, 1982), Gulliver dormido, La

víspera del sábado y Gobierno de alcoba,

Su narrativa también ha obtenido econocimientos importantes, como el Premio

Nacional Aquileo Echeverría de cuento para La hora de los vencidos, en 1963 y de  novela

para Ceremonia de casta, en 1976.

Fungió por varios años como director general del Teatro Nacional de Costa

Rica y miembro de la Academia Costarricense de la Lengua.

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          Samuel Rovinski Gruszco is a Jewish Costa Rican author of many plays, novels,

short-stories and essays. Of his 16 works for the theater, the most successful have

been: Las fisgonas de Paso Ancho, Un modelo para Rosaura (Editorial Costa Rica

Prize,1974, and the Aquileo Echeverría National Prize,1975), El martirio del pastor

(Finalist for the  Casa de las Américas Prize, 1982), Gulliver dormido, La víspera del

sábado and Gobierno de alcoba.

His fiction has also received important recognition, such as the, Premio Nacional

Aquileo Echeverría National Prize for Short-Stories for La hora de los vencidos, in 1963

for the Novel for Ceremonia de casta, in 1976.

For several years, he served as the Director General of the National Theater of Costa

Rica and member of the Costa Rican Academy of the Spanish Language.

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LAS NARANJAS DE LA PASCUA

Por

Samuel Rovinski

 

” Con medio vaso de jugo es más que suficiente, Janche. Si yo fuera cafetalero,

te digo que no importa llenar el vaso. Pero como no soy cafetalero

ni me ha caído una herencia, te digo que hay que ahorrar. Las fortunas

sanas se hacen mediante el ahorro . Todo lo que sobrepasa media

vaso de j ugo es un desperdicio ” .

” ¿Recuerdas cuánto costaba una naranja en Polonia? No, Janche,

era media zloti; como decir, dos y medio colones. Por ese precio, aquí te

dan un saco de cien naranjas. Ahora me vas a decir que, como son tan

baratas, no importa llenar cien vasos de jugo. Pues no, Janche; es un

cálculo desacertado. Toda cosa tiene su valor y el desperdicio es el desperdicio.

.Si se desperdician las cosas, ¿cómo se puede ahorrar? ”

” Somos cinco en esta casa. Sí, Janche, cinco; porque la sirvienta

también es una persona. ¿Me vas a decir que ella no se toma su juguito?

Pues bien, si con dos naranjas se llena un vaso, con una naranja se

tiene medio . Entonces, Janche, diariamente podemos aho rrar cinco

naranj as que en veinte días se convierten en un saco completo; o sea, un

ahorro de dos y medio colones en menos de un mes . Bueno, no voy a

negar que parece una insignificancia. Pero en zlotis, ¿cuánto nos da? :

una pequeña fortuna en un año . Además, si te fijas : dos y medio colones

en las naranjas, otro poco por ahí, en la mantequilla y el pan, un diez

menos en el tranvía, un diecito aquí, un colón ahí, Janche: ¡verás que es

un buen ahorro! ”

“No hay que aparentar lo que no se tiene, Janche. Comportarse

como ricos, debiéndole a todo el mundo, es un pecado . Y si se tiene un

dinerito, ¿qué? , ¿tiene uno que sacarle los ojos a la gente? El dinero es

para guardarlo; para cuando uno llega a viejo o cuando lo persiguen.

¿Cómo se salva la vida? Con dinero, Janche . . . Pero no nos pongamos

tristes . ¿Quién nos persigue? , ¿quién es viejo ? Todavía somos jóvenes,

Janche, y estamos en una bendita tierra de gente buena”.

” ¿Y los bananos? ¿Qué me dices de los bananos, Janche ? En

Polonia, solamente los aristócratas comen bananos. Los pobres, como

nosotros, los veíamos pintados en las paredes . En esta bendita tierra te

puedes empachar comiendo bananos frescos, de la propia rama. Pero no

te vayas a hacer malas ideas; los bananos también tienen su precio ” .

“Hay gente que no sabe apreciar lo que tiene. Yo he visto con mis

propios ojos, mi linda Janche, como los campesinos dejan podrirse las

frutas en el suelo: naranjas, papayas, duraznos, guayabas y tantas otras;

mátame, Janche, si me acuerdo de todos los nombres. Y, en la Navidad,

se gastan todo el dinero en manzanas, peras, uvas y frutas secas de

Estados Unidos. Esta gente no ahorra, Janche, no ahorra. Sólo los ricos

serán ricos en este país. A ellos no les hace falta ahorrar. Nacieron ricos,

Janche . Pero nosotros, ¿qué haríamos si fuéramos pobres?”

“Cuando era pequeño, yo también quería comer bananos y naranjas.

¿Sabes lo que me decía mi abuelo, que Dios lo guarde a su diestra? Los

judíos no deben comer bananos, Meier; así está escrito en la Torá. Y yo

tenía que creérselo porque aún no había aprendido a leer la Torá”.

“A los hijos hay que enseñarles el valor del trabajo. Y del dinero,

también. La persona que no trabaja es vaga, inútil, se llena de malos

pensamientos, y codicia el dinero ahorrado por los que sí trabajan.

Nuestros hijos deben aprender que un cinco es un cinco y que el dinero

no nace en los árboles; así es, Janche. Tú y yo no nos vamos a matar trabajando

para que nuestros hijos después tiren el dinero a la calle.

Cuando terminan sus tareas escolares deben ayudarte en la casa. y,

cuando pongamos una tienda, tendrán que ayudarnos a vender. No

protestes, Janche; ¿crees que soy un mal padre? Trabajarán solamente

en las vacaciones y en los ratos libres, como te dije. Yo estoy de acuerdo

con que deben educarse . ¿Qué es una persona sin educación? Rubén

será doctor, Janche; el mejor doctor del mundo . Pero, ahora, él y

Reizele tendrán que aprender la importancia del trabajo y del ahorro, y

la inconveniencia del desperdicio”.

“Pensemos en Reizele, mi dulce Janche. Dentro de diez años será

una señorita de dieciocho, lista para casarse. Si no hemos ahorrado,

como Dios manda, ¿de dónde sacaremos para darle una dote decente?

¿Quieres que pasemos vergüenzas, Janche, y que la pobre Reizele se

quede sin marido?

“¿Te he dicho alguna vez que estoy cansado de trabajar? A mí me

gusta el trabajo y me gusta el ahorro, también. Sabes bien que los demás

se contentan con vender en San José. Yo no. Yo cojo mi valija y me voy

directamente donde los campesinos, allá por Aserrí y Vuelta de Jorco y

Dota, donde pagan las cobijas al contado. Y me invitan a comer con ellos,

Janche . ¿A dónde viste eso? ¿En Polonia, donde los campesinos

son ignorantes y antisemitas? Entonces, ¿por qué me voy a quejar ? Ahí

en el campo, Janche, con ese lindo sol durante todo el año, y las montañas

siempre a la vista y el aire puro, ahí, ves crecer de todo; porque,

Janche, en esta bendita tierra todo lo que se siembra da su fruto . Es

como un paraíso, Janche; puedes creerme. No es como Polonia. Allá

teníamos que cambiar nuestra ropa de verano por la de invierno, ¿no es

cierto? Dos tipos de ropa. En cambio, aquí, puedes ir con el mismo

pantalón y la misma camisa todos los días del año. Aquí no necesitamos

abrigos de pieles ni el fogón encendido todo el día para protegernos del

tremendo invierno, como en Polonia. Aquí no tenemos que cortar leña

ni palear la nieve para llegar a la casa. En este país tenemos sol durante

todo el año. Y lluvia, claro está. Lluvia durante ocho meses. Pero, ¿a

quién ha matado la lluvia, Janche? Un poco de reumatismo por aquí, un

resfriado o una bronquitis. Pero de eso nadie muere, Janche”.

“Claro que era muy bonito nuestro pueblo en Polonia. ¿Puedo yo

negarlo? El bosque, el río, los trigales. Todo muy lindo, si no fuera por

los patanes antisemitas. Y no hay peor antisemita que el polaco, Janche;

puedes creerlo. Ahora que los alemanes están allí, me imagino con qué

gusto están colaborando los polacos para matar judíos. ¡No te pongas a

llorar, Janche! Todos tenemos familia en Polonia. Pero la guerra no va

a durar toda la vida y ya verás que se salvarán, Janche. Muchos se salvarán,

Janche; puedes creerme. Pero yo ya sabes que yo tengo razón.

El judío está obligado a guardar dinero. Los goim lo quieren así. Uno

nunca sabe lo que puede pasar por la cabeza de la mejor persona del

mundo. Siempre cree que el judío es rico, que tiene todo el oro de la tierra,

y se tira sobre él para quitarle los ahorros, cuando le da la gana. Pero

se contenta con lo robado y lo deja a uno vivir. Así fue en España. Así fue

en Rusia. Así fue en Polonia y así es en Alemania. ¡Que aquí, en esta

bendita tierra, nunca sucederá un pogrom, dices, Janche? Yo también lo

creo. Pero mejor no confiarse y ahorrar seriamente. Los judíos somos los

chivos expiatorios de todos los sinvergüenzas de la tierra”.

“También hay que mantener un buen nombre. Si se pierde el crédito,

se pierde el nombre. Lo primero que hay que hacer con las ganancias

es abonar a la cuenta del almacén. ¿Hay alguien más puntual que yo

para pagarle a don Salomón? ¿Soy yo como el shvitzer Shmuel R. que

se atrasa en los pagos para irse con curves y presumir de rico con su

Ford sin techo y sus vacaciones en Puntarenas? No, señor. Yo prefiero

un nombre limpio, aunque me digan lo que me digan, a pasar por rico y

no dormir en las noches pensando en la ruina. Así es, Janche. Por eso,

don Salomón me da crédito a ojos cerrados. ¿Por qué? Porque soy un

hombre de palabra, Janche”.

“Yo no daré nunca un mal ejemplo a mis hijos, Janche. ¿Acaso me

has visto jugar al póker o al romy? Con todo lo que me gustaría

jugarme un par de manos, yo me aguanto. No pensarás que me voy a

jugar en los naipes lo que tanto me cuesta ganar. Pero no puedo negar

que el juego es fascinante. Toma el póker, por ejemplo. Tienes un trío de

ases en la mano y apuestas todo a él, y ya estás disfrutando de sólo pensar

en las ganancias. Entonces, al contrario te saca cuatro dieces y te

arrebata la pila de dinero.”

“Emocionante, ¿no es cierto, Janche?”

“Ya sé que no entiendes el póker, pero puedes imaginártelo. Bueno, pues yo me

siento detrás de los jugadores con mi tacita de té con buen limón, y un

pedazo de kuguel -como solamente doña Gucha lo sabe hacer -, y los

miro jugar. Nada más que los miro; pero me emociono igualmente, como si

estuviera jugando. Yo sé quién tiene una buena mano y quién hace bluf,

quién es un buen jugador y quién un shvitzer. Si uno pierde, y sé que es

un buen jugador, yo le presto dinero sin intereses; fíjate bien, Janche,

sin intereses. Así puede seguir jugando y yo disfrutando. Y nunca dejan

de pagarme. ¿Cuándo has visto un judío que no pague sus deudas?”

“Este país es el paraíso, Janche. Nuestros hijos deben tenerlo siempre presente.

Así no nos van a exigir cosas que en Polonia nosotros

nunca tuvimos. Y sabrán apreciar lo que Dios les ha dado: la suerte de

nacer en un país donde nadie cierra las puertas de su casa, porque no

existen los ladrones. Y todos se saludan en la calle con uno y no lo tiran

a un lado, como si fuera un perro; así como lo hacen los alemanes y los

polacos. Esta gente te escucha con paciencia porque sabe que estás

aprendiendo su idioma; y el Presidente de la República, ¡óyeme bien,

querida J anche!, si se cruza en la calle con un hombre modesto como

yo, contesta a su saludo quitándose el sombrero. ¿En dónde, Janche, en

dónde has visto cosa semejante?”

“Hay que dar gracias a Dios todos los días, Janche, y pedirle que no

cambien para mal las cosas en Costa Rica: y que nuestros hijos no pidan

manzanas y uvas cuando tienen a mano las naranjas y los bananos, que

sólo los aristócratas europeos pueden comer”.

“Pero sí te prometo, mi dulce Janche, que, para Pésaj, en nuestra

mesa habrá manzanas, peras, uvas, avellanas, ciruelas, pasas, un buen

vino Manischewitz y todas las frutas del trópico. ¿Y sabes por qué,

Janche? Porque en este Pésaj vamos a cumplir diez años de haber llegado

a Costa Rica”.

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“The Oranges of Passover”

by

Samuel Rovinski

“Half a glass of juice is more than enough, Janche, if I were a coffee grower, I tell

you that it wouldn’t matter to fill the glass, But since I’m not a coffee grower, nor

did I receive an inheritance, I tell you that you have to save. Wholesome fortunes

are made through savings. Anything beyond a half a glass of juice is wasteful.”

Do you remember how much an orange cost in Poland? No, Janche, it was half a zloti,

that’s two and a half colóns. Here, for that price, they give you a sack of a hundred

oranges. Now you’re going to tell me, since they are so cheap, why not fill a hundred

glasses of juice, But no, Janche, that would be an incorrect calculation. Everything has its

value, waste is waste. If you waste things, how can you save?”

“Half a glass of juice is more than enough, Janche, if I were a coffee grower,

I tell you that it wouldn’t matter to fill the glass, But since I’m not a coffee grower,

nor did I receive an inheritance, I tell you that you have to save. Wholesome

fortunes are made through savings. Anything beyond a half a glass of juice is

wasteful.”Do you remember how much an orange cost in Poland? No, Janche, it was

half a zloti, that’s two and a half colóns. Here, for that price, they give you a sack of

a hundred oranges. Now you’re going to tell me, since they are so cheap, why not

fill a hundred glasses of juice, But no, Janche, that would be an incorrect

calculation. Everything has its value, waste is waste. If you waste things, how

can you save?”

“We are five in this house. Yes, Janche, five because the servant is also a person. Are

you going to tell me that she doesn’t drink her little juice? Well, Janche, every day

we can save five oranges that in twenty days become a full sack; or, a savings of two

and a half colón in less than a month. Well, I’m not going to deny that it seems

insignificant. But in zlotys, how much would that get us? a small fortune in a year.

Also, if you figure, two and a half colóns for the oranges, a little more there, in

bread and butter, ten less on the trolley, a little ten here, a colón there. Janche, You

can see it’s a good of savings!

“You don’t need to fake what you don’t have. Behaving like rich people, owing

everyone, is a sin. And if you have a little money, what” Do you have to charge

people too much? Money to for saving, so that when get old or when the pursue you.

How do you save your life? With money, Janche . . . But let’s not be unhappy. Who is

after us? Who is old? We’re still young, Janche, and we are in a blessed land made

up of good people.”

“And the bananas? What do you say to me about the bananas? In Poland, only the

aristocrats eat bananas. The poor, like us, see them painted on the walls. In this

blessed country, you can upset your stomach eating fresh bananas, from your own

branch. But I’m not going to lead you astray, the bananas also have their price.”

“There are people who don’t know how to appreciate what they have. I’ve seen it

with my own eyes, my pretty Janche, how the campesinos let fruit rot on the ground,

oranges, papayas, peaches, guayabas and so many others; Damn it, Janche, if I can

remember all of the names, And at Christmas time, they spend all their money on

apples, grapes and dried fruits from the United States. These people don’t save,

Janche, they don’t save. Only the rich will be rich in this country. They don’t have to

save. They were born rich, Janche. But us, what would we do, if we were poor?”

“When they finish their homework, they should help you in the house, and when we

open a store, they will have to help us sell. Don’t protest, Janche; do you think I’m a

bad father? They will only work during their vacations and in their free time, as I

told you. What is a person without education: Rubén will be a doctor, Janche; the

best doctor in the world. But, now, he and Reizele will have to learn the importance

of work and saving, and the disadvantages of waste.”

“You have to teach your children the value of work. And of money too. The person

who doesn’t work is lazy, useless, full of evil thoughts and covets the money saved

by those who do work. Our children should learn that a five is a five, and that

money doesn’t grow on trees; that’s the way it is, Janche, You and I aren’t going to

kill ourselves working so that later our children throw the money away.”

“Let’s think about Reizele, my sweet Janche. In less than ten years she will be an

eighteen-year-old young lady, ready to marry. If we haven’t saved like God wills,

where would we find the money to give her a decent dowry? Do you want us to be

ashamed, Janche, and poor Reizele doesn’t get a husband.”

“Have I ever said that I am tired of working? I like work, and I like saving too. You

know well that the others are content to selling in San José. Not me. I take my

suitcase and I go straight to where the campesinos live, out there through Aserrí y

Vuelta de Jorco y Dota, where they pay for their blankets on credit. And they invite

me to eat with them, Janche. Where have you seen that: In Poland, where the

peasants are ignorant and anti-Semitic? So, why would I complain? They’re in

the country, Janche, where the pretty sun shines the year long. And the mountains,

always in sight and the pure air there. It’s like a paradise, Janche, you can believe

  1. It’s not like Poland. There we had to change our summer clothes for the winter

ones, isn’t hat right? Two types or clothing. Instead, here, you can wear the same

pants and the same shirts every day of the year. Here we don’t need fur

coats or the heater on all day to protect us from the awful winter, like we did in

Poland.  Here we don’t need to chop wood nor shovel snow in order to get home. In

this country, where have sun the whole year. And rain, for sure. Rain for eight

months. But who has ever died from rain, Janche? A bit of rheumatism here, a cold

or a bronchitis. But from that nobody dies.”

“You also have to have a good reputation. If you lose your credibility, you lose your

reputation. The first thing that you have to do with your earnings is pay off your

account at the grocery store. Is there anyone more punctual than me in paying don

Solomón? Am I like that shvitzer, that good-for nothing Shmuel B. who gets behind

in his bill in order to go out with curves, loose women, and pretend to be rich with

his Ford convertible and vacations in Puntarenas? No sir! I prefer to have a clean

reputation, let them say what they say, to pretend to be rich and not sleep at night

thinking about bankruptcy. That’s how it is, Janche. For that reason, don Solomón

give me credit with his eyes closed, Why? Because I am a man of my word.”

“I will never be a bad example to my children, Janche. Have you ever seen me play

poker or gin rummy? As much as I would like to play a pair of hands, I don’t let

myself. Don’t think that think that I am going to play cards for all that it costs me to

win. But I can’t deny that the game is fascinating. Take poker for example. You have

three aces in hand and you bet everything on them, and you are already enjoying

thinking about the winnings. Then, on the contrary, you come up with four tens,

and they snatch away the pile of money. Exciting, isn’t that right, Janche? I know

that you don’t understand poker, but you can imagine it. Well, I sit behind the

players with my little cup of tea with lemon, and a piece of kugel pudding–as only doña

Gucha knows how to make–, and I watch them play. Nothing more than watch,

but it excites me as much as if I were playing. I know who has a good hand and who is

bluffing, who is a good player and who a shvitzer. If one of them loses, and I know he is a

good player, I loan him money without interest; pay attention, Janche, without

interest. That way, he can continue playing and I having a good time. And they

always pay  me back. When have you seen a Jew, who doesn’t pay his debts.”

“Of course, our village in Poland was very nice. The woods, the river, the wheat

fields.  Everything was very pretty, if it weren’t for the anti-Semitic thugs. There’s

no worse anti-Semite than the Pole: believe it. Now that the Germans are there, I

can imagine the enthusiasm with which the Poles are collaborating to kill Jews.

Don’t cry, Janche! All of us have family in Poland. But the war won’t last forever,

and you’ll see that they will be saved, Janche. Many will saved, believe me. But you

already know that I’m right.”

“The Jew is obligated to save money. The goyim want it to be that way. You never

know what will go through the mind of the best person in the world. They always

believe that the Jew is rich, that they have all the money in the world, and they

throw themselves on him to take away his money, whenever they feel like it. But

they are content with what they steal, and they let him live. I was like that in Spain.

And like that in Russia. And it was like that in Poland and it is like that in

Germany. But here, in this blessed land, there will never be a pogrom, you say,

Janche? I too believe it. But it’s better not to be reckless and save seriously. We Jews

are the scapegoats of all the bastards on Earth.”

“This country is a paradise, Janche. Our children should always keep that in mind.

And they won’t demand things from us that we never had in Poland. And they will

know how to appreciate what God has given them; the good fortune to have been

born in a country where no one locks the door of the house, because thieves don’t

exist. And everyone greets each other in the street, and doesn’t push you aside, as if

you were a dog, like the Germans and Poles. These people listen to you patiently

because they know you are learning their language; and the President of the

Republic, hear me well. dear Janche; if he crosses in the street a humble man like

me, he answers the greeting, by taking off his hat. Where, Janche, where have you

seen anything like that? You have to thank God every day, Janche, and ask him to

not change things in Costa Rica for the worse, and that our children don’t ask for

apples and grapes when they have at hand oranges and bananas, that only

European aristocrats can eat.”

“But if I promise you, my sweet Janche, that, for Passover, on our table there will

be apples, pears, hazelnuts, cherries, raisins, a good Manischewitz wine and all the

fruits of the tropics. And you know why, Janche? Because at this Passover, we are

going to celebrate ten years of our arrival in Costa Rica.”

Translation by Stephen A. Sadow

“Half a glass of juice is more than enough, Janche, if I were a coffee grower,

I tell you that it wouldn’t matter to fill the glass, But since I’m not a coffee grower,

nor did I receive an inheritance, I tell you that you have to save. Wholesome

fortunes are made through savings. Anything beyond a half a glass of juice is

wasteful.”Do you remember how much an orange cost in Poland? No, Janche, it was

half a zloti, that’s two and a half colóns. Here, for that price, they give you a sack of

a hundred oranges. Now you’re going to tell me, since they are so cheap, why not

fill a hundred glasses of juice, But no, Janche, that would be an incorrect

calculation. Everything has its value, waste is waste. If you waste things, how

can you save?”

“We are five in this house. Yes, Janche, five because the servant is also a person. Are

you going to tell me that she doesn’t drink her little juice? Well, Janche, every day

we can save five oranges that in twenty days become a full sack; or, a savings of two

and a half colón in less than a month. Well, I’m not going to deny that it seems

insignificant. But in zlotys, how much would that get us? a small fortune in a year.

Also, if you figure, two and a half colóns for the oranges, a little more there, in

bread and butter, ten less on the trolley, a little ten here, a colón there. Janche, You

can see it’s a good of savings!

“You don’t need to fake what you don’t have. Behaving like rich people, owing

everyone, is a sin. And if you have a little money, what” Do you have to charge

people too much? Money to for saving, so that when get old or when the pursue you.

How do you save your life? With money, Janche . . . But let’s not be unhappy. Who is

after us? Who is old? We’re still young, Janche, and we are in a blessed land made

up of good people.”

“And the bananas? What do you say to me about the bananas? In Poland, only the

aristocrats eat bananas. The poor, like us, see them painted on the walls. In this

blessed country, you can upset your stomach eating fresh bananas, from your own

branch. But I’m not going to lead you astray, the bananas also have their price.”

“There are people who don’t know how to appreciate what they have. I’ve seen it

with my own eyes, my pretty Janche, how the campesinos let fruit rot on the ground,

oranges, papayas, peaches, guayabas and so many others; Damn it, Janche, if I can

remember all of the names, And at Christmas time, they spend all their money on

apples, grapes and dried fruits from the United States. These people don’t save,

Janche, they don’t save. Only the rich will be rich in this country. They don’t have to

save. They were born rich, Janche. But us, what would we do, if we were poor?”

“When they finish their homework, they should help you in the house, and when we

open a store, they will have to help us sell. Don’t protest, Janche; do you think I’m a

bad father? They will only work during their vacations and in their free time, as I

told you. What is a person without education: Rubén will be a doctor, Janche; the

best doctor in the world. But, now, he and Reizele will have to learn the importance

of work and saving, and the disadvantages of waste.”

“You have to teach your children the value of work. And of money too. The person

who doesn’t work is lazy, useless, full of evil thoughts and covets the money saved

by those who do work. Our children should learn that a five is a five, and that

money doesn’t grow on trees; that’s the way it is, Janche, You and I aren’t going to

kill ourselves working so that later our children throw the money away.”

“Let’s think about Reizele, my sweet Janche. In less than ten years she will be an

eighteen-year-old young lady, ready to marry. If we haven’t saved like God wills,

where would we find the money to give her a decent dowry? Do you want us to be

ashamed, Janche, and poor Reizele doesn’t get a husband.”

“Have I ever said that I am tired of working? I like work, and I like saving too. You

know well that the others are content to selling in San José. Not me. I take my

suitcase and I go straight to where the campesinos live, out there through Aserrí y

Vuelta de Jorco y Dota, where they pay for their blankets on credit. And they invite

me to eat with them, Janche. Where have you seen that: In Poland, where the

peasants are ignorant and anti-Semitic? So, why would I complain? They’re in

the country, Janche, where the pretty sun shines the year long. And the mountains,

always in sight and the pure air there. It’s like a paradise, Janche, you can believe

  1. It’s not like Poland. There we had to change our summer clothes for the winter

ones, isn’t hat right? Two types or clothing. Instead, here, you can wear the same

pants and the same shirts every day of the year. Here we don’t need fur

coats or the heater on all day to protect us from the awful winter, like we did in

Poland.  Here we don’t need to chop wood nor shovel snow in order to get home. In

this country, where have sun the whole year. And rain, for sure. Rain for eight

months. But who has ever died from rain, Janche? A bit of rheumatism here, a cold

or a bronchitis. But from that nobody dies.”

“You also have to have a good reputation. If you lose your credibility, you lose your

reputation. The first thing that you have to do with your earnings is pay off your

account at the grocery store. Is there anyone more punctual than me in paying don

Solomón? Am I like that shvitzer, that good-for nothing Shmuel B. who gets behind

in his bill in order to go out with curves, loose women, and pretend to be rich with

his Ford convertible and vacations in Puntarenas? No sir! I prefer to have a clean

reputation, let them say what they say, to pretend to be rich and not sleep at night

thinking about bankruptcy. That’s how it is, Janche. For that reason, don Solomón

give me credit with his eyes closed, Why? Because I am a man of my word.”

“I will never be a bad example to my children, Janche. Have you ever seen me play

poker or gin rummy? As much as I would like to play a pair of hands, I don’t let

myself. Don’t think that think that I am going to play cards for all that it costs me to

win. But I can’t deny that the game is fascinating. Take poker for example. You have

three aces in hand and you bet everything on them, and you are already enjoying

thinking about the winnings. Then, on the contrary, you come up with four tens,

and they snatch away the pile of money. Exciting, isn’t that right, Janche? I know

that you don’t understand poker, but you can imagine it. Well, I sit behind the

players with my little cup of tea with lemon, and a piece of kugel pudding–as only doña

Gucha knows how to make–, and I watch them play. Nothing more than watch,

but it excites me as much as if I were playing. I know who has a good hand and who is

bluffing, who is a good player and who a shvitzer. If one of them loses, and I know he is a

good player, I loan him money without interest; pay attention, Janche, without

interest. That way, he can continue playing and I having a good time. And they

always pay  me back. When have you seen a Jew, who doesn’t pay his debts.”

“Of course, our village in Poland was very nice. The woods, the river, the wheat

fields.  Everything was very pretty, if it weren’t for the anti-Semitic thugs. There’s

no worse anti-Semite than the Pole: believe it. Now that the Germans are there, I

can imagine the enthusiasm with which the Poles are collaborating to kill Jews.

Don’t cry, Janche! All of us have family in Poland. But the war won’t last forever,

and you’ll see that they will be saved, Janche. Many will saved, believe me. But you

already know that I’m right.”

“The Jew is obligated to save money. The goyim want it to be that way. You never

know what will go through the mind of the best person in the world. They always

believe that the Jew is rich, that they have all the money in the world, and they

throw themselves on him to take away his money, whenever they feel like it. But

they are content with what they steal, and they let him live. I was like that in Spain.

And like that in Russia. And it was like that in Poland and it is like that in

Germany. But here, in this blessed land, there will never be a pogrom, you say,

Janche? I too believe it. But it’s better not to be reckless and save seriously. We Jews

are the scapegoats of all the bastards on Earth.”

“This country is a paradise, Janche. Our children should always keep that in mind.

And they won’t demand things from us that we never had in Poland. And they will

know how to appreciate what God has given them; the good fortune to have been

born in a country where no one locks the door of the house, because thieves don’t

exist. And everyone greets each other in the street, and doesn’t push you aside, as if

you were a dog, like the Germans and Poles. These people listen to you patiently

because they know you are learning their language; and the President of the

Republic, hear me well. dear Janche; if he crosses in the street a humble man like

me, he answers the greeting, by taking off his hat. Where, Janche, where have you

seen anything like that? You have to thank God every day, Janche, and ask him to

not change things in Costa Rica for the worse, and that our children don’t ask for

apples and grapes when they have at hand oranges and bananas, that only

European aristocrats can eat.”

“But if I promise you, my sweet Janche, that, for Passover, on our table there will

be apples, pears, hazelnuts, cherries, raisins, a good Manischewitz wine and all the

fruits of the tropics. And you know why, Janche? Because at this Passover, we are

going to celebrate ten years of our arrival in Costa Rica.”

Translation by Stephen A. Sadow

____________________________________________________________

Libros por/Books by Samuel Rovinski

 

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