Monday 7 May 2018


            The pen name of Moyshe Krasnyanski, he was born in a town in Ukraine, into a Hassidic family.  In his childhood years, he experienced the Russian Revolution and the Ukrainian massacres.  During the pogroms, he was wounded in his foot, and the doctor amputated the foot.  He studied in religious elementary school and later, when the Soviet authorities prohibited religious education, he studied in illegal religious schools and yeshivas.  At age sixteen he received ordination into the rabbinate, but he did not become a rabbi and turned his attention to organizing and running illegal religious schools and yeshivas.  To avoid desecrating the Sabbath, in Kiev he became a rag-picker, worked in a cobbler’s shop and in other trades, where control by the authorities was less than in factories and state-run institutions.  He was arrested in the 1930s and deported.  He was freed when the Soviet-German war broke out.  At the time he roamed far from home with his family into Uzbekistan in Soviet Central Asia.  After the war, when the repatriation of Polish Jews started, he slipped out of the Soviet Union with the stream of refugees, arrived at a displaced persons’ camp in Munich, Germany, after traveling through Poland, and took to writing at the time.  He recounted everything that happened to him in the years of suffering and pain, and thus emerged his work A zekster velt-teyl (A sixth continent), a novel in eleven, thick volumes.  “Perhaps,” wrote B. Ts. Goldberg, “this does not belong in the ranks of literature.  It is less than that—and more.  It is an open heart, a raw wound, naked life, and a reflection of Soviet life [seen] through a soul of a devout, stubborn, intense Jew.”  Small fragments of the novel were published in the newspapers: Unzer veg (Our way), Unzer velt (Our world), and Yidishe shtime (Jewish voice)—all in Germany—and other periodicals.  From Germany, he moved to Paris, and there with help from the Joint Distribution Committee, the publisher T. Grohar brought it out over the years 1949-1953 in eleven volumes [ten volumes, with vol. 10 in two parts]: 1. Farumerte kindheyt (Sad childhood) (1949), 348 pp.; 2. Kleyne trit in a groyser shtot (Small step in a large city) (1949), 376 pp.; 3. A tsetribene stade (A disturbed flock) (1949), 424 pp.; 4. Farloshene sheyters (Extinguished pyres) (1950), 352 pp.; 5. A grus fun yener velt (A greeting from the other world) (1951), 352 pp.; 6. A fargesene toyve (A forgotten favor) (1951), 368 pp.; 7. Der letste pruv (The last attempt) (1952), 588 pp.; 8. A farshpetikte kharote (A missed regret) (1952), 472 pp.; 9. Dam vaesh vetimrot ashan (Blood and fire and pillars of smoke) (1953), 600 pp.; 10. Di oysgebenkte heym (The longed-for home), part 1 (1953), 328 pp., part 2 (1953), 746 pp.  He also published Partsufim un uvdes (Faces and tasks), “characters and acts” (Paris, 1957), 407 pp.  In 1957 he came to New York.  Tog-morgn-zhurnal (Day-morning journal) published in installments a abridged edition of his novel, but midway the installments were interrupted.  Sambatyon then left the United States with the Skvirer Hassidim for Israel.  There he began to publish his A zekster velt-teyl in a Hebrew translation by Avraham Kariv as Dorot nishbarim, roman meḥaye hayehudim biverit hamoatsot (Generations destroyed, a novel of the life of Jews in the Soviet Union) (Tel Aviv, 1961-1963), 5 volumes—and Sambatyon used his pen name Efrati.  He used a number of different pseudonyms at different times, among them: Moshe azan.  Subsequent writings include: Di yidn fun di leymene hayzlekh (The Jews from the earthen homes), stories (Tel Aviv: Mifrats, 1965), 239 pp.

Sources: “Naye bikher in yidish” (New books in Yiddish), Di tsukunft (New York) (October 1949); Y. Freylekh, in Di tsukunft (July 1952); Y. Shmuelvitsh, in Forverts (New York) (May 28, 1955; May 5, 1957); Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (April 14, 1957); B. Ts. Goldberg, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (January 1958); “Roman ben 11 kerakhim” (A novel in eleven volumes), Yediot aaranot (Tel Aviv) (Nisan 7 [= March 24], 1961); Penina Meyzlish, in Maariv (Tel Aviv) (February 15-16, 1962); Sh. Sheor, in Haarets (Tel Aviv) (April 20, 1962); D. Y. Zakai, in Hatsofe (Tel Aviv) (June 1, 1962); A. Cohen, in Yediot aaranot (June 22, 1962).
Yankev Birnboym

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 407.]

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