Wednesday 28 September 2016


LEYB TALALAY (1906-Summer 1943)

            He was a poet, born in the city of Baranovich, Byelorussia. During WWI he moved with his parents to Zaverezh'ye, a village near Minsk in Mogilev district, where his parents became farmers, and he, too, established a connection with agriculture from his childhood. At that time, his first poems were born, dedicated to village life. They later occupied a major place in his first poetry anthology, Mayn snop, mayn ershtling, lider (My sheaf, my firstborn, poetry). He wrote about his brother, the healthy, broad-shouldered harvester with eyes “green as grass,” and about his grandfather who would search for wolves in the forest, and everyone had respect for his fortitude and courage. He later lived in Minsk, where he graduated from a middle school, and then completed a course of study at the Jewish Pedagogical Technicum in Vitebsk. He went on to become a teacher of Yiddish language and literature at one of the Jewish schools in Minsk. Students would often come to him from the Minsk Pedagogical Middle and Senior Schools. Destiny, though, would not allow him to only be a teacher. Over the years 1924-1926, he served in the Red Army, and military motifs became one of the principal themes of his poetry. When WWII broke out, he was called up again in June 1941 to serve in the army as an officer, and he fell at the front in 1943. His poems and stories were published after his death in Yiddish works in Russia and abroad.

            He debuted in print with a poem in Der yunger arbeter (The young worker) in Minsk (1924), and from that point on he contributed poetry and stories to: Der yunger pyoner (The young pioneer), Oktyabr (October), Shtern (Star), Atake, almanakh fun roytarmeyishn landshuts-literatur (Attack, almanac of the Red Army’s national defense literature) in 1934, and Sovetishe vaysrusland, literarishe zamlung (Soviet Byelorussia, literary collection) in 1935—in Minsk; Yungvald (Young forest), Emes (Truth), Pyoner (Pioneer), and Eynikeyt (Unity)—in Moscow; and Di royte velt (The red world) and Prolit (Proletarian literature) in Kharkov; among others.

            In book form: Mayn snop, mayn ershtling, lider (Minsk, 1932), 75 pp.; In marsh (On the march), poems (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1940), 74 pp. His work, “Di brider fun mayrev-vaysrusland” (The brothers from western Byelorussia), appeared in Bafrayte brider, literarishe zamlung (Liberated brethren, literary anthology) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1939); and his poetry cycle “Di letste shlakht” (The last battle) appeared in the anthology Lire (Lyre) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1985).

Sources: L. Tsart, in Shtern (Minsk) 3 (1932); N. Levin, in Der yunger arbeter (Minsk) 104 (1932); Levin, in Oktyabr (Minsk) 263; Levin, in Shtern (November-December 1940); N. Rubinshteyn, Dos yidishe bukh in sovetn-farband in 1932 (The Yiddish book in the Soviet Union in 1932) (Minsk, 1933); N. Oyslender and Y. Dobrushin, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (May 13, 1944); A. Kushnirov, in Naye prese (Paris) (July 27, 1945); N. Mayzil, in 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), col. 275; 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. 157-58.]

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