7: Letter sent to Sutzkever by two Jewish refugees in Tajikistan, April 1944.
In a way, it was poetry that saved Sutzkever’s life. In September 1943, Sutzkever, his wife Freyde, and a group of FPO members escaped from the Vilna ghetto just before it was destroyed, joining partisans in a nearby forest. From the forest, Sutzkever sent a poem that he had written, “Kol Nidre,” over the front lines to Moscow. In Moscow, Jewish leaders found the poem and were extremely impressed. In fact, for a wide variety of political reasons, they advocated to send an airplane to the Lithuanian forests to save Sutzkever and his wife. In March 1944, the Sutzkevers were airlifted out of Nazi-occupied Lithuania and brought to Moscow. Sutzkever’s arrival in Moscow was greatly celebrated, especially by Jewish refugees who had fled to the Soviet Union after Hitler’s invasion of Vilna and the surrounding region in 1941.
Jewish refugees all over the Soviet Union sent him hundreds of impassioned letters, responding to his poetry, telling him their stories, and asking for his help. This letter, originally written in Yiddish, was sent to Sutzkever in Moscow by two women in Tajikistan in Central Asia.
Suggested Activity: Read the letter as a class. Note the personal and urgent tone in which these women, who had never met Sutzkever before, wrote to him. What do you think these women saw in Sutzkever’s poetry that inspired them to write him in this way?
Source: Esther Eydelman and friend to Avrom Sutzkever, 16 July 1944, 4/1564–10, Sutzkever Papers, National Library of Israel, Tel Aviv, Israel (trans. Hannah Pollin-Galay).