LEYB OLITSKI (LEIB OLITZKY) (1894-September 1, 1975)
Born in Trisk (Turiysk), Poland. He received a Jewish and a general education. He was a Yiddish teacher in the Tsisho (Central Jewish School Organization) schools in Trisk as well as in Warsaw. He was in Warsaw until 1939 and thereafter in Kowel. In 1941, he was in a far-off place in Bashkiria where he performed unskilled labor. From 1942 to 1945, he worked as an attendant in a military hospital in Ufa. In 1945 he was in Moscow, a contributor to the Jewish section of the union of Polish patriots in Russia. In 1946 during the repatriation of Polish citizens, he returned to Poland and settled in Lodz. From 1949 he was living in Warsaw. He served on the editorial board of the publisher “Yidish-bukh” (Jewish book).
He first published in Varshaver almanakh (Warsaw almanac) [Warsaw, 1923], published by the fiction-writers’ association in the Yiddish Literary Union, with a story entitled “Di estraykhishe tlie” (The Austrian gallows). In 1924 his first book appeared: In an okupirt shtetl (In an occupied shtetl) (Warsaw), 263 pp., which portrayed the German occupation, the contraband during the first years of Polish unification. The author had no sympathy for the demoralized and frightened Jews in his shtetl; he actually ridiculed them. “Artistic tact is missing from this story” (Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft, May 1924). His collection of short stories is written in the same tone: In shayn fun flamen (In the glow of flames) (Vilna-Warsaw, 1927), 276 pp. His Mesholim far kinder un groyse (Fables for children and adults) (Warsaw, 1929), 92 pp., has a “proletarian” content. His novel Gerangl (Struggle) (Warsaw, 1932), 576 pp., is tendentious, although written with talent. Olitski’s other books in prose and in verse include: Zun antkegn (Against the sun), short stories for youth (Warsaw, 1933), 108 pp.; Huntman, roman (Dog man, a novel), two printings (Warsaw, 1937), 190 pp.; Vent hobn oyern (The walls have ears), fables (Warsaw, 1938), 100 pp.; Der mentsh vet zayn gut, mesholim (Men will be good, fables) (Lodz, 1947), 96 pp.; Durkh toyt tsum lebn, dertseylungen (Through death to life, stories) (Buenos Aires, 1949), 104 pp.; Mesholim-bukh (Books of fables) (Lodz, 1949), 262 pp.; Opklayb (Selection), short stories (Warsaw, 1953), 343 pp.; Mentsh in klem (Man in a predicament), short stories (Lodz, 1951), 155 pp.; Mitn ponem tsu der zun, mesholim un lider (Facing the sun, fables and poems), among them poems to the Red Army and to the new Poland (Warsaw, 1952), 186 pp.; Zogt di velt a moshl (Tell the world a fable) (Warsaw: Yidbukh, 1956), 341 pp.; Folkstimlekhe baladn (fun der hebreisher dikhtung) (Popular ballads, from Hebrew poetry) (Warsaw: Yidbukh, 1957), 313 pp.; Yeshive-layt (Yeshiva people) (Tel Aviv: Peretz, 1958), 356 pp.; Mentshn fun mayn shtetl (People from my town) (Warsaw: Yidbukh, 1959), 320 pp.; Mayn harts-rayze, yisroel-lider (My heart-trip, Israeli poems) (Tel Aviv: Peretz, 1960), 74 pp.; Shparunes in hartsn (Cracks in the heart) (Tel Aviv: Tur-Arye, 1962), 94 pp.; Fun eygenem feldz (From one’s own cliff) (Tel Aviv: Buk-komitet, 1964), 94 pp.; Vor un vern, naye yisroel-lider (Reality and warning, new Israeli poems) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1967), 110 pp.; Fun goldenem krug, fun der hebreisher dikhtung (From a golden jug, from Hebrew poetry) (Buenos Aires: Kiem, 1968), 265 pp.; Tsum zun in tsahal, lider, leven betsahal, shirim (To my son in the military, poems) (Tel Aviv: Shekediya, 1969), 102 pp.; Af di randn fun tanakh, lider un mesholim (On the edges of the Hebrew Bible, poems and stories) (Tel Aviv: Eshel, 1969), 105 pp.; In shayn un shotn fun eygenem boym (In the glow and shadow of the same tree) (Tel Aviv: Shekediya, 1970), 166 pp.; Voliner yidn, roman (Jews of Volhynia, a novel) (Tel Aviv: Al hamiftan, 1973), 454 pp.; Fun der heym un fun der fremd, dertseylungen (From home and from afar, stories) (Tel Aviv:Yisroel-bukh, 1976), 186 pp.; Lider tsu a bruder (Poems to a brother), with Mates Olitski (Tel Aviv: Nakhmeni, 1964), 62 pp.
His translations include: Krilovs mesholim (Krylov’s fables), with an afterword concerning the fable generally and Krylov’s fables specifically (Warsaw, 1950), 250 pp.; Tsigeyner (Tsygany = Gypsies), a narrative poem by A. S. Pushkin (Wrocław, 1949), 32 pp.; Nahum Sokolov’s Ishim (People) as Perzenlekhkeytn un folk (Personalities and people) (Jerusalem: 1965), 401 pp.; and his was translated from Yiddish into Hebrew by D. B. Malkin and Ḥayim Peleg, Dodye koval (Dodye the smith) (Tel Aviv: Am oved, 1968), 244 pp. He also published Eybike kvaln (Eternal springs), collected stories, sayings, and poems from the people (Warsaw, 1953), 106 pp. He edited: Mayn blut iz oysgemisht, lider un gezangen (My blood is mixed, poems and songs), a collection of poems from his murdered brother, the poet Borekh Olitski, with a foreword (New York, 1951), 160 pp.; Dimentn far ale (Diamonds for all), a collection of fables by Jewish writers (Warsaw, 1951), 112 pp.; On a maske (Without a mask), portraits of war provocateurs (Warsaw, 1952), 118 pp. He served on the editorial board of the journal and almanac, Yidishe shriftn (Yiddish writings) (Lodz-Warsaw, 1946-1954). He also compiled (with Y. Rotenberg) a reader for third-graders: Trit bay trit (Step by step) (Warsaw, 1938), 244 pp. He published in Foroys (Forward), Vokhnshrift far literatur (Weekly writings for literature), Varshever almanakh, Literaturishe bleter (Literary leaves), and Naye folkstsaytung (New people’s newspaper), all in Warsaw; Yivo-bleter (YIVO leaves) in Vilna; Yidishe kultur (Jewish culture) in New York; Ikuf (IKUF [Jewish Cultural Association]) in Buenos Aires; Yidishe shriftn, Dos naye lebn (The new life), and Folks-shtime (Voice of the people) in Poland; as well as in Sovetishe heymland (Soviet homeland) (Moscow, 1943) and Tsum zig (To victory) (Moscow, 1944). Most recent publication: Opklayb (Selection), collected poems (Warsaw, 1955); and Dodye koval, roman (Dodye Koval, a novel) (Warsaw, 1955). He died at Givatayim.
Sources: Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft (May 1924), p. 328; L. Finkelshteyn, in Literaturishe bleter, no. 35 (1932); A. Mark, in Arbeter tsaytung, no. 2 (Warsaw, 1930); Kh. Sh. Kazdan, in Vokhnshrift far literatur, no. 38 (Warsaw, 1932); Y. Rapaport, in Literaturishe bleter, no. 39 (1929); D. Spard, in Yidishe shrift (Warsaw, 1956).
[Translator’s note: Olitski moved to Israel in 1958, and he continued writing and translate into Yiddish.]
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