Friday 22 April 2016



            She was a poet and prose author, born in the town of Slovatitsh (Sławatycze), Siedlce district, Poland, into an extremely poor, pious family.  Until age seven she received a traditional Orthodox education.  Because of the family’s poverty, they lost their home and lived with her brother in Lukow, and later in the town of Malarita where she earned a living through housework.  She taught herself to read and write.  In 1925 she moved to Israel and for a time worked on kibbutzim, building highways, and later working in a Jewish hospital in Jerusalem until her departure for Soviet Russia.  She was active in the leftist labor movement and was arrested several times and thrown in jail.  She began writing poetry—among them poems of a maid—at age fifteen.  She debuted in print in 1931 in Tel Aviv with the poems “Yerusholaim” (Jerusalem) and “Peysazh” (Scenery) in the publication Mai (May), edited by A. Blay, and later she published poems and stories in: Onheyb (Beginning) and Ani (Me) in Tel Aviv; Nay-lebn (New life) and Amerikaner froyen-zhurnal (American women’s journal) in New York; Idishe zhurnal (Jewish journal) in Toronto; Der shpigl (The mirror) and Di prese (The press) in Buenos Aires; and Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) in Warsaw; among others. In 1931, she published Farnakhtn (Evenings), poems (Tel Aviv: In tsoym), 31 pp. She made her way back to the Soviet Union in 1934 and settled in Birobidzhan. There she worked for Yiddish radio and published poetry, stories, and jottings. She frequently published poems and stories in Soviet publications, particularly in the quarterly Forpost (Outpost), as well as in the newspaper Birebidzhaner shtern (Birobidzhan star) and in the anthology Birebidzhan (Birobidzhan) (Moscow, 1936). She was arrested in 1950 and sent to a forced labor camp in northern Kazakhstan. Her son, Sergo Bengelsdorf, a musician, wrote about his mother in his memoirs: “She found herself in her last years in Keshenev, whence I brought her with a dangerous illness after my father’s death; she was always yearning for Birobidzhan. All of her thoughts, conversations, letters to friends, poems—were full of Birobidzhan.” “Mother returned from the camp,” wrote Bengelsdorf, “a broken woman, forty-nine years of age and looking like an old woman.” From then on, she worked nowhere, received a miserable pension as an invalid, and she only had her written work to support her. No one knew that in the camp she was writing poetry, and only many years later did her son, as he was putting together his mother’s archive, stumble upon a notebook of her camp poems, written with a pencil, and he sent it to be published in Lebns-fragn (Life issues) in Tel Aviv (July-August 1995). She died in Keshenev (Kishinev, Chişinău).

Sources: Zalmen-reyzen arkhiv (Zalmen Reyzen archive) (New York, YIVO); K. Marmor, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (June 15, 1931); Y. Kisin, in Forverts (New York) (October 11, 1931); P. Vyernik, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (March 20, 1932); B. Grin, in Morgn-frayhayt (January 5, 1935); N. Fridman, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (May 17, 1947); Fridman, in Folksshtime (Warsaw) (April 7, 1958); Yaakov, in Lemerḥav (Into the open) (June 26, 1958); M. Unger, in Heymish (Tel Aviv) (February 1959).

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 231; 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), p. 132.]

No comments:

Post a Comment