Wednesday 23 November 2016


MIKHAIL YO (August 1895-August 1960)
            The pseudonym of Meyer Yafe, he was born in Vitebsk, Byelorussia.  He graduated from high school and a school for painting in Riga.  He was later a watchmaker, a house painter, and an assistant to Cantor Rozovski who introduced him to the Yiddish theater.  During WWI, he served in the Russian army, was wounded on the front, and later returned to Riga, where he became a painter and a decorator at the local Yiddish theater.  He also exhibited his paintings at shows in Latvia and other countries.  He lived in Lodz (1938-1939), and when the Germans attacked Poland, he escaped from there into Russia where he was arrested and was for many years confined in Soviet prisons and labor camps.  He was freed in 1956 and returned to settle in Riga.  He began writing in his youth in Russian, publishing articles on painting and theater in Pribaltiiskii krai (Baltic rim) in Riga and later in Pravda (Truth) in Moscow.  In 1918 he switched to Yiddish and contributed to: Dos folk (The people), Letste nayes (Latest news), Idishe bilder (Jewish images), and Frimorgn (Morning) in Riga; Der ashmodai (The Ashmodai) in Berlin; Vilner tog (Vilna day) in Vilna; Forverts (Forward) in New York; Nayer folksblat (New people’s newspaper) in Lodz; and Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) and Dos vort (The word) in Warsaw; among others.  In book form: Di ribele, kinderlid (The rape [vegetable], a children’s song), translated from Russian, with his own illustrations (Riga, 1921), 16 pp.; the monograph Yitskhok levitan (Isaac Levitan) (Riga, 1927), 48 pp.; Teater-pesimizmen (Theater pessimisms), a pamphlet on the Yiddish theater (Riga, 1938), 47 pp.  Together with M. Kitay, he edited the satirical collections: Purim (Purim), “Haman’s bastard”; and Peysekh (Passover), “the eleventh plague” (both: Riga, 1922).  He died in Riga

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; M. Gerts, 25 yor yidishe prese in letland (25 years of the Yiddish press in Latvia) (Riga, 1933), pp. 51. 57, 63; M. Kitay, Unzere shrayber un kinstler (Our writers and artists) (Warsaw: Jewish Universal Library, 1938), pp. 186-89; Tsvey yidn (Two Jews) ([aka] Y. Yonasovitsh), in Nayer folksblat (Lodz) (March 25, 1938); M. Buba, in Yahadut latviya (Judaism in Latvia) (Tel Aviv, 1953), pp. 153, 155, 156; Khayim Leyb Fuks, in Fun noentn over (New York) 3 (1957), p. 246; N. Kantorovitsh, in Fun noentn over 3 (1957), p. 353; M. Razumni, in Folks-shtime (Warsaw) (August 10, 1960); obituary notice, in Heymish (Tel Aviv) (October 1960).
Khayim Leyb Fuks

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