Wednesday 25 January 2017


SHIFRE KHOLODENKO (1909-July 1974))

            She a poet, prose author, and the younger sister of the poet Dovid Hofshteyn, born in the village of Bartkova Rudnya, Ukraine. Their father, an employee in the timber business, had settled the family in the late 1890s in Volhynia. On her mother’s side, she descended from the well-known Berdichev folk musician Pedatsur Kholodenko. She initially was studying in a Moscow agronomical school and then went to work on the land in Crimea; she later returned in 1928 to study in the faculty of physics and mathematics at the first state university in Moscow. For a number of years thereafter, she worked as a geodesist, taking part in scientific expeditions to the north, which later was reflected in her creative work. She debuted in print with a poem, entitled “Az mayne frayndn…” (As my friends), in the literary and artistic monthly Shtrom (Current) (Moscow) 3 (1922). Her original poetic voice soon found a distinctive place in the world of Soviet poetry and afforded her a special place therein.

            Her first collection of poems was entitled Lebn (Life) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1937), 62 pp.; the second collection was Lider (Poems) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1940), 119 pp. She later contributed to the Kiev almanac Ukraine (Ukraine) and other Soviet Yiddish periodicals. She also wrote stories, and five of them appeared in 1940 in book form under the title Gantsfri (Completely free) (Moscow: Der Emes), 40 pp. Also, a portion of her poetry appeared as a book entitled Undzer kraft (Our strength) (Moscow: Der Emes, 1947), 128 pp. This volume of poetry had five sections: 1. “Undzer kraft”—“I did not know until now of my strength, / I cannot now weight or measure it, / It has been tested on every grid, / With every struggle I feel it getting steadier”; 2. “Vander” (Migrating); 3. “Gevikst” (Waxed); 4. “Erd” (Earth); and 5. “Lebn” (Life). She placed a poetry cycle in Horizontn (Horizons) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1965); and later in Dos vort (The word) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1974), 163 pp. Her work was represented as well in: Tsum zig (To victory) (Moscow: Emes, 1944); and the poetry collection Yugnt (Youth) (Kharkov: Komyug, 1922). One senses in her poetry the feelings of a woman and a mother. She suffered greatly over the years, and she dedicated many poems to this same theme over the course of a half century of her literary activity. The death of her brother, who was for her a continual support and a consolation throughout her life, was a personal tragedy for her. It was exacerbated by the fact that she could in no way express her feelings publicly—in written or oral form. After her death there was discovered in the drawer of her writing table poems of great pain in which she expressed her feelings: “Your heart yearns for the friend who has been for so long frozen in the solid ground…. And the thought floats out: Can you guess it—who can know (no one was there)—was the thread not torn, I’d like to glimpse him one more time…. Oh, how that would make me happy! I want to embrace him, as we walk along, as we stand still, I want to tell him everything, and with clearly distinct words I want to make him understand how great is my sorrow that I am now alone.” She died in Moscow.

Sources: Y. Nusinov, in Royte velt (Kharkov) 9 (1926); D. Tsharni (Daniel Charney), in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) 3 (1927); E. Korman, Yidishe dikhterins (Jewish women poets) (Chicago, 1928), pp. 300, 302, 346; N. Y. Gotlib, in Tsukunft (New York) (1951); 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.

Mortkhe Yofe

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 313-14; 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. 183-84.]

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