Tuesday 3 April 2018


ANE STELMAKH (1900-1950)

            She was a prose author about whom little detailed biographical information is known, except that her real name was R. Eyfe. We do know that she was born in a town in Ukraine and grew up there. She studied in a Soviet Yiddish school and in a technical senior high school, received a diploma as a mountain engineer, and worked in the Kiev Institute for Jewish Culture in the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. Before WWII, she wrote prose tales, although nothing was published. In an autobiographical story entitled “Ikh un barele” (Me and Barele)—she gave herself the name Anyute here—she wrote: “I recall my childhood—during WWI, early youth—[and] in the civil war.” It was probably several years before the year 1914, roughly around the year 1908. Her first literary efforts took place just before the outbreak of WWII, while working in Kiev. She showed her stories to Dovid Hofshteyn, and he saw in her a new writing talent. At the start of the war, she was evacuated to the southern Urals, where she lived in the city of Novotroitsk, Chalov (now Orenburg) district; she worked there as a mountain engineer and continued her writing. This construction work, in which many evacuated Jew participated, provided her with materials for her writing. One of her stories, “A moshl-kaposhl” (A moshl-kaposhl), appeared in the Moscow newspaper Eynikeyt (Unity) in 1946. On March 30, 1946, the editorial board announced a competition for a short story. The jury was comprised of Dovid Bergelson, Der Nister, Yekhezkl Dobrushin, Shmuel Halkin, Grigori Zhits, Arn Kushnirov, and Itzik Fefer. Thirty manuscripts were submitted. The jury decided (October 11, 1946) not to award a first prize, but to give second prize to Ane Stelmakh for her story “A gemel af a bekher” (A painting of a goblet); third prize was awarded to Herts Rivkin for his story “Der tate un der zun” (The father and the son). On July 9, the editorial board of Eynikeyt arranged a meeting for Ane Stelmakh with Shloyme Mikhoels, Dovid Hofshteyn, and other prominent Yiddish writers and cultural leaders. Only a few months later in 1947, Emes Publishers in Moscow brought out her only book, Af dorem-ural (In the southern Urals), 188 pp., which included seven stories: “A moshl-kaposhl,” “Ikh un barele,” “Dem zeydns kinder” (Grandfather’s children), “A gemel af a bekher,” “Der hundertster meridyon” (The hundredth meridian), “A mayse mit a farneyt harts” (A story with a sown up heart), and “Der bashteler fun ashtshe-butak” (The order from Ashchibutak). She had many more and prepared another series of stories (we know this from a latter she penned to Y. Dobrushin and A. Kushnirov, published in Sovetish heymland [Soviet homeland] 10 [1976]). “Her language is rich and juicy and cautious,” wrote Meylekh Ravitsh, “and in a manner of telling a story she strives to imitate Dovid Bergelson, at times even more like Itsik Kipnis’s way of recounting a tale, mainly in placing greater emphasis in the humorous element. She describes the wildness of nature well and in a living sensibility,…and these depictions were something new in Yiddish—not Mendele, not Asch, nor even Bergelson painted the southern Urals…. A book with new people, new regions, and a new talented writer.” Little is known of her fate in the years of the liquidation of Soviet Yiddish culture, save that she was arrested in 1950 after which her fate remains unknown.

Sources: “Bashlus fun juri” (The jury’s decision), Eynikeyt (Moscow) (October 24, 1946); “Bergelson mit a. stelmakh” (Bergelson and A. Stelmakh); Sh. Mikhoels, in Eynikeyt (July 12, 1947); Rivke Rubin, in Folks-shtime (Warsaw) 47 (1947); Rivkin, in Af naye vegn (On new roads) (New York, 1949); Meylekh Ravitsh, in Fraye arbeter-shtime (New York) (October 29, 1948); Ravitsh, in Yorbukh (New York) (1948/1949); Ravitsh, in Tsukunft (New York) (October 1949); N. Mayzil, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (April 25, 1948); Mayzil, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (December 1949), pp. 23-30; E. Fershlayser, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (December 5, 1948); N. Y. Gotlib, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (March 30, 1953); Gotlib, in the anthology Lo amut ki eye (I shall not die but live on) (Meravya, 1957), p. 369; Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index.

Yankev Birnboym

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 404; 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. 261-62.]

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