MOYSHE VARSHE (1887-April 22, 1921)
He was born in Antopol (Antopolye), Grodno district, to a father who was a poor elementary school teacher. He grew up in Plotsk, Poland, to which his parents moved when he was still a child. He studied with his father and privately. He was carried away early on by the revolutionary movement on the eve of 1905, joined the Bund, and for his revolutionary work he was thrown in prison on several occasions in Plotsk, Warsaw, and Kalish. In 1906 he moved to the United States, worked in a factory, sold newspapers, suffered from hunger, lived an ascetic life, avoided people, and was tortured by nightmares and physical and mental illnesses until his fatal end in 1912. The sole consolation in his tragic life was the friendship that he established with several young Jewish writers who would later become well-known as “Di yunge” (The young ones). Varshe was closer to Zishe Landau, Moyshe Nadir, and Kolya Teper than to the others. Together with Teper, he translated Chekhov’s plays into Yiddish: Der onkl vanya (Uncle Vanya [original: Diadia Vanya]), Der vaser-foygl (The seagull [original: Chaika]), and Der karshn-gortn (The cherry orchard [original: Vishenvyi sad]); with B. Lapin, he translated Knut Hamsun’s Viktorya (Victoria) and Leonid Andreev’s Dos lebn funem mentshn (The life of man [original: Zhizn' cheloveka]). Varshe worked the last weeks of his life as a night watchman in an apartment house which was then in the middle of construction. One night he was high up in the complete darkness of the unfinished building and plunged downward. When he was found lying on the sidewalk, he was already dead. K. Teper and Z. Landau later published his collected writings: Vegn fun a neshome, togbukh, ferzn, bletlekh (Pathways of a soul, diary, verses, pages) (New York, 1913), 111 pp.
“Varshe’s problems were ‘sin,’ ‘no good,’ ‘good,’ and the like,” wrote B. Vladek. “Kabbala was reality for him. And suffering from definite forms of nervous illnesses and material poverty, he never mentioned things that would have the slightest connection to materiality. Like many other lost spirits, he sought salvation in books. In his Bletlekh (Pages) which was full of extracts from books, one can see that he read a great deal and he looked hopelessly everywhere for an answer to his unhappy existence.”
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 1; Kh. L. Fuks, in Folksblat (Lodz) (June 20, 1918); R. Ayzland, in Zishe landoy zamlbukh (Zishe Landau anthology) (New York, 1936), pp. 38, 40, 42; Ayzland, Fun undzer friling, literarishe zikhroynes un portretn (From our spring, literary memoirs and portraits) (New York, 1954), pp. 15-19; Sh. Kruk, Plotsk, bletlekh geshikhte fun idishn lebn in der alter heym (Plotsk, pages from the history of Jewish life in the old country) (Buenos Aires, 1945), pp. 130-32; B. Vladek, in Plotsk, pp. 151-52.