Today in Yiddishkayt… January 7
Birthday of Aron Kushnirov, Yiddish Poet
The Yiddish poet Aron Kushnirov was born Aron Kushnirovitsh just south of Kiev in Boyarka, Ukraine (Боярка, made famous by Sholem Aleichem as Boyberik) on January 7, 1890.
He received a traditional Jewish education in kheyder, but after his father’s death when Kushnirov was 13, he went off to Kiev to become work as an assistant in a grocery and continued his education on his own. He was conscripted into the Tsarist army in the First World War and continued fighting in the Red Army after 1920.
His first poetry was published in the Red Army newspaper during the Civil War and continued publishing in radical journals and newspapers. His first collection, ווענט [Walls], filled with revolutionary enthusiasm, was published in by the Kiev literary group ווידערוואוקס [Aftergrowth] in 1921, with a forward by the esteemed poet David Hofshteyn, to whom he dedicated his poem הזכּרה [Notice]:
שטאַרב, שטאַרב מײַן געשרײ, װעסט במילא
אין הימלען ניט װערן דערהערט…
נאַכט האָט פֿאַרמאָסטן דעם מולד,
װי אַ מעסער איבער האַלדז פֿון דער ערד.
Die, die, my outcry, for anyhow
In the heavens it isn’t heard…
Night has cut out the new moon,
As with a knife on the throat of the earth.
Kushnirov later moved to Moscow where he was an editor of the influential literary journal, שטראָם [Current]. He became passionate in the anti-Fascist struggle, volunteered for the army and became distinguished as an officer on the front. He was a leader of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee and was awarded the Order of the Red Star and various medals before the second wave of Stalinist persecution following the Second World War. He died, aged 59, September 7, 1949. You can read more here about Kushnirov’s life and poetic career.
Here’s a review of New York’s ARTEF production of Kushnirov’s play in verse Hirsh Lekert from the New York Times, March 11, 1936 (click to enlarge).