AYZIK PLATNER (November 17, 1895-July 26, 1961)
He was born in Sokolov Podlyask (Sokołów Podlaski), Poland, into a family of tailors. He studied in religious elementary schools, synagogue study hall, Hassidic synagogues, and yeshivas. He was apprenticed himself to a tailor at age eleven. He worked later in a variety of trades and was also an actor. During WWI he was active in the Labor Zionist movement and lived illegally in Poland and Lithuania. He took part in party conferences and also participated in the fifth world conference of Labor Zionism in Vienna (1919). He began writing at a very young age and debuted in print in 1919 in Warsaw’s Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves). In 1920 he settled in Kovno as a tailor and was a contributor there to the Labor Zionist Arbeter tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper), in which he published features, party publicity, and miniatures under the pen names: Zhuk, Yerukhem, and Kleynman. From 1921 he was publishing poetry in the Kovno monthly Vispe (Islet), Vilner tog (Vilna day), and Bialystok’s Dos naye lebn (The new life). From 1927 until 1932, he lived in the United States, working in sweatshops, studying in the teachers’ seminary of the Workmen’s Circle, and working as a teacher. He was an active member of the writers’ group “Union Square” and later “Proletpen” (Proletarian pen). He published poems in Hamer (Hammer), Feder (Pen), and the anthology Shriftn (Writings) 8. In 1932 he traveled to the Soviet Union, lived in Minsk, and worked for the editorial board of the Minsk daily newspaper Oktyabr (October). He contributed as well to: Der shtern (The star), Ruf (Call), and In shlakhtn (In battle), as well as in the collections In shotn fun tlies, almanakh fun der yidisher proletarisher literatur in di kapitalistishe lender (In the shadow of the gallows, an almanac of Yiddish proletarian literature in the capitalist countries) (Kharkov-Kiev, 1932) and Di bafrayte brider (The liberated brothers), among others; and his work was represented in N. Mayzil’s Amerike in yidishn vort (America in the Yiddish word) (New York, 1955) and Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland). His reportage pieces about travels to the Urals were published in the Moscow journal Nashi dostizheniia (Our achievements) and in the American Communist press. During the years of WWII, he lived in the city of Saransk, before returning to Minsk and taking up writing again. In book form: Vos der tog dertseylt (What the day recounts), poetry (Minsk, 1930), 93 pp.; Fun tsvey lender (Of two countries) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publ., 1933), 24 pp.; Fun amerike (From America), poetry (Minsk, 1934), 128 pp.; A poeme vegn shnayder (A poem about a tailor) (Minsk, 1935), 105 pp.; Tsvishn kinder, dertseylungen funem lebn fun di arbeter kinder in amerike (Among children, stories from the lives of working children in America) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publ., 1938), 60 pp.; Zun afn shvel (Sun on the threshold) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publ., 1940), 100 pp.; Di lid fun der muter (The song of the mother) (1940), 14 pp.; Mit libe un gloybn (With love and beliefs) (Moscow, 1947), 76 pp.; Same tayerste (Very dearest), stories (Minsk, 1948). During the mass arrests of Yiddish writers in 1948, he was arrested and sent to the northern labor camp in Tayshet, Irkutsk district, Siberia, from June 9, 1948 to March 1, 1956. After being freed he lived once again in Minsk and continued writing a great deal. He published numerous translations in Russian and especially Byelorussian journals and anthologies. In the last years of his life, he was working on a book on the murdered Soviet Yiddish writers, to be entitled Vegn di vos feln undz (About those whom we are missing). Several chapters of it appeared in Sovetish heymland in Moscow and in Folksshtime (Voice of the people) and Shriftn (Writings) in Warsaw. His translations into Russian and Byelorussian include: Sol’ zhytstsia (Salt of life), children’s poems (Minsk, 1957); Sol’ zhizni, stikhi (Salt of life, poetry) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1961), 103 pp.; several book of children’s poetry; and a volume of stories in Byelorussian. Posthumously: Di zalts fun lebn, oysgeveylte verk (The salt of life, selected work) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1976), 134 pp. He died at the Lithuanian spa of Palanga and was buried in Minsk. In his bequest was a book of poetry prepared for publication.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Moyshe Olgin, in Hamer (New York) (December 1930); Kh. Dunets, in Shtern (Minsk) (October-November 1930); A. Pomerants, in Proletpen (Kiev) (1935); Pomerants, Di sovetishe haruge malkhes (The [Jewish writers] murdered by the Soviet government) (Buenos Aires, 1962), pp. 398-413; H. Smolyar, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (May 22, 1945); Nakhmen Mayzel, Dos yidishe shafn un der yidisher shrayber in sovetnfarband (Jewish creation and the Jewish writer in the Soviet Union) (New York, 1959), see index; Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index.
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 431; 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. 282-83.]