HERSHL POLYANKER (February 15, 1911-1998)
He was born in Uman, Kiev district, Ukraine, into a family of tailors. His elementary schooling took place in the local school for working youth. At seventeen he came to Kiev where he studied in a trade school for cobblers; when he graduated he went to work in a shoe factory. He was active in the Yiddish writers’ section of the Ukrainian writers’ union. He debuted in print with stories about working life in 1932. His first book Koyln (Coal) dealt with the theme of young Jewish men and women come to work in industry. More books followed and he was to become an editor of Sovetishe literatur (Soviet literature). Over the years 1941-1945, he served in the Soviet army and fought on various fronts against the Germans, writing stories and reportage pieces from the front. In 1948 he was purged and exiled to a camp for ten years in the distant North. He was rehabilitated in 1955 and returned to Kiev. In 1971 he brought out his first postwar novel, Der beker fun kolomaye, roman (The baker from Kolomaye, a novel), and afterward he produced one novel after another with colorful, down-to-earth characters. He published stories in the periodicals: Der shtern (The star), Sovetishe literatur, Farmest (Challenge), and Komsomolye (Communist Youth League) in Kiev-Kharkov. He was editor of Der shtern in Kiev in 1948. He also contributed to the almanacs: Af naye vegn (On new roads) and Idishe kultur (Jewish culture) in New York. His books include: Koyln, stories (Kharkov, 1932), 88 pp.; Af yenem breg, dertseylungen (On that side, stories) (Kharkov, 1934), 151 pp.; Zkeynim hobn genumen dos vort (The old folks took the floor), a story (Kiev: Ukrainian state publishers for national minorities, 1937), 14 pp.; Tsveyte bagegenish, roman (Second encounter, a novel) (Kiev: Ukrainian state publishers for national minorities, 1937), 225 pp.; A gast in shtetl, eynakter (A guest in the town, a one-act play) (Kiev: Ukrainian state publishers for national minorities, 1938), 27 pp.; Shoyel der zipnmakher (Joel the sieve maker), a novel (Kiev: Ukrainian state publishers for national minorities, 1938), 210 pp.; Af tseblite stepes, kalinindorfer fartseykhenungen (On steppes in bloom, notes on Kalinindorf) (Kiev: Ukrainian state publishers for national minorities, 1938), 24 pp.; Shmaye gazlen, roman (Shmaye the thief, a novel) (Kiev, 1940), 269 pp., second edition (Moscow: Emes, 1948), 284 pp.; Fun dnyester biz dunay, besaraber fartseykhenungen (From the Dniester to the Danube [River], Bessarabian notes) (Kiev: Ukrainian state publishers for national minorities, 1940), 94 pp.; Feter yoshe, tsvey dertseylungen (Uncle Yoshe, two stories) (Kiev: Ukrainian state publishers for national minorities, 1940), 32 pp.; Nekome, front dertseylungen (Revenge, stories of the front) (Moscow: Emes, 1943), 47 pp.; Der beker fun kolomaye, roman (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1971), 431 pp., which was published serially in Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland) over the years 1964-1966; A yam mit arbet (A sea of work) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1982), 63 pp., supplement to Sovetish heymland (1982); Der lerer fun medzhibozh, roman, dertseylungen (The teacher from Międzyboż, a novel and stories) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1982), 413 pp.; Dertseylungen (Stories) (Moscow, 1982); Der goyrl fun a kinstler (The fate of an artist) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1985), 366 pp.; Geven amol a shtetl, roman (There once was a town, a novel) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1991), 651 pp.; Baym kval, fun mayne notits-bikhlekh (At the source, from my notebooks) (Odessa: Maiak, 1995), 44 pp. He published extensively in Sovetish heymland, of which he served as editor. He also published prolifically in Russian and Ukrainian.
Sources: D. Volkenshteyn, in Sovetishe literatur (Kiev) (July 1939); Y. Nusinov, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (August 5, 1942); A. Kushnirov, in Naye prese (Paris) (July 27, 1945); A. Kipnis, in Eynikeyt (September 25, 1945); N. Mayzil, 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; Y. Yeshurin, 100 yor moderne yidishe literatur, biblyografisher tsushteyer (100 years of modern Yiddish literature, bibliographical contribution) (New York, 1966), p. 189.
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 425; 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. 278-79.]