IZI KHARIK (YITSKHOK) (November 17, 1898-October 29, 1937)
He was born in Zembin, Borisov district, Byelorussia. He was the son of a cobbler and the grandson (on his mother’s side) of the well-known Zembin’s wedding entertainer Leyzer Sheynman. Until age twelve he studied in religious primary school and a Russian public school in Zembin; he later worked in Minsk, Borisov, Homel, and Vitebsk, was an unskilled laborer in a bakery and an assistant to a druggist. From 1917 until 1919, he was the administrator of a school, a leader in a trade union, and a librarian in Minsk. In 1919 he became a Communist, volunteered to join the Red Army, and took part in battles against the White Guard in Byelorussia and against the Poles. He began writing poetry in those years, but due to his reticence he sent them nowhere to be published. By chance two of his poems reached Shmuel Agurski who was then editor of the Moscow-based, Yiddish-language, Bolshevik newspaper Di komunistishe velt (The Communist world), and he published these two poems—“Mir un zey” (Us and them) and “In shturm” (In the storm)—under the name A. Z. Zembin in issue 14-15 (April 1920). From that point he published his poetry, both originals and translations from Russian poetry, in: Di komunistishe velt, Der emes (The truth), Nayerd (New earth), Yungvald (Young forest), Pyoner (Pioneer), and Sovetishe literatur (Soviet literature) in Yiddish, and Krasnaia Nov (Red soil), Tribuna (Tribune), Pravda (Truth), and Ogonyok (Light) in Russian—all in Moscow; Oktyabr (October), Yunger leninyets (Young Leninist), Yunger pyoner (Young pioneer), Atake (Attack), Shtrom (Current), Shtern (Star), Ruf (Call), Tsaytshrift (Periodical) in which he published in its very first number (1925) a piece about his grandfather, Leyzer Sheynman, the popular wedding entertainer from Zembin, and Sovetishe vaysrusland (Soviet Byelorussia)—in Minsk; Farmest (Challenge), Shtern, and Di royte velt (The red world)—in Kharkov; Prolit (Proletarian literature) and Afn shprakh-front (On the language front), among others, in Kiev; Khvalyes (Waves) in Vitebsk; and Der odeser arbeter (The Odessa worker) in Odessa; among others. Abroad he contributed work to: Der hamer (The hammer), Morgn-frayhayt (Morning freedom), Signal (Signal), Yung kuzhnye (Young smithy), Yugnt (Youth), Studyo (Studio), Ikor (Yidishe kolonizatsye organizatsye in rusland [Jewish colonization organization in Russia]), Yidishe kultur (Jewish culture), and Zamlungen (Collections)—in New York; Kultur (Culture) in Chicago; Literarishe bleter (literary leaves), Arbeter-tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper), Fraye yugnt (Free youth), Yidishe shriftn (Yiddish writings), and Folksshtime (Voice of the people) in Warsaw; Literarishe tribune (Literary tribune) and Parizer tsaytshrift (Parisian periodical) in Paris; Erd un arbet (Land and labor) in Kishinev; Di prese (The press) and Idishe tsaytung (Jewish newspaper) in Buenos Aires. He spent the years 1919-1921 studying at the Briusov Institute for Literature and Art in Moscow. Until 1922 he was one of the directors of the People’s Commissariat for Education in Byelorussia, and later, with interruptions, he lived in Moscow where he graduated from a higher literary school in 1924. From 1928 to the summer of 1937, he lived in Minsk, where he graduated from the philological institute and took up leading positions in the general and Jewish life of Byelorussia. He was a member of the presidium of the central executive committee of the Byelorussian Community Party, a member of the Byelorussian government, of the Byelorussian scientific academy, and of the main administrations of school and cultural activities, as well as a member of the central executive of the Byelorussian Republic. He was also a delegate and one of the main speakers at the All-Soviet Writers’ Conference. Kharik distinguished himself in Yiddish literature in Soviet Russia as the poet of “Minsker blotes” (Minsk mud). He was one of those who laid the groundwork for Soviet Jewish literature, especially in Byelorussia.
He published in book form: Tsiter (Shiver), poems from his early period (Minsk, 1922), 64 pp.; Af der erd (On the ground), including as well his poem about the Civil War in Byelorussia, “Minsker blotes” (Moscow, 1926), 112 pp.; Mit layb un lebn (Body and soul), poem about the heroic work of young Soviet teachers in rebuilding Jewish towns (Minsk, 1928), 79 pp.; Lider un poemes (Poetry) (Kiev, 1930), 206 pp., second printing (Minsk, 1930); Broyt (Bread), a poem (Minsk, 1930), 16 pp.; Kaylekhdike vokhn (Circular weeks), poem concerning social reconstruction in Byelorussia (Minsk, 1932), 157 pp., newer edition (Moscow, 1935), also appearing in an abbreviated form for the Jewish school (Minsk, 1933), 50 pp.; Fun polyus tsu polyus (From pole to pole), youth and children’s poetry (Minsk, 1934), 61 pp., which won an award in the All-Russian Competition for Youth Literature in Moscow, 1934; Undzer munterkeyt, lider un poemes (Our cheerfulness, poetry) (Kiev, 1935), 130 pp., second edition (Moscow, 1936); Finf poemes (Five poems) (Minsk, 1936), 260 pp.; Af a fremder khasene (At a strange wedding) (Minsk, 1936), 117 pp., in which he depicts in a nostalgic tenor the life of his grandfather, the old Zembin wedding entertainer, who devoted his career to strangers’ weddings. He was editor of the monthly Der shtern (The star) in Minsk; he coedited: Atake in Minsk (1934); Pyonerishe lider (Pioneering poetry) in Minsk (1934); and the literary almanac Sovetishe vaysrusland (Soviet Byelorussia) in Minsk (1935). His work was also represented in: Birebidzhan (Birobidzhan), anthology (Moscow, 1936); Shlakhtn, fuftsn yor oktyaber in der kinstlerisher literatur (Battles, fifteen years of October in artistic literature), compiled together with H. Orland and B. Kahan (Kharkov-Kiev, 1932); Af barikadn, revolyutsyonere shlakhtn in der opshpiglung fun der kinstlerisher literatur (At the barricades, revolutionary battles in the lens of artistic literature) (Kharkov, 1930); Far der bine: dertseylungen, pyeses, lider (For the stage: stories, plays, poems), with musical notation (together with Y. Dobrushin and E. Gordon) (Moscow, 1929); Der arbeter in der yidisher literatur, fargesene lider (The worker in Yiddish literature, forgotten poems) (Moscow, 1939); Deklamater fun der sovetisher yidisher literatur (Reciter of Soviet Yiddish literature) (Moscow, 1934). He compiled: the poetry collection Ruf in Minsk (1935), with Yasha Bronshteyn; a play based on Sholem-Aleykhem’s A yontef in kasrilovke (A holiday in Kasrilovke), with Y. Dobrushin, staged at the Moscow Yiddish state theater with Kharik’s poetry in the text. Among other items, he translated into Yiddish the poem Di kretshme (The tavern) by Moris Tsharat. In 1936 there was published in Minsk: Izi kharik, tsu zayn 15-yorikn dikhterishn veg (Izi Kharik, for his fifteen-year poetic path), 136 pp., with appreciations and critical articles by Sh. Ogurski, A. Osherovitsh, M. Litvakov, Y. Bronshteyn, M. Viner, A. Khashin, Uri Finkl, L. Tsart, and Y. Serebryani. In June 1937 Kharik was arrested in Minsk and dragged through a number of Russian prisons, where they ferociously tortured him. He went insane and was brought in September to the labor camp at Sukhobenzvodny in northern Russia. On October 28, 1937 he was brought to court for a trial that last fifteen minutes. He was sentenced the next morning and shot that same day—and that same day, Moyshe Kulbak, Yashe Bronshteyn, and Khatskl Dunets were also shot.
“His was a profoundly ethnic form, as he drew his poetic nourishment from popular Jewish sources,” wrote M. Litvakov. “His landscape,” noted L. Tsart, “was Byelorussian Jewish folklore.” “He was the heart of the company of Yiddish writers in Byelorussia,” wrote Uri Finkl, “…while his Af a fremder khasene is rife with an artistic sense of completion and his figure of the wedding entertainer is a protesting lamedvovnik, through whom the simple man of the people speaks.” Kharik was one of the Soviet Yiddish writers who were murdered by the brutal sword of Stalin and who would not be rehabilitated for many years. In the new edition of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1957), it simply states that he “died in 1937,” and in the literary biographical dictionary of Soviet writers from Byelorussia (Minsk 1957), it states: “He died somewhere in 1937.” It would be some time before his poems appeared again in the Soviet Union. His poems in Byelorussian (Minsk, 1958) and in Russian—with an introduction by A. Vergelis (Moscow, 1958)—were all that appeared. Of his literary heritage, a few poems have been preserved, and they were published in Folksshtime in Warsaw (April 13, 1957) and in Parizer tsaytshrift 15 (1957).
Although he has never been fully rehabiltitated, things began to change slowly in the early 1960s with the following publications: Dovid hofshteyn, izi kharik, itsik fefer, oysgeklibene shriftn (Dovid Hofshteyn, Izi Kharik, Itsik Fefer, selected writings), ed. Shmuel Rozhanski (Buenos Aires: Lifshits Fund, 1962); and Mit layb un lebn (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1970), 286 pp. Several volumes of his work in Russian and Byelorussian also appeared in print.
Sources: Information concerning his death from M. Lubling (Tel Aviv-Jaffa); Bolshaia Sovietskaia entsiklopediya (Great Soviet Encyclopedia), vol. 46 (Moscow, 1957), p. 74; Pis’menniki savetskai belarusi (Writers of Soviet Byelorussia) (Minsk, 1959), pp. 437-38; H. Leivick, Afn rand (On the edge) (Kiev, 1925); Leivick, in Zamlbikher 8 (New York, 1952), pp. 27-50; Leivick, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (October 6, 1954); A. Vevyorke, in Oktraber-zamlbukh (Moscow) 1 (1925), p. 72; Vevyorke, Der stiln-kamf fun der proletarisher literatur (The struggle over style in proletarian literature) (Kharkov, 1932), pp. 17-18; N. Mayzil, Noente un vayte (Near and far), vol. 2 (Warsaw, 1926), pp. 252-59; Mayzil, Dos yidishe shafn un der yidisher shrayber in sovetnfarband (Jewish creation and the Yiddish writer in the Soviet Union) (New York, 1959), see index; A. Kushnirov, in Yungvald (Moscow) 4 (1926); M. Litvakov, In umru (Disquiet), vol. 2 (Moscow, 1926), pp. 189-219; Y. Bronshteyn, in Shtern (Minsk) 6 (1926); Bronshteyn, in Der hamer (New York) (1929), pp. 60-64; Bronshteyn, in Atake (Moscow-Minsk) (1930), pp. 112-35; Bronshteyn, Sheferishe problemen fun der yidisher sovetisher poezye (Creative problems in Soviet Yiddish poetry) (Minsk, 1935); D. Tsharni (Daniel Charney), in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (January 21, 1927); Charney, in Der veker (New York) (November 1, 1954); Y. Dobrushin, in Di royte velt (Kharkov) 7-8 (1926), pp. 130-40; Dobrushin, In iberboy, literarish-kritishe artiklen (Under reconstruction, literary-critical articles) (Moscow, 1932), pp. 13-38, 125, 139; Avrom Reyzen, in Oyfkum (New York) (May 1929), p. 11; H. D. Nomberg, Mentsh un verk, yidishe shrayber (Man and work, Yiddish writers) (Warsaw, 1930), pp. 237-40; B. Orshanski, Di yidishe literatur in vaysrusland nokh der revolutsye, pruvn fun an oysforshung (Yiddish literature in Byelorussia after the revolution, attempt at an inquiry) (Minsk, 1931), see index; G. Yabrov, in Tsaytshrift (Minsk) 5 (1931), p. 3; Yankev Leshtshinski, in Forverts (new York) (March 9, 1931); Kh. Dunyets, Far magnitboyen in der literatur (For the great works of literature) (Minsk, 1932), pp. 18-19; Dunyets, Fir tezisn vegn kaylevdike vokhn (Four theses on Circular Weeks) (Minsk, 1933), pp. 3-9; Sh. Klitenik, in Emes (Moscow) 207 (1932); B. Y. Byalostotski, Eseyen (Essays) (New York, 1932), pp. 126-28; M. Viner, Problemes fun kritik (Problems of criticism), co-authored with A. Gurshteyn (Moscow, 1933), p. 183; A. Abtshuk, Etyudn (Studies) (Kharkov, 1934), pp. 36, 67; Leyzer Grinberg, in Studyo (New York) (October-December 1934); N. Y. Gotlib, in Montreal 6 (1934); Y. Rapoport, in Tsukunft (New York) (February 1935); Rapoport, Tsvishn yo un neyn (Between yes and no) (Warsaw, 1937), pp. 176-202; Y. Nusinov, in Yidn in f. s. s. r. (Jewish in the USSR) (Moscow, 1935), pp. 138, 142, 147; Itsik Manger, in Folkstsaytung (Warsaw) (September 11, 1936); E. Korman, in Heft (Montreal) (January-February 1936; May-June 1936); Shmuel Niger, in Der tog (New York) (October 24, 1937); Y. Glants, in Der veg (Mexico City) (October 16, 1937); B. Glazman, in Idishe kemfer (New York) (October 4, 1940); Leo Finkelshteyn, in Yidishe shriftn (Lodz) (January 1947); Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (January 24, 1949); H. Vaynraykh, in Forverts (January 2, 1949); Vaynraykh, Blut af der zun (Blood on the sun) (New York, 1950), pp. 48-65; Y. Botoshanski, Mame yidish (Mother Yiddish) (Buenos Aires, 1949), p. 212; A. Tabatshnik, in Davke (Buenos Aires) (July-September 1951); Elye Shulman, in Fraye arbeter shtime (New York) (July 18, 1952); Shulman, in Unzer tsayt (November 1953; September 1956); Dr. L. Zhitnitski, A halb yorhundert idishe literatur (A half century of Yiddish literature), vol. 1 (Buenos Aires, 1952), p. 53; A. Leyeles, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (September 26, 1953); Yankev Pat, in Der veker (October 1, 1954); Khayim Leyb Fuks, in Der veker (November 15, 1954); H. Berger, in Oystralishe yidishe nayes (Melbourne) (July 6, 1956); Al. Pomerants, in Tsukunft (July-August 1956); A. Zak, in Idishe tsaytung (Buenos Aires) (August 19, 1957); M. Shlyar, in Folksshtime (November 7, 1957); Dr. Shloyme Bikl, Shrayber fun mayn dor (Writers of my generation) (New York, 1958), pp. 287-304; Y. Gilboa, Al ḥorvot hatarbut hayehudit biverit hamoatsot (On the destruction of Jewish culture in the Soviet Union) (Tel Aviv, 1959), pp. 125-26; P. Shteynvaks, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (December 31, 1959); A. Vergelis, in Morgn-frayhayt (new York) (March 24, 1960); G. Aronson, in Forverts (July 31, 1960); N. Mayzil, preface to Z. Akselrod, Lider zamlung (Poetry collection) (New York, 1961), pp. 8, 9, 11, 18, 20, 24, 34; Pervyi Bsesoyuznyi C״ezd Sovetskikh Pisatelei (First all-Soviet congress of Soviet writers) (Moscow, 1934), p. 690; Joseph Milbauer, comp., Poètes yiddish d’aujourhui (Contemporary Yiddish poets) (Paris, 1936); Joseph Leftwich, The Golden Peacock: An Anthology of Yiddish Poetry (Cambridge, Mass., 1939).
Khayim Leyb Fuks
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 315; 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), pp. 185-87.]