in Kishinev, Bessarabia.
father was a furniture-maker.
in Odessa in a Russian theatre school and then acted in
a Russian provincial troupe. Later he switched to
acting in the Yiddish theatre, and in about 1918, he came
to act in Tultshin where he met Mintze, the daughter of
a klezmer. They married and formed a small traveling
troupe, at first with his brother Zakharia Zakharov with
their families, and later, separately.
Sotskier relates that he [Gakhanski] had a pleasant,
extraordinary baritone [voice].
Gakhanski’s daughter Nadia married the singer Zigi
Shternhel, and his daughter Soyke was the wife of the
Soviet-Yiddish author Motl Sotskier. His son-in-law Motl
Sotskier describes him and his difficult theatre
experience, which casts a light on the former Yiddish
theatre life as follows:
First World War hadn’t yet ended when a thin, short,
young man appeared in Kishinev who attracted everyone’s
attention with his unusual, extravagant appearance. He
appeared as if he had stepped down from a stage on which
an old Russian play was performed, and he had
absentmindedly forgotten to remove his makeup and change
his clothes. He wore shoes with high heels (to appear
taller), a hat with a broad brim from under which peeked
out a shock of hair. On his chest, a abroad tied [?]
[oysgebundete] __?___[lavelienrn]____ and
even a pelerine [a short cape]. On the little streets of
Kishinev on which poor and hard-working people lived, he
cut an amazing figure. People looked at him in wonder –
'Who is this type? From where did he appear? What do you
mean, who? You don’t recognize him? Of course, it’s Avreml, Dovid-Ber the carpenter’s son, Gakhanski’s son.'
By then he had returned from Odessa, where he had
studied in a theatre school. He even had a bit of
experience in a Russian provincial troupe."
There he fell in love with Mintze, the daughter of a
klezmer. They married. She became an actress in the
troupe, too, in which he…Gakhanski…who once was a
dreamer, became old before his time from worry over the
daily need to eke out a living.
the way, this worry weighed more on the shoulders of
Mintze. Gakhanski was absorbed in the heavens and he
really looked like an ascetic – emaciated and dried-out.
His mother, Khaye Dobe, who used to have a fish shop in
the large Kishinev market, likened him to “a dried-out
‘tarnanke’ [type of fish].” He was as impractical as a
child, and like a child, helpless. He couldn't navigate
the various difficult circumstances that often occurred
in their life. He also never knew how the business side
of his theatre ran. Mintze concerned herself with that.
She and not he was the heart and the head of the family.
Abraham thought he was above everyday, prosaic things.
His concern was art. He sought out music (thank God
there was a lot to choose from) and foremost-- repertoire. He carried a full box of notebooks and
books, yellowed with age, with him. It didn’t make any
difference to him if the piece was too old. He quickly
made the needed edits and fit it to his understanding.
woman’s role became a man’s – or vice versa.
besides that, he himself also played around with
wasn’t hard for him to put together a theatre piece
about something that really happened.
Rosa Heller relates that Gakhanski used to act his own
plays. One of them, written as a poem, “The Rabbi – a
Shoemaker” (not Goldfaden's “A No One”) that portrayed
how a poor shoemaker pretended to be a rabbi. He has a
beautiful voice, travels to a small town with his wife
and daughter where there was a rabbi, but not a cantor.
He is invited to shul, he prays, finds favor with the
town leaders who collect a little money for him. A
little later, however, he is discovered to be a
shoemaker – so he is removed from his position.
Julian Schwartz relates, the Russian theatre troupes in
which Gakhanski acted used good actors, both Jews and
non-Jews, some even well-known. According to the
recollection of the older Yiddish actress Sarah
Ettinger, who, during the Second World War acted in
Odessa, Gakhanski came to them there in the Yiddish
theatre and was accepted into the troupe. A part of the
troupe later went to Paris, others to South America, and
a few to Kishinev. Gakhanski then played Yiddish variety
shows in Kishinev and all over the Bessarabian province.
1941 G. and his wife were killed by fascist bands –
where and how is unknown.
Gakhanski had six daughters: Esther, Soyke, Nadia, Tayvl,
Beyle, and Khane. All of them acted in the Yiddish
theatre and according to their birth records, one can
determine the route of Gakhanski’s troupe over Moldavia
Sh. E. from Julian Schwartz and M.E. from Sarah
Ettinger and Rosa Heller.
Motl Soktzier – The Yikhes Boym
(pedigree tree) – “This is how we live.”
Moscow, 1962, pages 215-235.