Wednesday 5 July 2017


BORIS MOGILNER (1920-2000)

            A poet and prose writer, he was born in Sloveshne (Slovechne), Ukraine. He spent his youth in the city of Korosten' whence his parents had moved. He graduated from a Jewish middle school there and continued his studies in the Kazan Pedagogical Institute. From there he sent his first poems to the Kharkov children’s newspaper Zay greyt (Get ready). From 1934 he was writing poetry and stories for such venues over the years: Yunge gvardye (Young guard), Farmest (Challenge), and Birobidzhaner shtern (Birobidzhan star). Upon graduating from middle school, he moved with his parents to Kazan in 1936. He began studying at the Kazan Pedagogical Institute, but did not graduate, because the war broke out and he left for the front. At the end of the war, a tragic event took place: he was met with denunciations “for anti-Soviet propaganda” and for “slandering the Soviet regime,” and he was sentenced to ten years of penal labor. He was sent to a camp in the Urals near the city of Nizhny Tagil. His forced labor consisted of cutting down trees and moving timber. He was freed and rehabilitated in 1956. He returned to Kazan, picked up his interrupted education, and graduated from the pedagogical institute and (via correspondence) from the Leningrad Academy of Timber Technology. He went on for over twenty years to work as a teacher initially at the pedagogical institute in the city of Balashov, Saratov district, where he taught mathematics. After a forty-year interruption, in 1976 he published new poetry in Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland). From that year he was living in the Moscow suburb of Domodedovo, before then moving to Moscow itself. He served on the editorial board of Sovetish heymland for which he was also manager of its publicity division, and he worked to establish links with readers through the column “Briv fun leyener” (Letters from readers). He was the last of the literary contributors of Sovetish heymland in 1991 when the journal ceased to appear, and Arn Vergelis then began to bring out its successor, Di yidishe gas (The Yiddish street); he joined Vergelis and worked on this journal until early 1997 when it, too, was discontinued. Boris Mogilner was destined to be the last Yiddish poet in Moscow, now emptied of the remains of Yiddish culture, but he still managed to bring out several volumes of poetry and prose.

His writings include: Kroyvim (Kinsmen) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1980), 60 pp., supplement to Sovetish heymland 4 (1980); May in kazan (May in Kazan), stories and novellas (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1981), 316 pp.; Breyte horizontn (Wide horizons), from letters to Sovetish heymland 2 (1981) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1984), 62 pp.; Mayn zikorn, lider un poemes (My memory, poetry) (Moscow: Sovetski, pisatel, 1985), 134 pp.; Far ale farantvortlekh (Responsible for everything), from letters to Sovetish heymland 6 (1986) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1986), 61 pp.; Af der kvalye fun glasnost (On the wave of opening), supplement to Sovetish heymland 10 (1988) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1988), 59 pp.; Like-khame (Solar eclipse), supplement to Di yidishe gas (Moscow, 1993), 144 pp.; editor, Di lire, lider-krants (The lyre, poetry wreath), writings of twenty-three Jewish frontline soldiers who did not return from the battlefield (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1985), 348 pp.

Sources: Sovetish heymland, Materyaln far a leksikon fun der yidisher sovetisher literatur (Materials for a handbook of Soviet Jewish literature) (September 1975).

Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 354; 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. 222-23.

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