MISHE (MIKHAIL) LEV (July 3, 1917-May 23, 2013)
He was born in the town of Pogrebishtshe (Pohrebyshche), Kiev district, Ukraine. In the 1920s he and his family moved to engage in agriculture in the Jewish national district of Stalindorf, Dnepropetrovsk district, where his father was employed in the vineyards. He graduated from the Yiddish department of Moscow’s Lenin Pedagogical Institute. He worked in Moscow’s Central Jewish Library as well as on the editorial board for Emes (Truth) publishers in Moscow. In 1941 he was a cadet in the military’s infantry school in the city of Podolsk. In the fall when the German military assaulted and tried to make its way to Moscow, the cadets in the school took part in bitter fighting. He was seriously wounded and taken into captivity. Lev was kept in camps for Soviet prisoners of war for a year, several times attempting to escape, and when he was ultimately successful, served as a partisan behind the German front lines in Byelorussia; for his service he acquired the rank of chief of staff of a partisan regiment. After the war he returned and settled in Moscow, working for Emes publishers and for the newspaper Eynikeyt (Unity). In late 1948 Emes publishers, the newspaper, and all other Jewish cultural institutions were closed, and so he worked for eleven years in heavy labor. Then, in 1961, when they began to publish Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland), he returned to editorial and writing work. He also worked for the publishing house of “Sovetskii pisatel’” (Soviet writer) as an editor of Yiddish publications. Between 1948 and 1995, he published twelve prose works in Yiddish with this publisher—the main themes being partisan struggles, the heroism of the Soviet people, destruction, and Jewish valor. He was considered one of most talented masters of the documentary genre in Yiddish literature. At night he spent years amassing a large quantity of materials on the anti-fascist resistance, maintaining contact with his former comrades in arms, partisans, and prisoners of the Nazis during WWII. In 1996 he made aliya to Israel and settled in Rehovot. He published literary critical essays on Yiddish writers in the press in Israel, the United States, and other countries. He began published stories in 1936 for Emes in Moscow, later contributing work to the anthologies Sovetish (Soviet) in Moscow and to other Yiddish literary publications in Soviet Russia. In Eynikeyt (1945-1948), he published descriptions of partisans’ life, which were later included in his book Partizanishe vegn (Partisan ways), thirty-three stories (Moscow, 1948), 231 pp. (published also in Russian translation as Partizanskie tropy [Moscow, 1958], 270 pp.). In Sovetish heymland 3 (1961), he published his story “Ven nit di fraynd mayne” (If it were not my friends), a description of the feelings and senses of a Jewish soldier and partisan during WWII. “The entire story was written,” noted A. Leyeles, “with talent in good Yiddish and with genuine artistic frugality…. Mishe Lev is a literary force of important stature.” In 1997 he was awarded the literary prize given in the names of the brothers Hersh and Gershon Segal; in 2000, he received the Borekh Shvartsman Prize and in 2001 the Dovid Hofshteyn Prize from the union of Yiddish writers and journalists in Israel for literary work in Yiddish. Later works include: Kimat a legende (Almost a legend) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1973), 406 pp.; Der mishpet nokhn urteyl, roman, dertseylungen (Trial after the sentence, novel, stories) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1980), 152 pp.; Lange shotns, roman (Long shadows, a novel) (Moscow, 1988), 491 pp.; Sobibor (Sobibor) (Tel Aviv, 2002), 486 pp.; Literarishe portretn, shraybers un kinstlers fun mayn dor (Literary portraits, writers and artists from my generation) (Tel Aviv, 2007), 342 pp. His works also appeared in Russian and Hebrew. He died in Rehovot, Israel.
Sources: Y. Dobrushin and A. D. Miral, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (March 18, 1948); N. Mayzil, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (March 1950); Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index; Sovetish heymland (Moscow) 3 (1961); A. Leyeles, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (March 11, 1962); B. Ts. Goldberg, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (April 1, 1962); Sovetish heymland, Materyaln far a leksikon fun der yidisher sovetisher literatur (Materials for a handbook of Soviet Jewish literature) (September 1975).
Khayim Leyb Fuks
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 342; 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. 211-12.]