Wednesday 23 March 2016


MOYSHE HELMOND (1907-1973)

            He was a poet, folklorist, and translator, born in the town of Volodars'k-Volyns'kyy (Kutuzovo), Zhytomyr district, Ukraine. He was the son of Arn Helmond. He graduated from a pedagogical senior high school and worked as a teacher.  For several years he was an educator in a children’s town (kindergarten) dubbed “Komintern” (Comintern, or Communist International).  He traveled through the Soviet Union to collect material for an anthology of folk poetry, principally from peoples in the south.  During in a trip to the Dagestan Republic, he got to know the local mountain Jews and their distinctive “Yiddish”—the Tat language, from which over the course of years he translated into Yiddish.  He debuted in print with poetry and stories in Yungvald (Young forest) and Pyoner (Pioneer)—in Moscow (1925).  He placed work articles and sketches: Der royter shtern (The red star), Der shtern (The star) in Kharkov, and Der emes (The truth) in Moscow, among other serials.  Together with his older brother Shmuel, a teacher and poet, he published translations from Russian poetry in various periodicals in Soviet Russia.  Together with Dovid Hofshteyn, he translated songs from various peoples in Russia (the translations were included, at Hofshteyn’s recommendation, in the publication Felker zingen [Peoples sing], Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1939); with Moyshe Khashtshevatski he translated the poems of Aleksandr Blok, Tsvelf (The twelve [original: Dvenadtsatʹ]) and Foterland (Fatherland [original: Otechestvo]), published in an ensemble volume of poetry entitled Zibn portretn (Seven portraits) (Moscow, 1946); and he translated into Yiddish poetry by Aleksandr Pushkin, included in the volume entitled Satire (Satire) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1940), 282 pp. At the same time, he was engaged in collecting folklore, especially among the peoples of the southern regions of the Soviet Union. During WWII he compiled in Yiddish an anthology of folklore and literature by Caucasus mountain Jews, published at the front during the fighting with the Germans. In the Dagestan Republic, he got to know local mountain Jews (Tats), their language, and their folklore.  He published a portion of the folklore and literature by Dagestani Jewish poets in Soviet Jewish works, in Yidishe kultur (Jewish culture) (New York, 1946-1947), and in Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland) and Di yidishe gas (The Jewish street) in Moscow—among others, “Fun di shirafas,” a poem of the mountain Jews, and from their folk epic, “Shimshen hasheni” (Samson II)—as well as in Yidishe shriftn (Yiddish writings) in Warsaw (1957).  Helmond also published poetry in Russian in various Russian army newspapers during the years of WWII. He also among the first editors of Volf (Vevik) Rabinovitsh’s book of memoirs, Mayn bruder sholem-aleykhem, zikhroynes (My brother Sholem-Aleichem, memoirs) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1939).

Sources: Oyfboy (Riga) (June 1941); Eynikeyt (Moscow) (April 13, 1944; April 14, 1945); Tsukunft (New York) (January 1946); Landsberger togtsaytung (Landsberg) (April 2, 1946); M. Kats, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (November 1946); Y. Yonasovitsh, in Folks-shtime (Lodz) (March 8, 1947); Y. G. in Yidishe shriftn (Warsaw) (December 1957).

Khayim Leyb Fuks 

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 222; and 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. 125-26.]

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