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Rajzel Żychlińsky (July 27, 1910 – June 13, 2001) was a Polish writer of poetry in Yiddish whose poetry covered a span from the pre–World War II depression years in Poland to the terrors and tragedies of the Holocaust. She is especially noted for her poem God Hid His Face.[1]

Background

Żychlińsky was born in Gombin (Gąbin) Poland,[2] daughter of Mordechai and Debora Appel. She completed grade school in Gombin, but, as the small town had no high school, she continued her education through private tutors. Her first success in publishing her poetry was in the Folkszeitung, a Jewish newspaper in Warsaw, in 1927 or 1928. Her first book of poems, Lider, was published in 1936 by the Yiddish Pen Club with an introduction by noted poet and playwright Itzik Manger. During the months preceding the German invasion of Poland in 1939, Żychlińsky was successful in getting her second book, Der regn zingt, published in Warsaw.[3]

During this period she maintained herself by working various jobs, including working at an orphanage and as a clerk. When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, Żychlińsky and friends hired a cab and, for an extraordinary payment of 400 złoty, had the driver drive her to the Bug River, where she had a boat take her across the river into the zone of Soviet-occupied Poland, near Białystok.[3] The poet’s mother and siblings, however, refused to flee their country, and perished in the gas chambers of Chełmno.[4]

Emigration to America

Żychlińsky returned to Poland and France after the war. In 1951 she emigrated to the United States and resided with her husband, Dr. Isaac Kanter and her son Marek Kanter, in Manhattan, and in Brooklyn. There she found work, and, at the same time, attended City College of New York.[3]

Subsequently, she and her family have resided in various parts of the United States, including Florida and California, as well as spending some time in Canada.[3]

Books of poetry

Żychlińsky published a number of books in Yiddish:[5]

  • Lider (Poems), with an introduction by Itsik Manger
  • Der regn zingt (The Rain Sings)
  • Tsu loytere bregn (To Clear Shores)
  • Shvaygndike tirn (Silent Doors)
  • Harbstike skwern (Autumn Squares)
  • Di November-zun (The November Sun)
  • Naye lider (New Poems)

Much of her work was translated into German:

  • (Bread for the Birds) Five Decades of Poetry (translated by Hubert Witt)
  • Gottes blinde Augen (God's blind Eyes) (translated and edited by Karina Kranhold)

Her selected poems were published in English:

  • God hid his face. Selected poems (translated from the Yiddish by Barnett Zumoff, Aaron Kramer, Marek Kanter, and others)

Individual poems

Her poem God Hid His Face[6] is one of her most famous and powerful about the holocaust. In the poem she writes of a mood darkening bit by bit with no hope of rescue.[5]

Anthologies

Many of Żychlińsky’s poems have been published in anthologies, including Aaron Kramer's A Century of Yiddish Poetry. Her poetry has been translated into English by various poets, including Barnett Zumoff, Aaron Kramer, Marek Kanter, Hannah Kahn, and others.[6]

Awards

Żychlińsky was awarded the prestigious Itzik Manger's Prize, granted at Tel Aviv on 9 June 1975.[7]

References

  1. ^ Kanter, Marek. "Rajzel Zychlinsky z"l". Zchor.com. Retrieved August 23, 2010. 
  2. ^ Prager, Leonard; Carrie Friedman-Cohen (2007). "Zychlinska, Rajzel". In Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Encyclopaedia Judaica (2nd ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA. p. 696.  |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  3. ^ a b c d "Rajzel Zychlinsky: Biographical Notes". Zchor.com. Retrieved August 23, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Yiddish Poet, 88, Crafts Beauty From Shoah Horror". Jewish Bulletin of Northern California. January 29, 1999. Retrieved August 23, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "Rajzel Zychlinsky: Books List". Zchor.com. Retrieved August 23, 2010. 
  6. ^ a b "God Hid His Face: Selected Poems of Rajzel Zychlinsky". Virtual Shtetl. Retrieved August 23, 2010. 
  7. ^ "About the Author". Virtual Shtetl. Retrieved August 23, 2010.