HENEKH SHVEDIK (March 4, 1914-October 11, 1942)
He was a poet, born in Babruysk, Byelorussia. For a short time, he went with his older brother to Birobidzhan and worked there on a collective farm; he wrote poems at the time dedicated to Birobidzhan. After a tragic accident in which his brother was killed, he returned to Byelorussia and graduated in Minsk from a local workers’ faculty (Arbfak), and he later studied in the Yiddish department of the Minsk pedagogical institute. After the liquidation of Yiddish schools in the Soviet Union, he became a teacher of Russian language and literature. When the war came to Minsk, he was evacuated with his wife Betye and other writers to Uzbekistan. He volunteered in 1942 to fight on the front. One month prior to his death at the front in Smolensk, he sent a packet of poems to his wife in Namagan, Uzbekistan.
He debuted in print in 1929 with poems in Minsk’s Oktyabr (October). He wrote poems as well for: Shtern (Star) in Minsk, Farmest (Competition), and other Soviet Yiddish serial publications. His poems also appeared in: Birebidzhan (Birobidzhan) (Moscow, 1936); Di bafrayte brider (The liberated brothers) (Minsk, 1939); Sovetishe vaysrusland (Soviet Byelorussia) (Minsk, 1935); Tsum zig (Toward victory) (Moscow, 1944); and Af naye vegn (Along new pathways) (New York, 1944). His volumes of poetry include: Start, lider (Take-off, poems) (Minsk: State Publ., 1934), 148 pp.; Undzer dzhim (Our Jim) (Minsk: State Publ., 1935), 50 pp., a children’s poem about a fellow from Africa—it was translated into Russia, Byelorussian, and other languages; Lider (Poetry) (Minsk: State Publ., 1939), 103 pp. He translated Leo Tolstoy’s Filipok (Filipok) (Minsk: State Publ., 1938), 16 pp., and Sevastopoler dertseylungen, 1855-1856 (Sevastopol stories, 1855-1856 [original: Sevastopolʹskiye razskazy]) (Minsk: State Publ., 1938), 129 pp. A volume of his poems and translations into Byelorussian was published in 1962, entitled Lirika (Lyric poetry). “Before the war,” noted Yisroel Serebriani, “Shvedik’s poems excelled in their robust, youthful fantasies and dreams, childlike playfulness, and light rhythms…. [His] lyrical-philosophical poems of the sea were a subsequent bold step…. [In his wartime poetry,] one senses the maturity of an independent, original poet, who thinks, feels, believes, and sees in a wholly new way.”
Sources: Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1962), see index; Yisroel Serebriani, in Yidishe shriftn (Warsaw) 4 (1961); Aleksander Pomerants, Di sovetishe haruge malkhes, tsu zeyer 10-tn yortsayt, vegn dem tragishn goyrl fun di yidishe shraybers un der yidisher literatur in sovetnland (The [Jewish writers] murdered by the Soviet government, on their tenth anniversary of their deaths, concerning the tragic fate of the Yiddish writers and Yiddish literature in the Soviet Union) (Buenos Aires: YIVO, 1962), p. 241; 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. 382-83.]