MOTL TALALAYEVSKI (1908-September 22, 1978)
He was born in Mokhnatshki (Mokhnachka), Ukraine. One can see from his autobiographical poems that he came from an exceedingly poor home with numerous children. In 1919 the family moved to Kiev, and there he sold cigarettes and nuts on the street corners as a youngster. He later received an education in a Soviet Jewish school. Over the years 1927-1929, he studied in Kiev initially at an “Arbfak” (Workers’ faculty) and later at the Jewish Pedagogical Institute and Kiev University, but he interrupted his education after the latter course of study. In 1926 he debuted in print with a poem in the Moscow magazine Yungvald (Young forest); one year later, his work appeared in a Kiev one-off publication in honor of the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution; and he later became a member of the Kiev group of young poets and prose writers, led by Dovid Hofshteyn, and from that point on he published his poetry in the daily newspaper Shtern (Star) in Kharkov and in the journals: Prolit (Proletarian literature) in Kiev; Royte velt (Red world) in Kharkov; Shtern in Minsk; Yunger boy-klang (Young sounds of construction) in Kharkov; in Kiev’s Literaturna hazeta (Literary gazette) in Ukrainian; and numerous other Yiddish, Russian, and Ukrainian newspapers and magazines. During WWII, he was a major in the Red Army, and he survived the road from Stalingrad to Poland, working on the editorial boards of front newspapers. He also took part in battles against the Germans and in 1945 was decorated with the “Order of the Patriotic War” and other distinctions. Soon after WWII, at a Sholem-Aleykhem celebration in Czernowitz, he chastised Russian and other Jews among the Holocaust survivors for escaping from the Soviet Union. His published books include: Geslekh un gasn, lider 1926-1930 (Alleys and streets) (Kharkov: Central Publ., 1930), 188 pp.; Oyfshteyg (Ascent) (Kharkov, 1932), 55 pp.; Komyugisher farmest (Jewish Communist youth competition) (Kiev, 1932), 157 pp.; Erdn kolvirtishe (Earthen collective farm) (Minsk, 1934), 94 pp.; Af der vakh (On guard), poetry (Kiev-Kharkov, 1934), 137 pp.; Fun fuln hartsn, lider (With a full heart, poems) (Kiev-Kharkov, 1935), 165 pp.; Heymland, lider (Homeland, poetry) (Kiev, 1939), 204 pp., with drawings by A. Fayershtuk; Libe (Love), poetry (Kiev, 1940), 104 pp., with a picture of the author; Vi a soldat, lider 1941-1945 (As a soldier, poems 1941-1945) (Moscow, 1946), 125 pp.; In lebn farlibt, lirishe lider (In love with life, lyrical poems) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1978), 133 pp. His work also appeared in: Heymland (Homeland) (Moscow, 1943); Tsum zig (To victory) (Moscow, 1944); Shlakhtn (Battles) (Kharkov-Kiev, 1932); and Komsomolye (Communist Youth) (Kiev, 1938). The Sholem-Aleykhem state theater in Kiev in 1947 staged his play Afn gantsn lebn (For a whole life). He also wrote a second play in 1947 entitled An ort unter der zun (A place beneath the sun), as well as a new book of poems entitled Lekhayim (To life). Together with the Kharkov poet Z. Kats, he wrote two volumes of poetry in Russian, entitled [in English translation]: The Soldier and the Banner and Legend (published by the association of Soviet writers in Ukraine, “Radianski Pismenik”). Together with H. Polyanker and Y. Falikman, he was (in 1947) a member of the organizing bureau of the revived section of Yiddish writers in the association of Soviet writers in Ukraine. In 1948 he published poems in Eynikeyt (Unity) in Moscow. He also translated from Ukrainian literature into Yiddish, and his plays were staged in the Ukrainian theater. Among his dramas in Ukrainian, there is one about Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of printing, translated by the Soviet Jewish writer M. Danyel (Daniel Meierovich). During the Stalinist persecutions of Yiddish culture, Talalayevski was arrested and sentenced to ten years of exile to a camp in Central Asia. He was later rehabilitated after Stalin’s death and settled in Kiev. He published several novels in Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland): Heyse hertser (Warm hearts) 11-12 (1970); Geknipt un gebundn (Closely linked) 11-12 (1974); and Yorshim (Heirs) 8-10 (1979); and a long story, Der mames bukh (Mother’s book) 3-5 (1977). He died in Kiev.
Sources: A. Holdes, in Farmest (Kharkov) (May-June 1934); I. Druker, in Farmest (February 1936); Druker, in Sovetishe literatur (Kiev) (February 1938); N. Y. Gotlib, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (October 3, 1941); Gotlib, Sovetishe shrayber (Soviet writers) (Montreal, 1945), pp. 51-52; A. Kushnirov, in Naye prese (Paris) (July 27, 1945); Kushnirov, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (February 4, 1947); Kushnirov, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (April 1947); Y. Dobrushin, in Eynikeyt (August 9, 1945); A. Kipnis, in Eynikeyt (September 25, 1945); H. Vaynraykh, Blut af der zun (Blood on the sun) (New York, 1950), p. 21; Y. Katsenelson, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (March 11, 1956); N. Mayzil, in Dos yidishe shafn un der yidisher shrayber in sovetnfarband (Jewish creation and the Yiddish writer in the Soviet Union) (New York, 1959), see index; oral information from Y. Birnboym in New York; E. I. Simons, Through the Glass of Soviet Literature (New York, 1953), pp. 146, 148, 150.
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 275; and Chaim Beider, Leksikon fun yidishe shrayber in ratn-farband (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union), ed. Boris Sandler and Gennady Estraikh (New York: Congress for Jewish Culture, Inc., 2011), pp. 158-60.]