LEYB SOBRIN (December 26, 1907-March 10, 1946)
He was born in Kalibelod or Kal’niboloto (Katerynopil’), near Zvenigorodke (Zvenyhorodka), Kiev district, Ukraine, into a laboring family. In 1921 he moved to the United States and worked in various trades: ladies’ purses, upholstery, and more than anything else, as a dressmaker. His literary activities began as a labor correspondent in the New York-based, leftist Russian newspaper Novy Mir (New world), later switching to Yiddish. In 1927 he began publishing poetry in the daily Frayhayt (Freedom) and the monthly Hamer (Hammer), later in the anthology Yunyon skver (Union Square), in Signal (Signal), and in other periodicals of the leftist movement. In 1930 he joined “Proletpen” (Proletarian pen). In 1931 he published a collection of his poems entitled Tsvishn mentshn (Among people) in the joint poetry volume Erev-tsayt (Before times) (New York: Biderman), 125 pp., together with his close friend, the poet Yoysef Grinshpan, who died prematurely. His work may also be found in: In shotn fun tlies, almanakh fun der yidisher proletarisher literatur in di kapitalistishe lender (In the shadow of the gallows, an almanac of Yiddish proletarian literature in the capitalist countries) (Kharkov-Kiev, 1932). Sobrin later moved to prose. In 1938 he published his novel Kolombia dres kompani un andere dertseylungen (Columbia Dress Company and others stories) (New York: A. A. A.), 171 pp. In 1945, several months before his death, he began to write a novel entitled Af dor-doyres (For generations). Two weeks before his heart attack, he wrote in response to an inquiry about his literary work the following lines: “After a considerable period of time not writing, in the summer of 1945 I once again began to write. According to a report of Elya Ehrenburg in the newspapers, I saw that my small town…was completely destroyed. Two thousand Jews (every Jew in the town—certainly relatives of mine) were led out to a village and murdered in cold blood. And I am writing a novel about these Jews. This novel is the most important thing that I will have written. That means Af dor-doyres.” He succeeded in publishing the first two chapters—in Morgn-frayhayt (Morning freedom) (February 21 and March 14, 1946). That year (February 9 and 15), the same newspaper published memoirs, Bimey denikin (In the times of Denikin), and on February 15 there appeared his artistic notes Shpil ikh take (I’m really playing), in which he revealed a bit of his childhood. Sweatshop work hit Sobrin very hard. Death completely cut short the very bloom of youth from his creative life. “In the few years of Leyb Sobrin’s writing,” wrote Moyshe Olgin, “he proved to be an artist of rare vividness and strength…. His verse fit like a glove. There was in them a significance which was in full harmony with heavy industrial labor in a great, modern city.” “There remains in Sobrin’s prose,” noted Moyshe Shtarkman, “all the innovativeness of his poetry, and compared to the poems, his stories demonstrate how strong his writing has grown over the course of the previous seven or eight years.”
Sources: Moyshe Olgin, in Der hamer (New York) (December 1930); Olgin, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (March 2, 1931; June 13, 1932; December 24, 1932; July 20, 1935); A. Oyerbakh, in Oyfkum (New York) (1930); V. Abrams (Vov Alef), in Morgn-frayhayt (March 23, 1931); Amerike in yidishn vort (American in the Yiddish word) (New York, 1955), see index; B. Ts. Goldberg, in Tog (New York) (September 11, 1931); Ber Grin, Der ukrainer yid (The Ukrainian Jew) (New York, 1948); Grin, Yidishe shrayber in amerike (Yiddish writers in America) (New York, 1963), pp. 232-36; L. Yurman, in Morgn-frayhayt (December 12, 1932; February 2, 1949); L. Khanukov, in Der hamer (October 1938); A. Pomerants, in Proletpen (Kiev, 1935), pp. 58, 160, 161, 165, 225; Pomerants, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (April 1946); Pomerants, in Tsukunft (New York) (January 1932; April 1946); Y. A. Rontsh, Amerike in der yidisher literatur (America in Yiddish literature) (New York, 1945); Moyshe Shtarkman, in Der tog (November 12, 1938).
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 393.]