«Jewish Observer»
June 2002
5762 Tammuz

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Once this building bore another plaque - in memory of the brother of "great chief" and an ardent revolutionary who had stayed for some time in Odessa. Over long years nobody could even dream the time would come and the plaque on the Malaya Arnautskaya street 9 will be substituted by another one commemorating a great Jewish poet Haim-Nakhman Byalik.

May 24 representatives of Jewish intelligentsia and mass media, pupils of Jewish schools gathered to open a plaque on the front of the building where the poet had dwelled in 1907. This address is one of many included into the project "Israel to great Odessa" being accomplished by a young team of Israeli cultural center with the support of city authorities. The ceremony was attended by director of the Center Shmuel Katsev, secretary of city council Alexander Beiderman, an Israel guest - Honorable Ambassador, head of the Fund for developing education and culture in former USSR republics Shimson Arad. Mr. Arad's visit to Odessa luckily coincided with opening the plaque to a great poet. The quest stressed in his welcome speech participation in this ceremony is a big honor for him since it is impossible to imagine Hebrew literature without the works of Haim-Nakhman Byalik.

Byalik's personality and creative work mean to Jews what Pushkin means to Russians and Shevchenko - to Ukrainians. The poet arrived to conquer Odessa - a big center of Jewish culture late in the XIX century - at a very young age and stayed there over 20 years. Namely here he formed his literary and world outlook, became known as a reformer of Hebrew, poet-publicist, poet-lyric. In his works Byalik not only admires beauties of nature, not only describes a dull Jewish daily life, not only exposes the essence of Jewish pogroms, but angrily denounces Jews themselves for their passivity and slavish psychology.

Together with his friends Haim-Nakhman Byalik founded in Odessa an educational pedagogical publishing house "Moriya". After the Soviet power had been established in Russia he proceeded working over collections of stories and folk legends, translated works of Servantes and Shiller into Hebrew and ... soon understood there was and would be no place for Hebrew in a new Russia. In 1921 he left for Berlin to move to Tel-Aviv four years later where he addressed himself to publishing activity, to writing verses for children.

Odessa's residents are by right proud one of the classics of world literature - Haim-Nakhman Byalik - lived and created in their city.

In its turn, according to second secretary of State of Israel's Embassy to Ukraine Shmuel Katsev, one of the organizers of project "Israel to great Odessa", Israelis are grateful to Odessa since many eminent Jewish figures have had opportunities to live and work here in different years.

This natural gratitude found its expression in establishing a plaque on one of the buildings in Malaya Arnautskaya. The text in Ukrainian and Hebrew found on both sides of an open book certifies, "A Jewish poet, public and cultural figure Haim-Nakhman Byalik (1873 - 1934) lived in this house in 1907".

The right to open a plaque was given to Honorable Ambassador Shimshon Arad. Hymns of Israel and Ukraine concluded the event.

"Or Sameah", Odessa.

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© 2002 Jewish Confederation of Ukraine - www.jewukr.org