Tuesday, 2 May 2017


MENDL LIFSHITS (January 14, 1907-May 10, 1983)
            He was born in the village of Nestanovitsh (Nestanovichi), Byelorussia.  He attended religious primary school, later graduating from the Byelorussian state university.  He debuted in print with poetry in 1923.  The main themes of his poetry were social lyrics and philosophical deliberations.  From that point forward, he published poems in the Minsk poetry anthology Kep (Heads), Sovetishe vaysrusland, literarishe zamlung (Soviet Byelorussia, literary collection), Shtern (Star) in Minsk, Atake, almanakh fun roytarmeyishn landshuts-literatur (Attack, almanac of the Red Army’s national defense literature), Tsaytshrift (Periodical), Oktyabr (October), the literary collection Di bafrayte brider (The liberated brothers), and Moscow’s Emes (Truth), among others.  Until 1941 he lived in Minsk where he was employed in the general writers’ union as a consultant on manuscripts sent in by young writers.  He was one of the most productive builders of Yiddish literature in Byelorussia.  Over the years 1941-1944, he was evacuated and lived in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.  In 1945 he settled near Moscow in the city of Krasnogorsk, and there he contributed to the newspaper Eynikeyt (Unity).  He also published in numerous publications outside Russia.  He authored the books: Mit heysn trop (With fervent step), poetry (Minsk, 1932), 60 pp.; Mayne un ayere lider (Mine and your poems) (Moscow-Kharkov-Minsk: Central Publ., 1934), 75 pp.; Lider (Poetry) (Minsk: State Publ., 1934), 113 pp.; Yunge yorn, poeme (Youth, a poem) (Minsk: State Publ., 1935), 71 pp.; Naye lider (New poems) (Minsk, 1936), 92 pp.; Feter (Uncle), poetry (Minsk, 1936), 42 pp.; Mit alemen tsuzamen, lider (With everyone together, poetry) (Minsk, 1939), 112 pp.; Hozikhe (Minsk, 1939), 8 pp.; Unter a mazldikn shtern (Under a lucky star), poetry (Minsk, 1940), 155 pp.; Iber toyzent verter (Over a thousand words) (Moscow, 1947), 112 pp.; Ba zikh in der heym, geveylte lider (By oneself at home, selected poems) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1967), 167 pp.; A zun mit a regn (A sun with rain) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1977), 174 pp.; and a number of volumes of poetry in Russian.  He translated into Yiddish: Aleksander Barta, A yingele farkert (A little boy turned all around) (Minsk, 1935), 20 pp.; and V. V. Ivanov, Pantsertsug 14-69 (Armored train 14-69 [original: Bronepoezd 14-69]) (Minsk, 1938), 126 pp.  He also wrote children’s poetry and in the 1930s was often attacked for romanticism, individualism, and for remembering the terror of pogroms too much.  He later avoided the fate of his murdered comrades under Stalin.  He was last living in Moscow.  His poetry was also represented in Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland) 2 (1961) and 3 (1962).  Literary critics praised his poetry for its original and innovative qualities, its individual and poetic language, and its economy of word usage.

Sources: B. Orshanski, in Tsaytshrift (Minsk) 5 (1931); L. Tsart, in Shtern (Minsk) (March 1932); V. Vitkin, in Shtern (September 1932); Kh. Dunyets, in Shtern (December 1932); A. Kushnirov, in Naye prese (Paris) (July 27, 1945); Y. Dobrushin, in Heymland (Moscow) 2 (1947); M. Lastik, in Yidishe shriftn (Lodz) (November 1948); N. Y. Gotlib, in Tsukunft (New York) (May 1951); Y. Katsenelson, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (March 12, 1956); M. Kats, in Morgn-frayhayt (May 26, 1957); N. Mayzil, Dos yidishe shafn un der yidisher shrayber in sovetnfarband (Jewish creation and the Yiddish writer in the Soviet Union) (New York, 1959), see index; S. Rabinovitsh, in Folks-shtinme (Warsaw) (February 6, 1960); Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index; B. Ts. Goldberg, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (January 9, 1962); Folks-shtime (January 3, 1962); Y. Lyubomirski, in Sovetish heymland (Moscow) 6 (1962).
Benyomen Elis

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 340; 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. 208-9.]

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