Yechiel Shraybman (March 12, 1913 - December 2, 2005

Boris Sandler


The prose writer Yechiel Shraybman was born in Moldova, in the shtetl of Vad-Rashkov, who entered his stories as Rashkev.

In 1918, Vad-Rashkov, like the entire right bank of the river Dniester, became part of royal Romania, which noticeably helped to preserve the traditional way of life of the Bessarabian Jewry.

Yechiel studied at a cheder and at a state school in Vad-Rashkov. He was a singer at the cantor and a private tutor teaching children the Hebrew language. Since 1930, he continued his education at the Hebrew teachers' seminary in Chernivtsi. But he failed to complete his studies; due to his participation in the underground pro-communist movement, he was arrested. The years of his life in Chernivtsi are described in the novel "Zibetsnyorike" (The Seventeen-Year-Old Ones, 1972).

In the mid-30s, Yechiel Shraybman and his wife Olga moved to Bucharest, where he worked as a prompter in a Yiddish theater. That period of the writer's life is described in his novel "Zibn yor mit zibn khadoshim" (Seven years and seven months, Chișinău, 2003).

He made his debut with literary miniatures in the “Signal” magazine, which belonged to the “Proletpen” socialist movement (New York, 1936). In the same years he published his works in the Bucharest magazine "Shoybn" (Window Glasses) and in the Warsaw “Folkstsaytung” (People's Newspaper).

After the Nazi occupation, Shraybman escaped from Romania to Chișinău, which by that time had become the capital of Soviet republic of Moldavia. Shraybman was among the first in the republic to be admitted to the Union of Soviet Writers.

During the war between the USSR and Germany (1941-1945) Shraybman with his wife and son was in evacuation in Uzbekistan. Then he collaborated with the Moscow Yiddish newspaper "Eynikayt" (Unity).

He returned to Chișinău in 1945, and a year later was invited to Moscow for a special party dedicated to the release of his first book - a collection of short stories "Dray Zumers" (Three summers, 1946).

During the years of the total persecution of Jewish culture in the USSR, the writer was driven to a suicide attempt.

From time to time, his stories for children were published in translation into Moldovan language (the Soviet version of Romanian): "Strada noastră" (Our street, Chișinău, 1955), "Povestir" (Long stories, Chișinău, 1957).

In 1961, in the very first issue of the Moscow Yiddish magazine "Sovetish Heymland" (Soviet Homeland), a selection of Shraybman's miniatures appeared.

Here is a list of Shraybman’s books in Yiddish and in Russian translation, issued by the Moscow publishing house "Sovetsky Pissatel” (Soviet Writer): "Yorn un reges" (Years and Moments); "Vayter" (Further, 1984 and 1988).

Books issued in Soviet Moldavian publishing houses “Kartia Moldoveniaske” and “Literatura Artistike” located in Chișinău: "Short stories" (1959); "Sons" (1960); "Rashkev stories" (1972); the novel "The Seventeen-Year-Old Ones" and "New Rashkev Stories" (1977); "Days of Long Years" - novel, stories, miniatures (1983).

Since the early 1990s, Shraybman regularly appeared in New York publications, including "Forverts" (Forward), "Oyfn shvel" (On the Threshold), "Di Tsukunft" (The Future); he often gave lectures at the Jewish Library named after I. Manger. A book of his stories "Shtendik" (Always) was published in Tel Aviv publishing house “I.-L. Peretz farlag” in 1997.

In the independent Moldova, two Shraybman’s books were published, each in both Yiddish and Russian under one cover: “Yetzire un libe” (Creation and Love); and the aforementioned “Seven years and seven months”, including a novel and miniatures.

Yechiel Shraybman died in 2005 in Chișinău.

In 2015, his posthumous book "Portretn" (Portraits) was released in Jerusalem - a collection of essays about Jewish writers, actors, and musicians. The writer’s second wife, Marina Shraybman, took an active part in preparing the collection.

Yechiel Shraybman is known as a brilliant stylist, the last important voice of Yiddish in Moldova. In each of his works - both in a one-page story, in a story, and in a novel - the author asks and tries to answer not only to today’s himself, he also wants to explain something to himself who has been lost in the past. This is a kind of psychological treatment using the Freudian method, healing your mind from doubts and fear, with signals sent from one time to another.

His stories have been translated into many languages. He has been honored with significant literary prizes. For instance, in 1993 he was awarded the title "Maestro of Literature of the Republic of Moldova".

Yechiel Shraybman is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Chișinău. On the tombstone, such words from his confession are engraved: “I do not write in Yiddish, but in Yiddish I kiss the earth, because Yiddish is the happiness of my life."


PRAYER FOR THE REPOSE OF THE SOUL

by Yechiel Shraybman


Hallowed be thy name!

May the high name "mom" rise above everything and everyone!

Indeed, it is the name "mom" which is the basis of life. It is thanks to her and to the word "mom" that the world exists. Even more can be said: thanks to the word "mother", all the people on earth share a common feeling.

All the people: the white and the black, the clever and the stupid, the kind and probably even the evil, treat the word "mom" the same way. No wonder the sounds that form this word in various languages are similar.

Dear Mom! As your eldest son, a Jewish writer Yechiel Shraybman, I say the first memorial prayer for you in plain Yiddish.

You had been carrying the elevated name "mom" for so many years with dignity, pride and greatness.

You deserve this word, and this word deserves you.

You were a genuine representative of our people. You possessed all of its best qualities. It seemed that everything in you is taken from Sholem Aleichem.

And the dad, like Peretz's heroes, was stingy with his words. As it happened with Peretz's heroes, his sigh was often followed by an ellipsis.

You were talkative in Sholem Aleichem manner; like his heroines, you loved to laugh; like his heroines, you used to wipe away a tear furtively. But laughing was your true essence.

You did not study at universities, but sometimes you jokingly said that you graduated from the faculty of laughter. Therefore, at your grave it is more fitting to remember not the sad episodes, but the merry ones.

More than anything in the world you hated fake people. You were able to feel the slightest false note wherever it sounded.

More than anything else, you were fond of passion and love. Falling in love with people, falling in love with life, falling in love with thoughts, an all-consuming love for children. And the usual earthly love between husband and wife.

I have often heard you say that the main thing in life is love.

A simple woman from a small shtetl, a woman named Reyzl, was carrying great wisdom, eternal truth of life.

And there were one more thing you loved with all your soul. The land where you were born and where you gave birth to us, your children. A small abandoned place on the bank of the river Dniester. You were holding the attachment to this native land during all your life, until your last breath.

Your last words were:

- Fetch me some water from the Dniester to drink!

You were an adequate representative of the people. I am saying a prayer for the repose of your soul, my dear mother, without tears in my eyes, because there is something higher and stronger than tears: the pride that I have had such a mother, and the bright confidence that we, your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, will become your continuation.

May the noble word "mom" be elevated above everything and everyone!

May your name be sanctified!