Tuesday 17 May 2016



            He was a poet, born in the town of Lugyn (Luhyny), Zhytomyr district, Ukraine, into the family of a cobbler. After graduating from the local school, he went to work—initially, as an assistant to a painter, and later he became a scenograph in a regional theater. He grew up in the atmosphere of war, revolution, and civil war. In the early 1920s, Jewish Communists in Soviet Russia called upon village Jews to settle the land in Crimea and southern Ukraine, where new Jewish agricultural colonies were being created, and in 1925 Vaynerman moved to a commune in the Kherson district, where he worked in agriculture. He had already by then made his first literary efforts, and he debuted in print in 1925 with a poem in Der yunger arbeter (The young laborer) in Minsk. This poem was dedicated to village youth who had come to the Kherson steppes with a desire to build a new life: “On the fields of Kherson along the Kherson railway, there arrived joyous railroad cars, a whole group of folks—from Kiev, Podolia, and Volin—had come.” From that point in time, the main theme of his work was the new Jewish village. The manager of the commune sent him off to study in Odessa, and in 1932 he graduated from the Jewish division of the Odessa Institute for Public Education, and he became a contributor to the editorial board of the newspaper Odeser arbeter (Odessa laborer). At that time he had already published his first collections of poetry: In baheftung (United), Fishke, and Erd banayte (Land renewed). When Odeser arbeter was closed down, he spent the years 1937-1941 working as Odessa correspondent for the newspaper Der shtern (The star). With the outbreak of the Nazi-Soviet war, he was mobilized and experienced the war in the army at the front. After WWII, from 1945 to 1948, he was a correspondent for the newspaper Eynikeyt (Unity) in the southern regions of Ukraine. His articles, jottings, and reportage pieces about this area and how its economy was established were interpreted as “economic espionage” on behalf of the United States. He was arrested on March 28, 1950 and sentenced to fifteen years in prison and the Gulag.  He returned to Odessa in 1956, a much disturbed man from these harsh experiences and lived out his last years with mental illness.

His books include: In baheftung, 1925-1928 (United, 1925-1928), poems from the village (Odessa: Ukrainian State Publishers, 1930), 112 pp.; Fishke (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1931), 16 pp.; Erd banayte (Land renewed) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1932), 32 pp.; Far broyt, lozungen, lider tsum zingen, kolektive deklamatsyes (For bread, slogans, songs to sing, collective declamations) (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1932), 37 pp. Kleyn brigade (Little brigade), children’s stories in verse (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1932), 64 pp.; Nakht (Night) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1933), 32 pp.; Goldene tsvaygn, poeme (Golden boughs, a poem) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1935), 236 pp.; In lebn farlibt (In love with the land) (Kiev: Ukrainian state publishers for national minorities, 1940), 80 pp.  His work was also included in: Far der bine: dertseylungen, pyeses, lider (For the stage: stories, plays, poems), with musical notation (ed. Yekhezkl Dobrushin and Elye Gordon) (Moscow: Central People’s Publishers, 1929); Komyug, literarish-kinstlerisher zamlbukh ([Jewish] Communist Youth, literary-artistic anthology) (Moscow: Emes, 1938); Komsomolye (Communist Youth) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1938); and Shlakhtn (Battles) (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1932).

Sources: Sh. Epshteyn, in Di royte velt (Kiev) (March 1930); Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft (New York) (September 1930); R. Kahir, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (February 9, 1931); S. Zhukovski, in Pruvn (Attempts) (Kharkov, 1934), p. 210; N. Y. Gotlib, Sovetishe yidishe shrayber (Soviet Yiddish writers) (Montreal, 1934), pp. 42-43; Y. Katsenelson, in Morgn-fraythayt (March 11, 1956); N. Mayzil, Dos yidishe shafn un der yidisher arbeter in sovetn-farband (Jewish creation and the Jewish worker in the Soviet Union) (New York, 1959), see index.

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 239-40; 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. 139.]


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