LIPE REZNIK (August 15, 1890-April 5, 1944)
The author of poetry, stories, and plays, he was a teacher and translator as well, born in Makarov (Makariv), Kiev district, Ukraine, the elder brother of Yankev Reznik. He was raised in Chernobyl, where his father was a schoolteacher and cantor. He studied in religious elementary school and yeshiva, and at age fourteen he went to work. In 1910 he moved to Kiev and entered an art school. Over the years 1912-1914, he was an auditor at a pedagogical course of study in Grodno. Until 1917, he worked as a teacher in private Jewish schools. After the Revolution he worked as an administrator in a Jewish school in Kiev. He then passed the examinations for an external student and entered the physics and mathematics faculty of Kiev University. In 1920 he was living in Moscow and working as a teacher, before returning to Kiev in 1921 where he worked in children’s homes and schools. Until 1929 he taught Yiddish language and literature and edited Pedagogisher byuletin (Pedagogical bulletin) in Kiev. After completing his student research position in the philology section at the institute for Jewish culture, he worked as an administrator of the linguistics department and lecturer on social education at the pedagogical institute.
His literary work began with a reworking of the children’s book Der alter seyfer (The old text) (Kiev: Kunst-farlag, 1914). After a lengthy break, he made his debut with poetry in the collection Oyfgang (Arise) (Kiev, 1919). From that point, he contributed poems, stories, plays, and articles on Yiddish language and pedagogy to: the collection Eygns (One’s own) 2 (Kiev, 1920); Shtrom (Current) in Moscow; Di royte velt (The red world) and Yunge gvardye (Young guard) in Kharkov; Di yidish shprakh (The Yiddish language) in Kiev; Ukrayine (Ukraine), Farmest (Challenge), Forpost (Outpost), Sovetish (Soviet), Sovetishe literatur (Soviet literature), and other Soviet publications; the anthology Sambatyen (Sambation) in Riga; the collection Khalyastre (Gang) in Warsaw; and Hamer (Hammer) and Frayhayt (Freedom) in New York; among others. As a pedagogue, he also wrote for Tsu hilf dem shtetldikn lerer (Aid to the teacher in town) (Kiev, 1927) and Zhurnal far praktish yidish shprakhvisn (Journal for practical Yiddish linguistics) (1927), in which he published such essays as: “Vegn der prepozitsye fun” (On the preposition fun), “Vegn der predikativer grupe” (On the predicative group), and “Vegn stil un shprakh fun itsik kipnis” (On the style and language of Itsik Kipnis). He edited or co-edited: Sholem-Aleichem, Mayses (Stories) (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1925), 47 pp.; Sholem-aleykhem, zayne kindershe un inglshe yorn, kapitlen fun sholem-aleykhems avtobyografye (Sholem-Aleichem, his childhood and youth, chapters from Sholem-Aleichem’s autobiography), with Shimen Dobin (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1926), 96 pp.; and the children’s magazine Freyd (Joy). His poetry appeared in: Yugnt (Youth) in Kharkov (1922); Ezra Korman’s Brenendike brikn in der nayer yidisher dikhtung fun ukraine (Burning bridges in modern Yiddish poetry from Ukraine) (Berlin: Idisher literarisher farlag, 1923); Shlakhtn (Battles) in Kharkov-Kiev (1932); Tsum zig (Toward victory); and Af naye vegn (Along new pathways). His own work would include (in addition to what has been mentioned above): In bleykhe oyfgangen (In ghostly apparitions), poetry (Kiev: State Publ., 1921), 30 pp.; Samet (Velvet), poetry (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1922), 36 pp.; Ufshtand, pyese in dray aktn (Resistance, a play in three acts) (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1928), 78 pp.; Heym (Home) (Kharkov: Central Publ., 1929), 143 pp.; Azoy iz geven, rekrut, pyese in fir aktn (11 bilder) loyt aksenfeldn (As it was, Recruit, a play in four acts, eleven scenes, following [Yisroel] Aksenfeld) (Kiev-Kharkov: USSR state publishers for national minorities, 1935), 104 pp.; Gantsfri (Early morning), poetry (Moscow: Emes, 1935), 112 pp.; Sheve (Sheve), a story (Kiev-Kharkov: USSR state publishers for national minorities, 1935), 15 pp.; Donye (Donye) (Kiev, 1939), 87 pp.; Rum (Glory), poetry (Kiev, 1939), 26 pp.; In yene teg (In those days), a play (Kiev, 1940), 123 pp. Reznik also had several unpublished plays: Di letste shvartse geto (The last black ghetto), following O’Neill; Shvester (Sister), following Y. L. Perets; and Khasene gehat (Married). For a time he was editor of the “School and Pioneer Library” for the Kiev publishing house “Kultur-lige” (Culture league). And, for this publisher, he translated a series of works: Maxim Gorky, Naynter yanver (January 9) (1926, 1930); Nikolai Tikhonov, Sami (Sami); Vladimir Korolenko, Kinder fun keler (Underground children [original: Deti podzemel’ia]) (1927); Leon Trotsky, Ahin un tsurik (Here and back) (1926); Ug-lomi, a mayse fun shteyn tkufe (Ugh-Lomi, a story from the stone age) (1927); A. S. Novikov-Priboi, Afn grunt fun yam (At the bottom of the sea) (1927); and Jack London, Dertseylungen (Stories) (1925, 1930); among others. Translations with other publishers include: Kalevara (Kalevara); Aleksandr Pushkin, Boris godunov (Boris Godunov); poems by Taras Shevchenko; stories by Chekhov; and more. A special place in his translations was assumed by a series of Hebrew poems from the Spanish era by Yehuda Halevi, Ibn Gavirol, Avraham Ibn-Ezra, and others. It is worth mentioning in this context that, in one of Reznik’s first books (Samet), he included in a poetic cycle the poetic reworking of the holiday service in the Temple—something which at that time provoked mockery and fury among Soviet critics. In later years, he also published an array of stories, among them: “Di vayse shtub” (The white house), “In shkhenesdikn tsimer” (In the neighboring room), and “Valye” (Frill). He died in Kostanay, Kazakhstan, whence he had been evacuated.
“Reznik is one of the most important representatives,” noted Zalmen Reyzen, “of the young Soviet Yiddish lyrical poets [cofounder of the “Kiev group”]. Beginning as a symbolist, he later freed himself from the external signs of symbolism…. He excels with an evolving sense of the culture of the word, and he has given interesting indications of a move on to prose.”
“Lipe Reznik (following Perets Markish),” wrote Y. Gontar, “is one of the founders of Soviet Yiddish poetry,… and Reznik is more than a poet. He is the founder of Soviet Yiddish drama. The fact that Reznik based a number his dramatic works on the writings of Aksenfeld and Y. L. Perets shows that [he] remains true to the Yiddish classical authors.”
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1962), see index; Prolit (Kharkov) 1 (1928); Khatskl Dunets, In shlakhtn (In battle) (Moscow, 1931); Yashe Bronshteyn, Atake, literarishe-kritishe artiklen (Attack, literary critical articles) (Moscow, 1930); Y. Gontar, in Yidishe kultur (New York) 6-7 (1944), p. 92; Hersh Smolyar, in Yidishe shriftn (Warsaw) 7-8 (1965); Arn Vergelis, in Sovetish heymland (Moscow) 7 (1970); Mortkhe Altshuler, Yahadut berit-hamoatsot baaspaklarya shel itonut yidish bepolin, bibliyografya 1945-1970 (The Jews of the Soviet Union from the perspective of the Yiddish press in Poland, bibliography) (Jerusalem, 1975), p. 170; Yidisher teater in eyrope tsvishn beyde velt-milkhomes (Yiddish theater in Europe between the two world wars), vol. 2 (New York, 1971), pp. 366, 378; Yeshurin archive, YIVO (New York).
[Additional information from: 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. 368-69.]