Thursday 28 April 2016


YAKER VARSHAVSKI (JAKIR WARSZAWSKI) (March 14, 1885-Summer 1942)
            He was born in Mlave (Mława), Poland, into a Hassidic merchant household.  He studied in religious elementary school, in the shtibl (small prayer house) of the Alexander Hassidim, and secular knowledge and foreign languages through self-study.  He was a friend in his youth of Yoysef Opatoshu, with whom he studied introspective Hassidic texts, Kabbala, the Jewish Enlightenment, and Hassidism.  From his youth he was active in the community, principally in the Zionist movement.  He was cofounder of the first library in Mlave (1904).  He worked as a private Hebrew teacher and as a bookkeeper in the local Jewish savings and loan.  He was also a traveling emissary for the Zionist central bureau for Poland, as well as a Hebrew teacher in Gostynin and in the Plotsk Jewish high school.  As a newspaper correspondent for Warsaw’s Haynt (Today), he accompanied an excursion to Israel in 1914, later inspiring the Jewish world with his reports from the trip.  For many years he was an instructor at the Jewish National Fund.  He debuted in print in Hebrew with “Tsiyurim” (Designs), full of spiritual images and sketches of nature, in Hadegel (The banner) in London (1908), and in Y. Ḥ. Brenner’s Hameorer (The awakening) in London.  In Yiddish he debuted in Roman-tsaytung (Fiction newspaper) in Warsaw (1909), and thereafter published in: Yudishe vokhnblat (Jewish weekly newspaper), Der fraynd (The friend), Unzer lebn (Our life), Velt-shpigl (World mirror), Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves), Unzer ekspres (Our express), and Haynt—all in Warsaw—in which he published stories, sketches, and current events articles; he also wrote for the Forverts (Forward) in New York (receiving first prize for his sketch “Dokter rabinovitsh” [Dr. Rabinovich] in a Forverts competition in 1931); and he contributed to, and for a time served as editorial secretary of, Hatsfira (The siren) under the editorship of Yosef Heftman.  He also placed work in Dovid Frishman’s Hador (The generation), Reshafim (Sparks), and Baderekh (On the road)—in Warsaw, as well as in other Yiddish and Hebrew periodicals in the Diaspora and in Israel.  His books include: Min hamoledet (From the motherland), travel impressions from the land of Israel, Egypt, and the Orient (Warsaw, 1919), 160 pp.; Hegyonot vezaazuim (Reason and tribulations), philosophical considerations (Warsaw, 1919), 148 pp.; Maalot umoradot (Ups and downs), stories and sketches (Warsaw, 1929), 196 pp.; Hakore hatsair (The young reader), a series of booklets of illustrated stories for young people (Warsaw, 1937).  In Yiddish: Di letste, fun mayn khasidishe heym (The last ones, from my Hassidic home), stories of Jewish circumstances and Hassidic life in the Polish shtetl, portions of which were published in the anthology Di yidishe proze in poyln tsvishn beyde velt-milhomes (Yiddish prose in Poland between the two world wars) (New York, 1947) and in Pinkes mlave (Records of Mlave) (New York, 1950).  His two books—Fun der heym (From home), scenes from the shtetl, and Dos un yents (This one and that one), features, current events, Zionist, and pedagogical articles and essays—were typeset in 1939, but were never published because of the war.  He published as well under such pen names as: Ben Aharon and Y. Varshai.  “Yaker loved seclusion, a blade of grass, a pebble, a cabin, a mound of soil,” wrote Y. Opatoshu.  “Not a single thing passed him by.  He observed everything with his eyeglasses.  The least little thing was in his eyes deserving of life.”  Until September 1939 he worked as a Hebrew teacher in the community schools in Warsaw.  Later he was confined to the ghetto and worked as a clerk in the work office.  He wrote memoirs from the war and the ghetto, as well as a series of stories.  During the selection in the summer of 1942, the Nazis murdered him.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; M. Natish, in Naye folkstsaytung (Warsaw) (November 30, 1928); Y. Perle, in Moment (Warsaw) (December 3, 1928); Y. M. Nayman, in Di yidishe velt (Vilna) (December 1928); Ab. Cahan, in Forverts (New York) (May 24, 1931); Dr. R. Feldshuh, Yidisher gezelshaftlekher leksikon (Jewish communal handbook) (Warsaw, 1939), p. 900; D. Perski, in Hadoar (New York) (May 3, 1946); Yanos Turkov, Azoy iz es geven (That’s how it was) (Buenos Aires, 1948), p. 246; Y. Y. Trunk, Di yidishe proze in poyln (Yiddish prose in Poland) (Buenos Aires, 1949), p. 154; Y. Opatoshu, B. Varshavski, A. D. Vinditski, and Dr. Y. Rozental, in Pinkes mlave (New York, 1950); Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum, Notitsn fun varshever geto (Notices from the Warsaw Ghetto) (Warsaw, 1952), p. 297; B. Mark, Umgekumene shrayber fun di getos un lagern (Murdered writers from the ghettos and camps) (Warsaw, 1954), p. 67; Kh. Finkelshteyn, in Fun noentn over (New York) 2 (1956); M. Flakser, in Fun noentn over (New York) 3 (1957), p. 379.
Khayim Leyb Fuks

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