1915 Diary of S. An-sky: A Russian Jewish Writer at the Eastern Front

1915 Diary of S. An-sky: A Russian Jewish Writer at the Eastern Front

1915 Diary of S. An-sky: A Russian Jewish Writer at the Eastern Front

1915 Diary of S. An-sky: A Russian Jewish Writer at the Eastern Front

Synopsis

S. An-sky was by the time of the First World War a well-known writer, a longtime revolutionary, and an ethnographer who pioneered the collection of Jewish folklore in Russia's Pale of Settlement. In 1915, An-sky took on the assignment of providing aid and relief to Jewish civilians trapped under Russian military occupation in Galicia. As he made his way through the shtetls there, close to the Austrian frontlines, he kept a diary of his encounters and impressions, written in Russian. His diary entries present a detailed reflection of his daily experiences. He describes conversations with wounded soldiers in hospitals, fellow Russian and Jewish aid workers, Russian military and civilian authorities, and Jewish civilians in Galicia and parts of the Pale. Although most of his diaries were lost, two fragments survived and are preserved in the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art. Translated and annotated here by Polly Zavadivker, these fragments convey An-sky's vivid firsthand descriptions of civilian and military life in wartime. He recorded the brutality and violence against the civilian population, the complexities of interethnic relations, the practices and limitations of philanthropy and medical care, Russification policies, and antisemitism. In the late 1910s, An-sky used his diaries as raw material for a lengthy memoir in Yiddish published under the title The Destruction of Galicia.

Excerpt

The first-ever publication and translation of S. AN-SKY’S diary from 1915 bring to light a remarkable personal account of a watershed era in Russian, Jewish, and East European history. It is a document whose author was both a critical witness to history and a fascinating figure in his own right. An-sky, pseudonym of Shloyme Zanvil Rapoport (1863–1920) was a Russian Jewish writer, ethnographer, and revolutionary, best known today for his play The Dybbuk, one of the most widely performed works of Jewish theater in the world. in a Russian-language diary that he kept throughout the First World War, An-sky chronicled his experiences working for the Jewish Committee for the Aid of War Victims, an organization known by its Russian acronym as ekopo. As an aid worker for ekopo, An-sky played an important role in what was the largest relief campaign ever undertaken in Jewish history to that date—an immense coordinated initiative to assist tens of thousands of refugees as well as victims of mass expulsions that were carried out by the Russian Army during the first year of the war.

An-sky’s aid work among Jewish civilians brought him to Galicia and Bukovina, provinces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that the Russian Army occupied twice during the war, first in 1914–1915, and again in 1916–1917. Inhabited mainly by Poles, Ukrainians, and Jews, Galicia and . . .

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