Monday, 22 May 2017


KHAYIM LEVIN (1907-1942)
            He was born in Homel (Gomel), Byelorussia.  His father Sholem Levin took part in the revolutionary movement and was arrested and deported.  In the early 1920s, Khayim studied in the Jewish pedagogical technical school in Homel and later in the Minsk teachers’ seminary.  He debuted in print in Minsk with poems and stories in the Yiddish press.  In the very first issue of Shtern (Star) in Minsk, he published a story entitled “Fertsn” (Fourteen), and in the second issue he continued with excerpts from a long poem entitled “Hirsh lekert” (Hirsh Lekert).  In the fourth issue (1926) of the journal, he published his poetry cycle “Fun shvartsn band” (From the black book), dedicated to the Russian poet Sergei Yesenin who had committed suicide the previous year.  When the anthology Nayerd (New earth), edited by Y. Dobrushin, was published in Moscow, Levin’s work appeared side by side with a number of other beginners in Soviet Yiddish literature.  He went on to travel through cities and towns, living in Homel, Minsk, Birobidzhan, Odessa, and Leningrad.  In 1937 he made a trip to the Arctic on the icebreaker Yermak and published a series of reports from the expedition in the Yiddish and Russian press.  A heroic chapter in his life and work took place in Birobidzhan, whence he arrived with the first echelons of Jewish immigrants.  In the first issue of Birobidzhaner shtern (Birobidzhan star), dated October 30, 1930, he placed a poem dedicated to the nature of the Taiga.  He did not, though, remain in Bironidzhan.  WWII found him in Leningrad where he was working as a journalist for the local newspaper Sovetskaia Baltika (Soviet Baltic).  In 1941 he graduated by correspondence from the literature department of the Herzen Pedagogical Institute.  In 1942, according to some information, he died during the siege of Leningrad in a military hospital.  His poetry also appeared in: Der yunger arbeter (The young laborer), Oktyobr (October), and Shtern (Star)—in Minsk.  It also was included in Birebidzhan (Birobidzhan) (Moscow, 1936).

Sources: M. Litvakov, In umru (In anxiety), vol. 2 (Moscow: Shul un bukh, 1926), p. 207; B. Orshanski, in Tsaytshrift (Minsk) 5 (1931), pp. 38. 45, 47; Y. Bronshteyn, Problemen fun leninishn etap in der literatur-kentenish (Problems of the Leninist stage in literary knowledge) (Minsk, 1932), p. 92; A. Abtshuk, Etyudn un materyaln (Studies and materials) (Kharkov, 1934), p. 236; N. Y. Gotlib, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (April 15, 1955); Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index; Sh. Gordon, in Sovetish heymland 6 (1978).
Benyomen Elis

[Additional information from: 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), p. 214.]

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