Ryva Baliasna

Ryva Baliasna (1910–1980) was a Yiddish poet.

Ryva Baliasna was born in 1910 in the town of Radomysl, Kyiv Province (today’s Radomyshl, Zhytomyr region). She grew up in an orphanage. Baliasna studied at a factory school, then at a Literary Faculty of Kyiv Teacher’s Institute (1930–1934), and later became a postgraduate student at the Institute of Jewish Proletarian Culture. In 1935–1939, she worked as an editor at the Holovlit (Main Office in Charge of Literature and Publishing Houses) and Ukrnatsmenvydav (Ukrainian National Minorities’ Publishing).

During World War II, having been evacuated to Ufa, Ryva Baliasna was a cultural worker of an artel and a censor of the Obllit (regional censorship agency). After returning to Kyiv, in 1945–1952, Ryva Baliasna worked as an editor at the publishing house Radianska Shkola [Soviet School] . 

On 6 May 1952, Ryva Baliasna was arrested for alleged “counterrevolutionary activity” and sentenced to 10 years of forced labor camps. She was released on 17 December 1955 and exonerated on 9 January 1956. Baliasna died in 1980 in Kyiv. 

Ryva Baliasna’s literary debut took place in 1928. She was a member of the Union of Soviet Writers of Ukraine since 1936 and authored 15 Yiddish books, among them the poetry collections Calling (1934 ,אי איבער רופ), Light Paths (1940 ,ליכטיקע סטעזשקעס), and Golden Leaf Fall (1978 ,ג לדענער בלעטערפאל), as well as prose writings.

Ryva Baliasna’s archive contains more than 500 units of storage: manuscripts, documents, photos, and letters. 

The most valuable items are certainly the manuscripts of poetic works: 25 poems in Yiddish, the epic poem Isaak Levitan (Pages of Fate) (no date, Russian) and 159 poems in Russian. Many poems are in multiple typewritten copies. 

Almost no manuscripts (except for The Matrosovs) are dated. Moreover, nowadays it is rather difficult to determine which of these works have been published and which have been unavailable to readers. Therefore, Ryva Baliasna’s creative legacy requires a detailed analysis of literary scholars.  

In the archive, researchers of Ryva Baliasna’s life and creations will find 105 photos of the poet, her family members, and other people. Since the majority of the photos are not signed, it is difficult not only to date them but also to identify people in them. That is why Ryva Baliasna’s photo archive also needs thorough research. 

Historians of Stalinist repressions are encouraged to get familiar with the documents of Ryva Baliasna and her family (1948–1976), among which are a certificate of checking Baliasna’s complaint regarding the revision of her criminal case (1954), a note about the termination of her case due to the groundlessness of charges, a certificate of exoneration (1956), and a certificate of overturning the decree of the Special Council of the Soviet Ministry of State Security concerning the writer (1957). 

Ryva Baliasna’s correspondence (more than 50 letters of 1953–1970) is of great value. Especially interesting are four letters from the period of her imprisonment (1954–1955), which Baliasna wrote to her relatives. Two of them were written by a nurse, which implies that the writer had a grave health condition. There are also 11 letters from Baliasna’s son Zoria sent to the places of her detention. 

Those who study the history of the Jewish section of the Soviet Writers Union of Ukraine are suggested to get familiar with the letter about the restoration of Ryva Baliasna’s membership in the Union (1956, only the first name of the sender is indicated: “Hrysha”).