Monday 28 January 2019


AYZIK KAHAN (1906-1956)

            A poet and prose writer, he was the older brother of the poet Lipe Heler. He was born in Babruysk, Minsk district, Byelorussia. He attended religious elementary school and public middle school. In 1928 he graduated from the Minsk Jewish Pedagogical Polytechnic and worked as a teacher in Jewish schools. He began writing poetry and stories in his student years and debuted in print with poetry in the Minsk serials Der yunger arbeter (The young worker) and Oktyabr (October), as well as in such other publications as: Shtern (Star), Atake, almanakh fun roytarmeyishn landshuts-literatur (Attack, almanac of the Red Army’s national defense literature) (Moscow-Kharkov-Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1931), Pyoner (Pioneer), Yungvald (Young forest), Eynikeyt (Unity), and the anthology Mit festn trot (With a firm step). His first collection appeared in 1932. In the 1940s he was a special correspondent for Eynikeyt in Byelorussia. Among the materials that he published in Eynikeyt, especially of interest is his “Di eyniklekh funem zeydn mendele” (The grandchildren of Grandpa Mendele), a reportage piece from Mendele Moykher-Sforim’s hometown of Kapulye (Kopyl, Kapyl) (August 29, 1946), in which he described the Jewish partisan group that consisted of Kapulye natives during WWII. He was purged, arrested, and deported for seven years to eastern Siberia in 1949. After being rehabilitated, he rejoined his family in Babruysk in 1956, sick and exhausted from his experiences, and died several months later. His works include: Lider (Poetry) (Minsk: State Publishers, 1932), 74 pp.; Afn grinem groz (On green grass) (Minsk: State Publishers, 1935), 36 pp. He also translated from Russian: Kleyne roytarmeyer (Little Red Army soldiers), for children (Minsk, 1931). He died in Babruysk.

Sources: Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1962), see index; B. Orshanski, Di yidishe literatur in vaysrusland nokh der revolutsye, pruvn fun an oysforshung (Yiddish literature in Byelorussia after the revolution, attempt at an inquiry) (Minsk, 1931), pp. 218-19; A. Pomerants, Di sovetishe haruge malkhes, tsu zeyer 10-tn yortsayt, vegn dem tragishn goyrl fun di yidishe shraybers un der yidisher literatur in sovetnland (The [Jewish writers] murdered by the Soviet government, on their tenth anniversary of their deaths, concerning the tragic fate of the Yiddish writers and Yiddish literature in the Soviet Union) (Buenos Aires: YIVO, 1962), p. 56.

Khayim Maltinski

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 468; 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. 307-8.]

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