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Shira Gorshman (née Kushnir; May 10, 1906 – May 4, 2001

Updated: Jan 13, 2022

Boris Sandler

The prose writer Shira Gorshman was born in the shtetl of Krakės, Kovno province (Lithuania) into a poor family. Having lost her parents early, she grew up in her grandfather's house. During the First World War, Shira Kushnir, like many Jews from the frontline zone, was deported to Vilna.

In 1924, having become a member of the youth organization "He-Halutz", Shira together with her first husband H. Khatskelevich and daughter, left for Palestine.

Together with the communards from the "Gdud ha-Avoda" (Labor Battalion), she worked in agriculture, laid and paved roads. That organization, headed by a Communist International (Comintern) member M. Elkind, was heavily influenced by Communists and therefore was soon banned by the British authorities.

In 1928, most of the "battalion" members returned to the USSR, including Shira, by then a mother of three. In Crimea, where they were brought, the Communards created the agricultural commune “Vojo nova” (New Life in Esperanto, nowadays called Voyo Nova or Listove). There she met her second husband - the Jewish painter Mendel Gorshman, who came from Moscow to depict the life of Jewish colonists in his drawings.

In 1930 Shira remarried and moved with Mendel to Moscow.

Her first short stories were published in the newspapers “Der Shtern” (The Star, Kiev) and “Der Emes” (The Truth, Moscow).

In the 40s Gorshman contributed to the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee newspaper "Eynikayt" (Unity) and to the "Tsum zig" collection (To the Victory, Moscow, 1944, edited by P. Markish) under the pseudonym Shira Goman.

The first book of Shira Gorshman’s stories "Der koyekh fun lebn" (The Power of Life) was issued in Moscow in 1948. The writer’s talent got fully revealed in the 60s, when the Yiddish magazine "Sovetish Heymland" began to appear in Moscow.

In Warsaw, her "Dry un draysik noveln" (Thirty-three short stories) appeared.

The list of her books issued in Moscow follows: a collection of Gorshman’s works translated into Russian "The Third Generation" (1963), "Lebn un likht" (Life and Light, 1974; in Russian translation - 1983), "Likht un shotn" (Light and Shadow, 1977).

A virtuoso of short stories, Gorshman conveyed psychological experiences of the heroes with graphically clear strokes. Her descriptions of nature somehow resemble watercolor miniatures.

In 1989, Gorshman immigrated to Israel for the second time. She was keeping an active creative life: published several books, met with readers, participated in literary associations. In 1992, her collection of novellas and short stories "Oysdoyer" (Endurance) was published in Tel Aviv.

Gorshman spent her last years in Ashkelon.


The kibbutz is located in Emek ha-Yarden (the Jordan Valley) in a rather low place.

The heat is unbearable. But by seven o'clock in the morning, the kibbutzniks show up to work.

No one needs to be reminded of this. Every kibbutznik knows what he should do.

The dining room is open. Near the entrance there are all kinds of food, piles of food on the tables.

The eyewitness told me how a young volunteer (a guy who came to work on a kibbutz) put a glass of sour cream, a plate of tomatoes and cucumbers, a fair amount of chopped onions, a large piece of butter on a saucer and five eggs onto his tray. Then he went to the bread-box and got plenty of bread. Finally, he found a free place and began to chew all this fresh rural food with great appetite.

“I was very curious,” the eyewitness said, “about how soon this volunteer will finish all his breakfast.”

It did not last long, though. Fairly soon the tray was empty, and the volunteer was full and satisfied.

By a sinful deed I recalled how things were in the 1920s in the "Gdud-Avoda", in a Jewish working commune. Of course, we ate something, but the "gdudniks" had a popular proverb: "If you suck in the stomach, eat what does not suck you." Comrade Heftman, our foreman, used to pass between the tables encouraging the dull and drowsy ones:

- Do not doze, friends! I know, I see that you are not full yet. But we have to work! Other Jews will come and enjoy the fruits of our hands - and remember us with a good word. They will come, they have no other choice, so move on!

Fantastic! I remember that time and us in it. And I just shake my head. That happened, indeed, in reality!

translated from Yiddish language by L. Fruhtman

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