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Chersonskij Emil (Milan) 1937-2021

Updated: Apr 7, 2022

A Mensch has passed away, whose merits for the Lithuanian Yiddish culture can hardly be overestimated.

Chersonskij was born on 2/9/1937 in Kiev. During the Second World War, his family managed to evacuate to the Krasnoyarsk Territory. After the war, Milan with his mother and grandmother came to Vilnius. Since childhood, Chersonskij grew up surrounded by Yiddish culture. In 1960 he graduated from the Moscow Pedagogical Institute of History and the Faculty of Philology. He was appointed to work as a teacher of Russian language and literature on Sakhalin. Later he moved to Vilnius and in 1963-1964 worked as a teacher in high school. In 1969 he graduated from the Leningrad Institute of Theater, Music and Cinematography, specializing in actor and director, on the course of the outstanding director and teacher Makariev.

After graduation, he worked as a director of the Barnaul and Kalinin city theaters, staged performances around Soviet Union, including in Vilnius, Smolensk, Kazan.

In 1979-1999 he was the director the Jewish Folk Theater in Vilnius, the only Jewish theater to stage performances in Yiddish on the territory of the Soviet Union, in which Milan directed and staged many performances based on Sholom Aleichem, Grigory Kanovich and other Yiddish authors. At the Folk theater he also organized a youth studio, where he taught acting.

Namely, under Milan Chersonskij the Theater achieved the highest recognition. In 1986 for the first time in 18 years the it went on tour outside Soviet republic of Lithuania - to Bobruisk (Belarus), then followed by tours to Vitebsk, Mogilev and large tours in Moldova: Bendery, Tiraspol, Balti, Chisinau. In August 1988, thanks to the persistence of Milan, for the first time in the history of Lithuania, the Yiddish play was screened on national Television: Lithuanian State Television showed a carnival performance of "Skomorokhi from Brod" in Milan’s production. In November of the same year, 11 performances of the Jewish Folk Theater directed by Chersonskij were shown in Leningrad. The last performance of the Jewish Folk Theater "Mirele Efros" was produced by Chersonskij in 1994.

In 1999 Milan announced that the further activities of the Jewish Folk Theater became impractical due to the fact that there were no actors and spectators.

Since 1989 to 2010 he worked in the editorial office of the newspaper "Lithuanian Jerusalem" (Yerushalaym de Lite), and from 1999 until 2010 he was the editor-in-chief of the same magazine, which was published in 4 languages ​​- Yiddish, Russian, Lithuanian and English.

Many articles, primarily related to the fight against anti-Semitism and distortion of the history of the Holocaust in Lithuania, were published by him on the website

In recent years, he was seriously ill, but nevertheless, he continued to devote his life and work to the love of his life: Yiddish theater and Yiddishkayt.

Bright Memory will forever remain in the hearts of all participants of the Jewish Folk Theater and grateful spectators, and the readers of the Yerushalaym de Lite.

Actors and associates in the Jewish Folk Theater

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