FISHL BIMKO (December 28, 1890-April 7, 1965)
Born in Kielce, Poland, he came from a family of Hassidic rabbis and merchants. His father, Yitskhok, was a Hassid, a speculative thinker, and an impoverished grocer. His mother, Khane, was from a family of children’s teachers, in Włoszczowa, and she helped out in the store. Bimko studied in religious primary school and in the synagogue study hall. At roughly age fifteen, he was captivated by the revolutionary movement, arrested, and spent six months in jail in Kielce. In 1909 he lived for a short while as a political emigrant in Cracow, and thereafter he returned to Kielce and devoted himself to business. In 1917 he was arrested during the German occupation and spent a short time in the Warsaw Citadel. He began writing at age twelve. His first publication—a story entitled “A mayl vegs” (A mile’s journey)—appeared in a Lemberg newspaper. In the Sukkot issue for 1909 of Lodzher tageblat (Lodz daily newspaper), he published a short story: “Dos land fun libe un umshuld” (The land of love and innocence). From that point he published in the Lodz Yiddish press a series of sketches and stories concerned with the living conditions of Jews. In a deeply authentic, juicy, Polish Yiddish, he described the lives of Jews in towns during WWI. A portion of this work had an autobiographical character to it. Influenced by the events of WWI, he wrote up a mystery in light verse entitled “Frok” (Frock coat). In 1912 he published his first book, Di aveyre (The transgression) (Lodz), 32 pp. Bimko brought over to drama and later to comedy his native language, his flair for dialogue, and his realistic, dramatic description. In 1914, his play Afn breg vaysl (On the shore of the Vistula) was staged in Lodz by Julius Adler and Herman Serotsky. From that point, his dramatic pieces were all staged by the best theatrical companies, such as the Vilna Troupe, Maurice Schwartz’s Art Theater, Ben-Tsvi Baratov in Vienna, the Skala Theater in Lodz, Zigmunt Weintraub, Y. Sheyngold, Fraye yidishe folksbine in New York, and in Hebrew translation in Palestine. His plays were exceedingly popular in the Polish hinterland where virtually every Jewish community had a drama circle in the years between the two world wars. In 1916, his first important prose work, Rekrutn (Recruits), was published in Warsaw, 127 pp., and it drew attention to its new subject matter and its robustly realistic writing. Later, his drama Ganovim (Thieves) made a huge impression; it was staged almost everywhere that Yiddish theater existed. The realism of the types in the Jewish underworld with the distinctive Yiddish language of thieves was something new for the Yiddish stage. In 1921 Bimko emigrated to the United States and worked for a number of years in a sweatshop as a stitcher of boots. In 1929 he wrote a long story on an American theme: Ist-sayd (East Side), 131 pp. (reprinted in his selected writings). From then on, he published stories in: Tsukunft (Future), Di tsayt (The times), Fraye arbeter shtime (Free voice of labor), Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal), Tog (Day), Amerikaner (American), and Zamlbikher (Anthologies) edited by Yoysef Opatoshu and H. Leivick, among others. In 1938 he received a literary prize from Ikuf (Jewish Cultural Association).
Among his books in addition to the earlier mentioned Di aveyre and Rekrutn (second printing, Warsaw, 1921, 156 pp.): Ganovim, drame in dray aktn, tsugegebn a verter-fartseykhenish fun ganovim-shprakh (Thieves, a drama in three acts, with the addition of a word list of thieves’ parlance) (Warsaw, 1919), 62 pp.; S’letste vort, stsenisher monolog (The last word, a staged monologue) (Warsaw, 1919), 16 pp.; Di intrige, tragi-komedye in 3 aktn (The intrigue, a tragi-comedy in three acts) (Warsaw, 1920), 56 pp.; Afn breg vaysl, drame in 3 aktn (On the shore of the Vistula, a drama in three acts) (Warsaw, 1921), 123 pp.; Fun krig un fun fridn (From war and from peace), stories (Warsaw, 1920; second printing, 1921), 156 pp.; Farborgene koykhes, drame in 3 aktn (Hidden strength, a drama in three acts) (Warsaw, 1921), 116 pp.; Hele blikn (Light glances) (New York, 1926), 219 pp.; Tunkele geshtaltn (Dark images) (New York, 1926), 270 pp.; Goldene tsoytn (Golden tufts of hair) (New York, 1926), 302 pp. In Warsaw in 1921, a volume of his plays appeared which included: Ganovim, Farborgene koykhes, and Afn breg vaysl. In 1936 the publishing house Tseshinski in Chicago published Binko’s seven-volume Geklibene verk (Collected writings) which included twenty theatrical pieces: dramas, comedies, tragedies, one-acters, and monologues. for a total of 2,362 pages; volume 8 subtitled “In der heykh un in der nider” (Above and below) was comprised of stories and was published by “F. Bimko farlag” (F. Bimko publishers) (New York, 1941), 283 pp.; volume 9, “Kelts” (Kielce), stories, appeared from the same publishing house (New York, 1947), 287 pp.; volume 10, also called “Kelts,” was short novels (New York, 1947), 259 pp. Also, in 1954 (New York) he published: Dos geveyn fun blut (The lament of blood), a three-act drama, 160 pp. In 1967, Afn veg tsum lebn (On the road to life) (New York: CYCO, 1967) was published posthumously in five volumes.
In 1950, Bimko established in the name of his tragically murdered wife, Lyonye, an annual literary prize distributed by the World Congress for Jewish Culture. In 1952 he established a second Lyonye Bimko Prize for the best story in the journal, Di goldene keyt (The golden chain), in Israel. He was living in New York.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater, vol. 1; L. Finkelshteyn, Dortn un do (There and here) (Toronto, 1950); A. Bekerman, F. bimko, der dramaturg un realist (F. Bimko, the playwright and realist) (New York, 1944); Sh. Perlmuter, Yidishe dramaturgn un teater-kompozitors (Jewish playwrights and theatrical composers) (New York, 1952); Dr. A. Mukdoni, “Di emigrantishe drame” (The emigrant drama), Yorbukh fun amopteyl 1 (New York, 1938); Mukdoni, “Teater” (Theater), Tsukunft (New York (May-June 1955); Y. Botoshanski, Pshat (Literally) (Buenos Aires, 1951); Dr. Michael Weichert, in Teater un drame 1 (Vilna, 1926); Sh. Y. Stupnitski, in Lubliner togblat (1917); Y. Entin, in Tsayt (New York) (November 16, 1920); Entin, in Yidisher kemfer (New York) (October 31, 1941); Y. Y. Sigal, in Keneder odler (May 31, 1948); Dr. Y. Shatzky, in Poylishe yidn (Polish Jews) (1937), pp. 23-28; Yankev Glatshteyn, in Yidisher kemfer (1955); Y. Shatzsky, “F. Bimko,” in Enciclopedia dello spettacolo (Encyclopedia of performance) (Rome, 1955), vol. 1 (in Italian); Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft (December 1926); Niger, in Tog (July 12, 1941; October 25, 1941); A. Gordin, Yidish lebn in amerike, in shpigl dun f. bimkos verk (Jewish life in America, in light of the work of F. Bimko) (Buenos Aires, 1957), 341 pp..
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 83.]