Wednesday 7 December 2016


YANKL YAKIR (December 22, 1908-January 25, 1980)

            He was a prose author and poet, born in Pirlita, Bessarabia, into a poor family. He studied in religious elementary school, later graduating from a Tarbut school in Kishinev. He debuted in print in 1930 with a current events article in Tshernovitser bleter (Czernowitz pages). Together with Hersh-Leyb Vaynshteyn (“Kazhber”) and Herts Rivkin—both killed during the Holocaust years—in 1931 he began publishing in Kishinev a literary collection entitled Onzog (Message). He later published articles in the journal Shoybn (Glass panes) in Bucharest, and in the radical Jewish weekly newspapers in Greater Romania. During WWII he was evacuated to Uzbekistan. After the war he returned to Kishinev and served for a time as the correspondent for Eynikeyt (Unity) newspaper in Moscow. On February 16, 1949 he was arrested and charged with “criminal liaisons with the leaders of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, to whom he would transmit anti-Soviet, nationalistic materials.” He was sentenced to ten years of forced labor, and he suffered this punishment by deportation to Magadan in the far north of Russia. Six years later, after being rehabilitated, he and other arrested Jewish writers were set free. Broken in body and spirit, he returned home. He found the strength in himself to continue his creative work, particularly from 1961 when Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland) began publishing in Moscow. His stories and literary research articles often appeared in this journal. Also, Folks-shtime (Voice of the people) in Warsaw published his stories and sketches. In 1972 he made aliya with his family from Romania to Israel, settling in the city of Netanya. He went on to produce two volumes of prose. He died in Netanya.

He published stories and poems in: Tshernovitser bleter; Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) in Warsaw; Tsukunft (Future), Yidishe kultur (jewish culture), Morgn frayhayt (Morning freedom), and Kultur un lebn (Culture and life)—in New York; Sovetish heymland in Moscow; Dorem-afrike (South Africa) in Johannesburg; and Undzer heym (Our home), Bay zikh (On one’s own), Yisroel-shtime (Voice of Israel), Letste nayes (Latest news), Folksblat (People’s newspaper), and Yerusholaimer almanakh (Jerusalem almanac)—in Israel. His work appeared in the collection Tsuzamen (Together) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1974).

His works would include: Tate-mames nign (Parent’s melody) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1969); A shlitn mit yishuvnikes un andere dertseylungen (A sled with villagers and other stories) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1974), 234 pp.; Geshikhtes un portretn (Stories and portraits), including twelve articles about him (Tel Aviv: Eygns, 1981), 202 pp. He also translated into Romanian Sholem-Aleichem’s Blondzhende shtern (Wandering stars) as Stele rėtėchitoare (Kishinev: Karti︠a︡ Moldoveni︠a︡skė, 1962); and two other books, Di levone firt di shtern (The moon guides the stars) (translated into Hebrew in 1975), and Sholem-aleykhem in unger (Sholem-Aleykhem in Hungary). Yakir’s daily Blimele (Little flowers) (1935-February 19, 1971 in Kishinev) published four collections of stories in Russian, Ukrainian, and Romanian. He translated a number of stories and published them in Folks-shtime in Warsaw and in Sovetish heymland, and an entire collection appeared under the title Di vayse tsig mit di zilberne glekelekh (A white goat with silver bells) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1976), 378 pp.

Sources: B. Shnol, in Oyfkum (Sighet-Marmației) (May-June 1934); Shloyme Bikl, Eseyen fun yidishn troyer (Essays of Jewish sorrow) (New York, 1948), pp. 147-51; Bikl, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (June 14, 1958).

Borekh Tshubinski

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 297; 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), pp. 175-76.

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