Wednesday, 1 February 2017


MOYSHE KHASHTSHEVATSKI (January 30, 1897-December 17, 1943)

            He was a poet, prose writer, and playwright, born in Buki, near Uman, Ukraine. He father was a teacher in the local Talmud-Torah. He studied in religious elementary school and in Talmud-Torah, and in 1916 he graduated from the commercial school in Uman. In the last years of WWI and the first years of the Russian Revolution, he was studying at the Universities of Petrograd and Ekaterinburg. In 1918 (April 6) he debuted in print with a poem, entitled “Friling kumt” (Spring comes), in the Kiev newspaper Di naye tsayt (The new times)—using the pen name M. Mishal. In 1921 he moved to Kiev, where he forged a strong bond with the local Yiddish writers (Yekhezkl Dobrushin, Dovid Hofshteyn, and Der Nister, amongothers), and from that point he enhanced ever more his reputation as a creator and builder of Soviet Yiddish literature. Soon his first collection of poems appeared in print, Dorsht (Thirst). It was mostly comprised of symbolic poems. In the Soviet Yiddish periodicals of Kiev, Kharkov, Minsk, and Moscow, he went on to publish poetry and ballads. From 1923 over the course of three years, he contributed intensively to Emes (Truth) in Moscow, and he actively took part in the Soviet community and political life. Although his first works were in the symbolist vein, he would later switch to a more realistic depiction of life and address the major issues and events of the time. He brought new motifs and artistic imagery into Soviet Yiddish poetry. The range of his interests was extremely broad. He also masterfully translated from the Russian and Ukrainian classics, as well as from other languages. In 1943 the Moscow publisher “Der emes” (The truth) brought out two books by him: a poetry collection entitled Fun amol un haynt (Of then and now) and jottings about the hero of the Soviet Union, Khayim diskin (Khayim Diskin). The majority of poems in the former were dedicated to war themes.

Shortly after the outbreak of the Nazi-Soviet war in 1941, he was evacuated to Samarkand, Uzbekistan, and there he learned of the death of his only son at the front. He proceeded to volunteer for mobilization into the Red Army, despite the fact that he was forty-six years of age. He contributed in the harshest of battles in that period of the fighting and died in battle. “Moyshe Khashtshevatski is, it seems to me,” wrote Shmuel Niger, “the most candid among all Yiddish poets in Ukraine. His lyric poetry was born with an old, broken, wrinkled, quietly suffering soul; unabashed, he says that it is old, broken, wrinkled, and suffering in silence. He makes no pretense and no heroic or demagogic poses. It does not shake the earth and demonstrates no valor against the empty, blue skies.” His last book was published after his death. A central place in his last poetic collection was taken by the historical ballad “Khane mit di zibn zin” (Hannah and her seven sons) in which he describes the heroism of a Jewish mother who sacrifices her life and the life of her children, but does not betray her people and her beliefs.

His books include: Dorsht, poems (Kiev: Vidervuks, 1922), 31 pp.; Harte vor (Hard reality) (Moscow: Shtrom-isgabe, 1924), 62 pp.; In shvern gang (On a difficult task), poetry (Moscow: Central Publishers, 1929), 155 pp.; Mayselekh un lider (Stories and poems) (Moscow, 1930), 31 pp.; Raportn (Reports) (Kharkov: Literatur un kunst, 1931), 137 pp.; In kamf kegn sonim (In the fight against enemies), with Avrom Abtshuk, stories (Minsk: State Publ., 1932), 32 pp.; Trot fun toyznter (Pace of thousands) (Kharkov: Literatur un kunst, 1932), 254 pp.; Letste shlakht (Final battle) (Moscow: Emes, 1932), 78 pp.; Lenin (Lenin), a poem (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1934), 146 pp.; Lenin in der kinstlerisher literatur, zamlung (Lenin in artistic literature, a collection), with Itzik Fefer (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1934), 189 pp.; Tintingeray, an emese geshikhte (Tintingeray, a true story) (Kharkov: Children’s Press, 1935), 40 pp.; Undzer lager (Our camp), poetry (Moscow: Emes, 1935), 61 pp.; Hant ba hant (Hand by hand), poetry (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1935), 61 pp.; Rot front! (Red front!), poetry (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1935), 100 pp.; Teyge, dramatishe stsenes (Teyge, dramatic scenes), with F. Sito, poetry (Kharkov: Children’s Press, 1936), 47 pp.; Mamlakat (Kingdom) (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1936), 39 pp.; Mayn arbet, opgeklibene lider (My labor, selected poems) (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1936), 327 pp.; Heroik, dramatishe poemes (Heroic, dramatic poems), with F. Sito (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1936), 80 pp.; A mayse vegn a patlatn yat un zayn heldishn tat (A tale about a long-haired land and his heroic deed) (Moscow: Emes, 1936), 31 pp.; In kamf, oktyaber-shpil far ḳubn in dray aktn (In struggle, an October play for clubs in three acts), with M. Pintshevski (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1937), 64 pp.; A rayze keyn birobidzhan (A trip to Birobidzhan) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1937), 160 pp.; Osher shvartsman (Osher Shvartsman) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1939), 114 pp.; Khaloymes, der yunger sholem-aleykhem, pyese in 4 aktn (Dreams, the young Sholem-Aleichem, a play in four acts) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1939), 121 pp.; Lider un poemes, 1935-1938 (Poetry, 1935-1938) (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1939), 185 pp.; Heym un velt (Home and world) (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1940), 118 pp.; Yidishe folkslider (Yiddish folksongs), with Der Nister (Odessa: Children’s Press, 1940), 133 pp.; Khayim diskin (Moscow: Emes, 1943), 15 pp.; Fun amol un haynt (Moscow: Emes, 1943), 62 pp. His translations include: Mikhail Lermontov, Geklibene verk (Selected works) (Vilna: B. Kletskin, 1926), 130 pp.; Aleksandr Bezymenskii, Di nakht funem shef fun politopteyl (The night of the head of the political department [original: Nochʹ nachalʹnika politotdela]) (Kharkov: Literatur un kunst, 1934), 171 pp.; Lermontov, Oysgeklibene lider un poemes (Selected poetry) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1935), 136 pp.; Heinrich Heine, Daytshland, a vinter mayse (Germany, a winter’s tale [original: Deutschland, ein Wintermärchen]) (Moscow: Emes, 1936), 225 pp.; Lord Byron, Der gefangener fun shilon (The Prisoner of Chillon) (Kharkov, 1937), 22 pp.; Lermontov, Mtsiri (Mtsyri) (Odessa: Children’s Press, 1937), 38 pp.; Shota Rustaveli, Der giber in der tiger-pel (The lord of the panther skin [original: Vepʻxistqaosani]) (Kiev, 1937), 93 pp. He also translated works by Taras Shevchenko. His work also appeared in such collections as: Ruf, lider zamlung (Call, poetry collection) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1935); Af barikadn, revolyutsyonere shlakhtn in der opshpiglung fun der kinstlerisher literatur (At the barricades, revolutionary battles in the lens of artistic literature) (Kharkov: Central Publishers, 1930); Almanakh fun yidishe sovetishe shrayber tsum alfarbandishn shrayber-tsuzamenfor (Almanac, from Soviet Jewish writers to the all-Soviet conference of writers) (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1934); Deklamater fun der sovetisher yidisher literatur (Reciter of Soviet Yiddish literature) (Moscow: Emes, 1934); Lider vegn stalinen (Poems about Stalin) (Kiev: State Publ., 1937); Lider vegn der royter armey (Poems about the Red Army) (Kiev, 1938); Far der bine, dertseylungen, pyeses, lider (For the stage: stories, plays, poems), with musical notation (together with Yekhezkl Dobrushin and Elye Gordon) (Moscow: Central State Publishers, USSR, 1929); and Shlakhtn (Battles) (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1932).

Sources: M. Litvakov, In umru (Disquiet), vol. 2 (Moscow, 1926), M. Litvakov, In umru (Disquiet), vol. 2 (Moscow, 1926), pp. 189-219; D. Tsharni (Daniel Charney), in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (January 21, 1927); A. R. Tsvayg, in Shtern (Minsk) (December 1930); Y. Daytsh, in Literarishe tribune (Lodz) 10 (1931); Y. Bronshteyn, in Tsaytshrift (Minsk) 5 (1931); Y. Dobrushin, In iberboy, literarish-kritishe artiklen (Under reconstruction, literary-critical articles) (Moscow, 1932), pp. 88-101; N. Oyslender and Y. Dobrushin, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (October 5, 1944); A. Kushnirov, in Naye prese (Paris) (July 27, 1945); F. Sito, in Eynikeyt (New York) (March 1945); Y. Serebryani, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (October 11, 1945); N. Mayzil, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (May 1957); 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; A. Finkel, in Folks-shtime (Warsaw) (June 8, 1957); M. Shklyar, in Folks-shtime (November 7, 1957); Shmuel Niger, Yidishe shrayber in sovet-rusland (Yiddish writers in Soviet Russia) (New York, 1958), pp. 56, 61, 411-20.

Borekh Tshubinski

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 316; 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. 189-90.]

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