Hebrew poet and novelist Elisheva Bikhowsky (seated, second from right) and her husband Dr. Shim‘on Bikhowsky (seated, center) in a group portrait on the eve of the couple’s departure for Palestine; Mielnica, Poland (now Mel’nytsya-Podil’s’ka, Ukr.), 1925. (YIVO)

Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

NOTE: you will be redirected
to the Web site for the

Bikhowsky, Elisheva

(1888–1949), poet and novelist. Elisheva Bikhowsky was born Elisabeta Zhirkova to a Christian family in Riazan, Russia. Her father, Ivan Zhirkov, taught at a rural elementary school and published schoolbooks and texts for general readers. Her mother, the daughter of an English family living in Moscow, died when Bikhowsky was three years old. Following her mother’s death, she was raised at the home of her English aunt in Moscow. There she studied at a girls’ high school and attended courses in pedagogy at a local teachers’ training institute, completing her program in 1910.

In 1907, Bikhowsky began to write poetry in Russian. She composed some 200 pieces, many of which were assembled in the collection Minuty (Moments), which was published in Moscow in 1919. Another collection was issued later that year.

As a young adult, Bikhowsky spent much of her time in a Jewish environment, particularly at the home of a classmate. She developed an interest in Jewish culture and the Hebrew language, and began reading Yiddish works for her own enjoyment. In 1913, she took up the study of Hebrew, initially at Agudat Ḥoveve Sefat ‘Ever (Society of Lovers of the Hebrew Language) and subsequently on her own. She also began to translate Yiddish and Hebrew stories and poems into Russian. In 1920, she married Shim‘on Bikhowsky (Bichovski), a childhood friend of Yosef Ḥayim Brenner and Uri Nisan Gnessin, and he convinced her to write in Hebrew.

In late 1921, the periodical Ha-Tekufah printed several of Bikhowsky’s poems. The next year, she published her first two Hebrew stories under the title “Reshimot” (Sketches), in the same journal. She soon was writing poems, stories, and literary essays for numerous papers, including Ha-Toren, Ha-‘Olam, and Prat. Her positive feelings about Zionism are evident in her work, particularly in the story “Nerot shel Shabat” (Sabbath Candles), published in Ha-‘Olam in 1924.

Bikhowsky immigrated to Palestine with her husband in 1925. In 1926, three editions of her book Kos ketanah (Little Cup) were published. Another book of poems, Ḥaruzim (Rhymes), was issued in 1928, and a collection of her stories, titled Sipurim (Stories), appeared later that year. In 1929, she published a number of works, including the story “Mikreh tafel” (A Minor Incident), which describes a blood libel in Moscow; the book Meshorer ve-adam (Poet and Man), which explores the poetry of Aleksandr Blok; and her novel Simta’ot (Alleys), which describes the life of Russian and Russian Jewish intelligentsia and bohemians in Moscow after the October Revolution. This novel, as well as many of her stories and poems, are written in an impressionistic, lyrical style.

In 1932, Bikhowsky embarked on a trip during which her husband died in Kishinev. Following her return to Palestine, she suffered years of loneliness and material hardship.

Suggested Reading

Elisheva Bikhowsky, “Toldotai,” Ketuvim (August 27, 1926): 1; Getzel Kressel, “Bikhowsky, Elisheva,” Leksikon ha-sifrut ha-‘Ivrit ba-dorot ha-aḥaronim, vol. 1, pp. 222–223 (Merhavyah, Isr., 1965); Chaim Weiner, “Bichovski: Le-Yovel ha-shisim shelah,” in Pirke ḥayim ve-sifrut, pp. 74–76 (Jerusalem, 1960).



Translated from Hebrew by Rami Hann