Kvitko, Leib

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KVITKO, LEIB (1890–1952), Yiddish poet and novelist. Born in the Ukraine, he was orphaned while very young and had to earn his living from the age of ten, working in various Ukrainian cities as a dyer, shoemaker, porter, and stevedore. Along with David *Hofstein and Peretz *Markish, he made up the Ukrainian lyric triumvirate. His first poems, published in 1918 in the group's almanac, Eygns, edited by David *Bergelson, won him immediate recognition. His first two books, Trit ("Steps," 1919) and Royter Shturm ("Red Storm," 1919), are full of pathos and enthusiasm for the Revolution. In 1920 Kvitko settled in Germany and joined the Communist Party. In 1922 he published Grin Groz ("Green Grass") and 1919, the latter lamenting the 1919 Ukrainian pogroms. His narrative Riogrander Fel ("Rio Grande Furs," 1928) was based on his experiences among Hamburg dock workers. In 1925 Kvitko returned to the Soviet Union, living in Kharkov (until 1933), Kiev, and Moscow. He edited journals and wrote poems and stories, becoming one of the greatest masters of Soviet children's verse, widely known as Lev Kvitko. Kvitko's works were translated into many of the languages of the Soviet Union, and millions of copies were printed. In 1939 he was awarded the Order of Red Banner for Labor. Arrested in the Stalinist purges early in 1949, Kvitko was murdered on August 12, 1952, among a group of leading members of the Jewish Anti-fascist Committee.


Rejzen, Leksikon, 3 (1929), 581–6; lnyl, s.v.; S. Niger, Yidishe Shrayber in Sovyet-Rusland (1958), 41–9; Ch. Shmeruk et al. (eds.), A Shpigl oyf a Shteyn (1964), 335–71, 748–51, 781–3; I. Yanasovich, Mit Yidishe Shrayber in Rusland (1959), 133–212. add. bibliography: D. Bechtel, in: Le Yiddish: langue, culture, société (1999), 247–71; J. Rubenstein and V.P. Naumov (eds.), Stalin's Secret Pogrom: The Postwar Inquisition of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (2001); G. Estraikh, in: East European Jewish Affairs, 2 (2002), 70–88.

[Elias Schulman]