Chavala, Eva

© Maria Dunn, 2006

The life of Eva Gold, born 1906 in Ozarow, Poland, inspired this song, written in honour of her 100th birthday. Thank you to Leslie Bauman Gotfrit for sharing the story of her grandmother’s “golden hands”.


Boyalach, maidalach, where do I begin?
So long ago, still I remember when
Beloved Tateh died when I was three
But his golden hands live on in me

My widowed Mameh, how she braved it all
Our humble home tossed on the waves of war
They burned our shtetl, forcing us to flee
But they could not tear apart our family

You can't imagine now how we survived
On a song of potatoes, night after night
My wits made sharp on hunger's grindstone
My work made fast with fingers born to sew

Chavala, Eva, the life that you have made
Resonates like music sweetly played
As fabric woven from its countless strands
Falls so beautifully when shaped by golden hands

In '22 to Montreal I came
And just sixteen, I quickly earned my way
My golden curls soon a factory girl’s crown
As I worked to bring my Mameh safely down

And even when the factory men talked rough
I tried to hold myself a cut above
"To speak to Eva", they would often tease
"You must only talk through a silk handkerchief"

A first class seamstress, my fingers now did turn
To my wedding dress and then my baby girls
And a family business we built ourselves from scratch
I still worked hard, my stubborn Abie’s match

How far I've come, when I think about it now
From a war torn home to a bustling country house
A haven for my daughters’ little ones
Giving them the childhood I missed when I was young

And everything I've put my finger on
From buttonholes to the finest chiffon
All the nuance that has ever caught my eye
Still could never capture the richness of a life

Maria Dunn vocal, acoustic guitar
Jeremiah McDade soprano saxophone
Solon McDade upright bass