MALKE KHEYMSON (MALKA CHAIMSON) (1888-1941)
She was born in Natse, a small town near Eyshishok (Eišiškės), Vilna district, where her father was the rabbi. After her father’s death when she was two years of age, she and her mother moved to Yevye (Vievis), also in Vilna district, where she attended religious primary school, studying Tanakh and En yaakov (Jacob’s eye [a collection of tales and homiletical literature drawn from the Talmud]). In 1897 she and her family moved to Vilna where, at age eighteen, she graduated from the Marien Gymnasium as an external student. She then departed for Berne, Switzerland, and studied the humanities for two years, but for material reasons she had to interrupt her studies. She returned to Vilna and lived as a stenographer for the Vilna city council. In 1915 she began to work in the Jewish children’s home for homeless children, and later she became a teacher of natural science and geography in the Shimen Frug School; from 1922 she was a teacher at the Jewish high school of Sofia Gurevich. Her literary activities began in 1910 with reports and articles on social and cultural issues in A. Litvin’s Lebn un visnshaft (Life and science). From 1920 she worked with the editorial board of the children’s magazine Grininke beymelekh (Little green trees) and the youth magazine Khaver (Friend), which appeared in Vilna from September 1920 until July 1922; in these she published a series of natural scientific and semi-fictional items which would gradually come out in book form, such as Makht zikh aleyn a gertele (Make a belt by yourself) (Vilna, 1922), 63 pp.; and the following translations and adaptations: Khayim Gershkovich’s In der shlislburger tfise (In the Shlisselburg prison) (Vilna, 1924), 8 pp.; Di lebedike fotografye (The living photograph) (Vilna, 1924), 24 pp.; Di antdekung fun dorem-polus (The discovery of the South Pole) (Vilna, 1924), 7 pp.; Charles Roberts’s Der kleyner langoyer (The little bat) (Vilna, 1924), 24 pp.; Sergei Mech, Mayn rayze tsum vaserfal nyagara (My trip to Niagara Falls) (Vilna, 1927), 14 pp.; Di distl, maysele (The thistle, a story) (Vilna, 1928), 24 pp.; Maxim Gorky’s Briv tsu kinder (Letter to children) (Vilna, 1930), 8 pp.; A. L. Tikhomirova and G. N. Bogdanova’s Malpes (Monkeys) (Vilna, 1931), 70 pp.; and A. L. Tikhomirova and G. N. Bogdanova’s Der helfand (The elephant) (Vilna, 1931), 44 pp. She also published: Fizishe geografye (Physical geography), 2 parts (both: Vilna, 1920), 204 pp. each—a school textbook for the third and fourth year of school. Together with her husband, Sh. Bostomski, she compiled: a text entitled Lebedike klangen, ilustrirte alef-beys (Living sounds, an illustrated alphabet), sixteenth printing (Vilna, 1938), 79 pp.; a reader also titled Lebedike klangen, 5 parts (twelve editions appeared between 1933 and 1939); and Dos naye vort, mustern far literatur-visnshaft, khrestomatye far di hekhere klasn fun der folksshul (The new word, samples of literature and scholarship, reader for the upper classes of public school), 3 parts (epic, lyric, drama) (Vilna, 1920-1925). For the third part of this last reader, Kheymson and Bostomski themselves translated fragments of Prometheus Unbound, Oedipus Rex, Antigone, and Iphegenia in Aulis. For the most part, her books were all published by “Naye yidishe folkshul” (New Jewish public school). She also published—in Shul-fraynd (School friend) and in other pedagogical works of Tsisho (Central Jewish School Organization) in Poland—a great number of articles on teaching methods. During the short period in WWII when Soviet Russia held control over Vilna, she was partially tied up with school activities. When the Nazis occupied the city in 1941, she was confined in the Vilna ghetto, where she soon became ill and was unable to work. With no savings of her own, she refused to take help from her friends and in a short period of time expired from hunger.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; A. Pomerants, Tserisene keytn (Broken chains) (New York, 1943), p. 41; Sh. Katsherginski, “Der haknkreyts iber yerusholaim delite” (The swastika over Jerusalem of Lithuania [Vilna]), Yidishe shriftn (Lodz) (1946), reprinted in Tsukunft (New York) (September 1946); Katsherginski, in Khurbn vilne (The Holocaust in Vilna) (New York, 1947), p. 194; Lerer-yizker-bukh (Remembrance volume for teachers) (New York, 1954), pp. 168-69.
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 271.]