By Monty Starr (Birmingham, UK)
Hirshel Bloshtein 1895-1978
My mother’s uncle was the well-published Yiddish author Hirshel Bloshtein. Hirshel lived in Czernowitz from 1932 until his death in 1978.
Hirshel was born in Kėdainiai, Lithuania to Dovid Bloshtein, a poor tailor and his wife Reizel. His father died when he was a young boy and he helped his mother in her bakery in order to eke out a living.
Hirshel never attended school but the local Rabbi’s son taught him Russian and he studied mathematics for himself. At the age of seventeen he published a translation of a poem from Russian to Yiddish, which was widely circulated locally, and was admired for its rhythm and expression.
He obtained a post as a private teacher in the nearby town of Yanova but was expelled in 1915 with the rest of the Jews in Lithuania by the Russians who feared they were German spies.
Bloshtein remained in the Ukraine, teaching at a school in Mikop in the Caucasus until 1919 when, he returned to Kėdainiai. There he became one of the editors of the Yiddish newspaper, and continued writing and publishing poems and stories mainly in Yiddish and Russian.
He married in 1922 and had two daughters, but times were very hard and in 1925 he emigrated with his family to Buenos Aries where he had been offered a post as headmaster of a Jewish school.
In 1932, together with several other Jewish teachers, he was expelled from Argentina for communist activities and his family (in Argentina) never heard from him again.
Hirshel settled in Czernowitz where his literary output was prodigious. Here he became a regular contributor to the Sovyetishe Heimland newspaper, where he was able to express his communist commitment.
He remarried in Czernowitz, and had a daughter, Milda, who now lives in Ashdod with her son Alex. In 1995, passing through Romania on her way to Israel, Milda’s suitcase containing all her father’s manuscripts was stolen by thieves and so all the original works were lost.
By chance I was made aware of an advert in an Israeli Russian newspaper placed by a neighbour of the family in Argentina who now lives in Jerusalem, so I have been able to contact the two daughters and two grandsons. Although the grandsons were interested, the daughters wanted no contact.