Wednesday 14 February 2018



            He was a playwright and prose author, born in Nay-Vileyke (Naujoji Vilnia), near Vilna. His father was a second-hand dealer in farm produce; his mother was for many years bedridden with paralysis. From his earliest years, Henekh assisted his father in his work, traveling with him through the Byelorussian villages and towns, watched over gardens, and helped harvest fruit for orchard keepers. He gradually became a proprietor himself in a Byelorussian village, and in his writings he describes the bitter fate of the Byelorussian farmer. For several years he worked in Balberishski’s tobacco plant in Vilna, while at the same time he wrote his village stories. He became friends with other local young writers, in particular the young poet Elkhonen Vogler, for whom he would read his works before gatherings. He debuted in print with stories in the Warsaw-based Oyfgang (Arise) 1 (November 1928), “Vatslav reymgarses geburt” (Vatslav Reymgars’s birth), and 2 (December 1928), “A lebn” (A life). He appeared at annual meetings of the literary group “Yung vilne” (Young Vilna) in 1931-1932 to give readings of his stories, which were particular successes among young Jewish laborers. With the mass illegal migration of 1932, he left for the Soviet Union and was sent on to Magnitogorsk, a city in the Urals, where he worked in a factory while also continuing his writing. At his initiative, young writers—mainly, those who had come from Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and other countries—created a Yiddish writers’ group in the Magnitogorsk Writers’ Association. His play Shvarts-royt (Black-red) was staged by the Magnitogorsk Yiddish Drama Ensemble. He read his stories aloud over the Magnitogorsk radio. His stories were translated into Russian and published in the local press. A volume of his stories was published by the publisher Emes in Moscow in 1934. In August of that year, he was delegated by the Magnitogorsk Writers’ Association to the All-Soviet Writers’ Conference in Moscow, where he was warmly welcomed as well by Soviet Yiddish writers. However, in the eyes of the mass organs of state, he fell under suspicion. In 1936 when mass arrests of those who had immigrated to Russia commenced, he disappeared in a Soviet concentration camp to which he had been deported as an “enemy spy.” Nothing more was heard of him from summer 1936.

Sources: Vilner tog (Vilna) (January 29, 1930; February 10, 1931); L-Sh (Shoyel Reyzen), in Vilner tog (March 24, 1932); Shtern (Minsk) (May-June 1935), p. 125; Sh. Kahan, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (February 26, 1937); M. Bahelfer, in Afn shvel (New York) (September-October 1947); Sh. Katsherginski, Tsvishn hamer un serp (Between hammer and sickle) (Buenos Aires, 1950), p. 15; E. Vogler, in Di goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 23 (1955), pp. 174-76; Leyzer Ran, 25 yor yung vilne (Twenty-five years of Young Vilna) (New York, 1955); Meyer Pups, in Folks-shtime (Warsaw) (August 25, 1959).

Leyzer Ran

[Additional information from: 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), p. 255.]

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