Rajzel Zychlinsky: Biographical Notes

  (1) Rajzel Zychlinsky's curriculum vitae as were sent to Dr. Karina Kranhold at the very beginning of Kranhold's work on Rajzel Zychlinsky poetry in 1991.

"Born in Gombin, (Gabin) Poland, daughter of Mordechai and Debora Appel; sister Chana, brothers Jankew, David. My brother Abram lives in Paris. Attended a Polish public school from 1916-1923. Because there was no high school in the small town of Gombin, I and another student had a private teacher from 1924 to 1927after finishing public school. My father was a leather worker. He went three times to the United States. His family stayed in Poland. He died in Chicago in 1928.

Literary debut in the Folkszeitung in 1927 or 1928, a daily Jewish newspaper in Warsaw. Melech Rawitsch had there one column each week, under the name "letters to one and to all". Yiddish beginners sent there their poems - and Rawitsch answered - to continue to wriite or to "break all the pens in the house". I also sent a few poems and his answer in that paper was encouraging.

He was not the editor. I don't know the name of the editor. I directed an orphanage one year, from 1934-1935. I didn't have a special education for the job, but the president of the orphanage in Wloclawek read some of my poems in some magazines - and offered a job.

My first book of poems "Lieder" was published by the P.E.N. in Warsaw (The Yiddish Pen Club) in 1936. Introduction by Itzik Manger. I was not a teacher in Warsaw, I worked as a clerk in a bank, until the outbreak of the war in 1939.

About six weeks after the German's army's invasion of the city, I was asked by S. Lastik, if I want to leave Warsaw with him, and two other people in a taxi. The taxi would take us to the river Bug, which has been at this time the border between Poland and Russia. The prize for a place in the taxi was 400 Polish zloties, which was like today 400 dollars. I agreed to it, and was left almost with nothing.

The next day we left Warsaw and the taxi brought us to the river. A man with a boat took us across the river, to the other side - and there were Russian soldiers. That was not far from Bialystok. And so I escaped from the gas chambers.

I lived in Kazan - my son, Marek Kanter was born there, on February 15, 1943. He is teaching mathematics, including one year in the University of Tel-Aviv. My husband, Isaac Kanter, was a doctor, a psychiatrist, and worked in Russia in a hospital. He died this year, 1990, in Brooklyn.

After I graduated from high school in New York, I studied English literature and biology at City College. My name as a student was Rajzel Kanter. In the New School for Social Research, I studied literature and philosophy."

Dr. Karina Kranhold who made her doctorate thesis on Rajzel Zychlinsky poetry adds:

"Rajzel Zychlinsky returned to Poland in 1946. Her mother and three of her siblings, Dovid, Jankew and Chana have been killed in Chelmno and Treblinka together with their husband and wives and all their children. She, her husband, and her son Marek left Lodz for Paris in 1948. In 1951 the family came to New York. Rajzel Zychlinsky lived for 17 years in Manhattan, then moved to Brooklyn and from then on she moved several times, restless. She lived with one of her sisters in Florida, a while with her son in Canada and in Berkeley. After the big earthquake in 1989 she came back from the West Coast to the East and lived in Brooklyn until November 1997. Then she moved again to California where her son Marek lives".

Marek Kanter about his mother's life, in a message to Gombin Email Exchange Forum 30/4/98:

"I am writing on behalf of my mother Rajzel Zychlinsky, who was born in Gombin in 1910 and is presently living in Berkeley, California at a residential care facility not far from my house.

Her memory of her youth in Gombin is still good and she remembers her friends from that period. If any are still alive please write to me at 1216 Monterey Ave., Berkeley California, 94707 and I will deliver the letters to her. For your information, she survived the war by moving to Russia with her husband Dr. Isaac Kanter.

As some of you may know she is a well known poet in the Yiddish language and has published many books in Yiddish over the years. The celebrated poet Itzik Manger used to think very highly
of her work and she received the Itzik Manger prize in Israel in 1975.



A new book of poems translated from Yiddish - "God Hid His Face" has recently been published. It consists of English translations of her Yiddish poems which appeared in previous books and in Yiddish newspapers such as the "Forward".


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Last Updated December 2nd, 2003



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