AYZIK PLATNER (November 17, 1895-July 26, 1961)
A poet and prose author, he was born in Sokolov Podlyask (Sokołów Podlaski), Poland, into a family of tailors. He studied in religious elementary schools, synagogue study hall, Hassidic synagogues, and yeshivas. He was himself apprenticed to a tailor at age eleven. He worked later in a variety of trades and was also an actor. During WWI he was active in the Labor Zionist movement and lived illegally in Poland and Lithuania. He took part in party conferences and also participated in the fifth world conference of Labor Zionism in Vienna (1919). He began writing poetry at a very young age and debuted in print in 1919 in Warsaw’s Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves). In 1920 he settled in Kovno as a tailor and was a contributor there to the Labor Zionist Arbeter tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper), in which he published features, party publicity, and miniatures under the pen names: Zhuk, Yerukhem, and Kleynman. From 1921 he was publishing poetry in the Kovno monthly Vispe (Islet), Vilner tog (Vilna day), and Białystok’s Dos naye lebn (The new life). In 1927 he moved to the United States, where he lived until 1932. He worked initially in sweatshops, and then after graduating from the teachers’ seminary of the Workmen’s Circle, he became a teacher. He was an active member of the writers’ group “Union Square” and later “Proletpen” (Proletarian pen). He published poems in Hamer (Hammer), Feder (Pen), and the anthology Shriftn (Writings) 8. In 1930 he published his first book of poems, entitled Vos der tog dertseylt (What the day recounts). In 1932 he traveled to the Soviet Union, lived in Minsk, and worked for the editorial board of the Minsk daily newspaper Oktyabr (October). He contributed as well to: Der shtern (The star), Ruf (Call), and In shlakhtn (In battle), as well as in the collections In shotn fun tlies, almanakh fun der yidisher proletarisher literatur in di kapitalistishe lender (In the shadow of the gallows, an almanac of Yiddish proletarian literature in the capitalist countries) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1932) and Di bafrayte brider (The liberated brothers) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1939), among others; and his work was represented in N. Mayzil’s Amerike in yidishn vort (America in the Yiddish word) (New York: IKUF, 1955) and Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland). His reportage pieces about a trip to the Urals were published in the Moscow journal Nashi dostizheniia (Our achievements) and in the American Communist press. During the years of WWII, he lived in the city of Saransk, before returning to Minsk and taking up writing again. During the mass arrests of Yiddish writers in 1948, he was arrested and sent to the northern labor camp in Tayshet, Irkutsk district, Siberia, where he remained from June 9, 1948 to March 1, 1956. After being freed he lived once again in Minsk and continued writing poetry and essays in Warsaw’s Folks-shtime (People’s voice) in Warsaw. He published numerous translations in Russian and especially Byelorussian journals and anthologies. In the last years of his life, he was working on a book about the murdered Soviet Yiddish writers, to be entitled Vegn di vos feln undz (About those whom we are missing). Several chapters of it appeared in Sovetish heymland in Moscow and in Folks-shtime and Shriftn. He died at the Lithuanian spa of Palanga and was buried in Minsk. In his bequest was a book of poetry prepared for publication.
In book form: Vos der tog dertseylt, poetry (New York: A. Biderman, 1930), 93 pp.; Fun tsvey lender (Of two countries) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publ., 1933), 24 pp.; Fun amerike (From America), poetry (Minsk, 1934), 128 pp.; A poeme vegn shnayder (A poem about a tailor) (Minsk, 1935), 105 pp.; Tsvishn kinder, dertseylungen funem lebn fun di arbeter kinder in amerike (Among children, stories from the lives of working children in America) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1938), 60 pp.; Zun afn shvel (Sun on the threshold) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1940), 100 pp.; Di lid fun der muter (The song of the mother) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1940), 14 pp.; Mit libe un gloybn (With love and beliefs) (Moscow: Emes, 1947), 76 pp.; Same tayerste (Very dearest), stories (Minsk, 1948). His translations into Russian and Byelorussian include: Sol' zhytstsia (Salt of life), children’s poems (Minsk, 1957); Sol' zhizni, stikhi (Salt of life, poetry) (Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel', 1961), 103 pp.; several book of children’s poetry; and a volume of stories in Byelorussian. Posthumously: Di zalts fun lebn, oysgeveylte verk (The salt of life, selected work) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1976), 134 pp.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Moyshe Olgin, in Hamer (New York) (December 1930); Kh. Dunets, in Shtern (Minsk) (October-November 1930); A. Pomerants, in Proletpen (Kiev) (1935); Pomerants, Di sovetishe haruge malkhes (The [Jewish writers] murdered by the Soviet government) (Buenos Aires, 1962), pp. 398-413; H. Smolyar, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (May 22, 1945); Nakhmen Mayzel, Dos yidishe shafn un der yidisher shrayber in sovetnfarband (Jewish creation and the Jewish writer in the Soviet Union) (New York, 1959), see index; Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index.
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 431; 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. 282-83.]