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Leyzer Volf (12.01.1910, Vilna - ?.04.1943, near Samarkand, now Uzbekistan)

Updated: Apr 7, 2022

The real name of this poet, playwright and prose writer was Leyzer Mekler. He was born in Vilna into a house painter’s family. He began writing poetry while still at school. He had to leave school after the sixth grade, in order to help his father feed a large family. Later he trained as a glove maker.

The debut of the young poet took place in the well-known Warsaw Yiddish magazine "Literarishe bleter" (Literature Pages), where his poem "Grinblekhe freyd" (Greenish Joy) was published in 1926. Then his poems appeared almost every week in the literary section of the newspaper “Vilner Tog” (Vilna Day).

In 1934-1936, Volf was co-editor of some publications of the literary group "Yung Vilne" (Young Vilna), one of the founders of which he was. In 1939, his first poetry collection, "Shvartse perl" (Black Pearls), was issued in the book form.

Volf actively contributed to Poland Yiddish-language periodicals, to the collections “Di bin” (The Bee), “Toyznt yor Vilne” (Vilna’s Thousand Years), to the New York newspaper “Forverts” (Forward), to magazines “Tsukunft” (Future) and “In zikh” (Introspective), to the Soviet magazine “Shtern” (Star, published in Minsk), etc.

In the pre-war years Volf created hundreds of poems, dozens of dramas, comedies, novels, short stories, aphorisms. Some of his works were staged in Jewish theaters of Vilna and Warsaw.

Leyzer Volf stayed in Vilna until October 1939. After the establishment of Soviet regime in Lithuania, he moved to Białystok, where he remained until March 1940. Then he left for Dnepropetrovsk (now Dnipro, Ukraine), where his sister lived.

At the invitation of Soviet Yiddish writers, Volf visited Moscow. His book “Lirik un satire” (Lyric and Satire, 1940) was published there with an introduction by Aron Kushnirov. Peretz Markish drew attention to Volf’s anti-Nazist works, appreciating the author's satirical talent, in an article with the catchy title "The Jewish Heine", appeared in one of the most prestigious Moscow newspapers “Literaturnaya Gazeta” on March 15, 1940; several of Volf's poems translated into Russian were also

published there.

In the first weeks of WWII, Leyzer Volf was evacuated to Uzbekistan, where he worked hard in factories and collective farms. Severely starving, he continued to write. In 1943, his book “Di broyne bestye” (The Brown Beast) appeared in Moscow, but the writer never saw it. Volf died of starvation on a collective farm near Samarkand.

In 1955, Volf’s collection "Lider" (Poems) was published in New York, edited by H. Leivik. This book includes Volf’s biography and bibliography.

Leyzer Volf finished his autobiographical essay, written in Vilna in July 1932, with the following words: “My world comprises literature and a circle of very close friends. Although I am being devoured by stubborn pessimism, my forecast regarding the mankind’s future is more or less optimistic. My distant ideal is: mankind as one people, the whole world as one country."

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