Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Irena (Devorah) Bortshevska


B. was born in 1897 in Dmitriev, Kurland region, Russia.

Her father was a tailor in Kursk.

In 1913 she completed the Kursk women's gymnasium and traveled to Kiev to continue her education in the local university.
Then she went over to Kharkov, where she took an active part in concerts and spectacles for amateurs in Russia. A little later she became a professional actress on the Russian stage and changed her name from Dora to Irena.

In 1920 she immigrated to Riga, where she had a priori participated in local Russian dramatic theatre and crossed over to Yiddish in the Yiddish theatre, early in the Meutis Theatre, then in the other troupes.

Zalmen Zylbercweig, who saw her act in Riga, remarked that as a [froyayshn khn] that she was very well suited for her roles, in which she had acted, that she also possessed a fine dramatic talent that certainly was polished through her acting on the Russian stage. It was evident in her acting an intelligence, understanding and a conception of the roles that she had embodied.

According to Max Perlman, who had acted with her in the 1938-39 season in Riga, she married there the Russian actor and director Barabanov, who had acted in Russian drama in Riga,


and she had crossed over to the Yiddish stage.

When the Nazis had captured Riga and had send the Riga Jews to a ghetto, B. and her husband could be also be found there. On 30 November 1941, in a cold early morning, she was together with 18,000 Jews. She was led behind Riga, into the Rumbula forest, where she was brutally destroyed by the Nazis and cast into a mass grave that also included her husband.

Her brother lives in Leningrad.

M E. from Max Perlman and Sh. E. from Yonah Radinov.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 5, page 4112.

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