Tuesday 17 November 2015


HERSHL DIAMANT (July 15, 1911-June 23, 1943)

            He was a Soviet Yiddish poet, born in the village of Veliki Lug (Velyky Luh), Volhynia, Ukraine; his father was a miller. The family later moved for a short time to the nearby town of Brod (Brid) and from there on to a village known as Patshta Rudnia. He saw his first Yiddish booklet at age twelve, when he came to study at the Zhitomir (Zhytomyr) Jewish Workers’ School, No. 28. Upon graduation, the young man set out for Kharkov at age seventeen. He supported himself as an unskilled laborer in the construction of the Kharkov “Industrial House,” which at that time was to be not only the largest brick house in the Ukrainian capital, but generally the first skyscraper in the country. His poems first appeared in Soviet Yiddish monthly journals in 1927-1928. He published his first booklet, Shvartserd (Black-earth), in 1932. On the jacket cover was actually pictured a piece of earth. The poet was unable to part from village scenery, even living in a big city. The critics remarked on the ever evolving mastery of his poetry which breathed with delicate lyricism and sonorous verse. From 1935 he was living in Kiev where he graduated from the Pedagogical Institute and was working as a teacher. In 1936 Diamant published his second poetry collection. Two years later, he was drafted into the army. He served in the Far East, then came to Kiev with a new volume of poems, but he never apparently saw it through to publication. Three months before WWII broke out, he was again mobilized into the military. He died on June 23, 1943 during a battle at the village of Sakharivka, Vinnitsa district, Ukraine.

“From his first poetic steps,” wrote Irme Druker, “Diamant was set off from many young folks who squandered their bit of talent imitating and doing what was not for them a hardship.  Diamant is a juicy, strong poet; his ‘conscience is pure’ and his lips have ‘never slaked his delight.’”

Among his books: Shvartserd, poetry (Kharkov: Literatur un kunst, 1932), 106 pp.; Dos breyte lebn (The wide-open life), poetry (Kiev, 1936), 112 pp.; a poetry cycle entitled “Ongelodene biksl” (Loaded gun) appeared in Lire (Lyre) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1985). His last poem was published in Zay gereyt (Get ready) (Kiev) 5 (1941).  A selection of his poems were published in Russian (1936) and in Ukrainian (1959).  Eight of his poems were published in Yidishe kultur (Jewish culture) in New York: 6 (1981). 

Sources: M. Bashtshevatski, in Shtern (Kharkov) 83 (1933); D. Kurland, in Shtern (Minsk) (January 1934); I. Druker, in Farmest (Kharkov) (February 1937); Eynikeyt (Moscow) (July 25 and August 5, 1942; February 24, 1945; October 7, 1947); B. Mark, in Folksshtime (Poland) 40 (1947); Sovetish heymland, Materyaln far a leksikon fun der yidisher sovetisher literatur (Materials for a handbook of Soviet Jewish literature) (September 1975); information from Diamant’s brother Moyshe in Israel.

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 195; 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), p. 101.]

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