KHANE LEVIN (May 16, 1900-January 19, 1969)
She was born in Ekaterinoslav (now, Dnepropetrovsk), Ukraine, the daughter of a gravedigger. She studied in a Russian and a Jewish school, later working as a tailor and a clerk in a shop. After the 1917 Revolution, she graduated from a pedagogical institute and worked for a time as a teacher in Jewish schools. In her youth, she began writing poetry in Russian, though under the influence of the poet Leyb Naydus who was in Ekaterinoslav in 1915, she switched to Yiddish. In 1918 she published her first poems in the weekly Folks-blat (People’s newspaper), the anthology Kunst-ring (Art circle), and F. Haylpern’s collection Vinter (Winter). In the years of the Russian civil war, she served in the Red Army—this period in her life was later reflected in her poem “Eyne vi a sakh andere” (One like many others). Beginning in the 1920s, her poems and stories were published in various Yiddish publications. Over the years 1921-1935, her poems appeared in such serials as: Trep (Stairs), Di royte velt (The red world), Vusp (Ukrainian Proletarian Writers Group), Prolit (Proletarian literature), Shlakhtn (Battles), Almanakh fun yidishe sovetishe shrayber (Almanac of Soviet Yiddish writers), Der shtern (The star), and Sovetishe literatur (Soviet literature)—some of her poems appeared in Ezra Korman’s anthology, Yidishe dikhterins (Jewish women poets) (Chicago, 1928). In 1929 her first collection of poems, entitled Tsushtayer (Contribution) was published in Kharkov (142 pp.)—its principal motifs were among the best of women’s lyrical poetry, and later she created an original poetry of maternal figures. Children’s poetry which she wrote throughout her life constituted the second major layer of her work. Until Hitler’s attack on Russia, she was living in Kharkov, and she was evacuated from there in 1941 to Buzuluk, Chkalov district. In 1945 she was in Moscow, and she published work in Eynikeyt (Unity), Heymland (Homeland), and in the Ukrainian literary-artistic almanac Der shtern. In her last volume of poetry, entitled In a gute sho (At a good time) (Kiev-Lvov, 1940), 99 pp., is included effectively the best work that she wrote over a long period of time for children: on animals (“Der ber” [The bear], “Di kats hot moyre far a frost” [The cat fears freezing weather]), nature stories (“A regn” [A rainfall]. “Feygl flien” [Birds fly]), children’s ways (“Mariane helft der mamen” [Mariane helps her mother], “Broyges” [Anger], “A shtile shpil” [A quiet game]). She also composed prose; in 1943 her collection of stories, Af shrit un trit (Every step of the way) (Moscow: Der Emes, 44 pp.) appeared, and it included stories from the war years. Other books include: Kleynikeytn (Trifles), poetry (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian state publishers for national minorities, 1933), 239 pp.; Oyg af oyg (Vis-à-vis) (Kharkov, 1933), 147 pp.; Di yingere fun mir (Those younger than me), poetry (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian state publishers for national minorities, 1934), 175 pp.; A mayse vegn a feld-gandz, a lerkhe un a suslik (A story about a wild goose, a skylark, and a gopher) (Kharkov-Odessa, 1937), 19 pp.; Vilenke un maye (Vilenka and Maya) (Warsaw: Kinder Fraynd, 1937), 16 pp.; Af der zuniker zayt (On the sunny side) (Kharkov-Odessa, 1938), 52 pp.; Eygns (One’s own), poetry (Kiev, 1940), 90 pp. She also prepared for publication a work of prose entitled Ksenye lopatinska dertseylt (Ksenye Lopatinska recounts). Her poems were reissued in various Yiddish journals outside Russia, as well as in the IKUF (Jewish cultural association) almanac Af naye vegn (On new paths) (New York, 1949). She died in Kharkov.
As N. Oyslender noted, “In the Soviet Union, Khane Levin was the first poetess in the Soviet Union who began to seek out her own terrain for the development of a woman’s poetry…. The distance was not so great separating the Soviet poetess from the woman of the past in the basement, and Khane Levin carried forth to our own time this beautiful folk heritage: the lyrical sincerity, the authentic language of genuine human feeling, which over the course of the generations both caressed and tempered the Jewish woman of the people.” Her poems were included as well in the first issue of Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland) (Moscow, 1962).
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft (New York) (November 1928; February 1930); Y. Dobrushin, in Di royte velt (Kharkov) (November-December 1929); Dobrushin, ed., In iberboy, literarishe kritishe artiklen (Under reconstruction, literary critical articles) (Moscow, 1932); N. Mayzil, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (May 24, 1929); Mayzil, Dos yidishe shafn un der yidisher arbeter in sovetn-farband (Jewish creation and the Jewish worker in the Soviet Union) (New York, 1959), see index; Mayzil, Tsurikblikn un perspektivn (Retrospectives and perspectives) (Tel Aviv, 1962), see index; Literaturnaia entsiklopediya (Literary encyclopedia) (Moscow, 1932), p. 134; V. Vitkin, in Shtern (Minsk) (January 1934); R. Nevardovska, in Tsukunft (December 1934); H. Beryazkin, in Shtern (April 1936); A. Holdes, in Sovetishe literatur (Kiev) (September 1939); A. Pomerants, A meydl fun minsk (A girl from Minsk) (New York, 1942), p. 73; I. Fefer, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (February 7, 1943); A. Kushnirov, in Naye prese (Paris) (July 27, 1945); N. Y. Gotlib, Sovetishe shrayber (Soviet writers) (Montreal, 1945), pp. 31-34; B. Mark, in Folks-shtime (Lodz) 49 (1947); Mark, in Yidishe shriftn (Warsaw) (November 1960); Y. Yanasovitsh, in Di naye tsayt (Buenos Aires) (October 22, 1953); N. Oyslender, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (October 1960); Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index; Ernest I. Simons, Through the Glass of Soviet Literature (New York, 1953), pp. 146-48.
Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 346; 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. 214-15.