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Guzik, Anna Iakovlevna


(1909–1994), variety artist. Born in Kharkov, Anna Guzik was the daughter of Iakov Guzik, founder of the Yiddish Traveling Folk Ensemble of Musical Comedy. She first appeared in her father’s troupe in 1924, acting in Avrom Goldfadn’s comedies and operettas and appearing in stage versions of Sholem Aleichem’s works. She sang, danced, acted, read feuilletons from the stage, and performed Jewish folk songs. In the mid-1930s Guzik toured the USSR with a Jewish folk music ensemble and also appeared on the Russian stage in musical comedies. In 1939 she won a national contest for variety performers.

In the postwar years of late Stalinism, Guzik’s performances were restricted, as were all Yiddish productions, and she appeared only rarely. Her last recorded performance in Yiddish in this period was in Tbilisi in September 1950. Reappearing in Moscow in April 1954, she was one of the first singers to include Yiddish songs in her repertoire as the era of the thaw began. Throughout the remainder of the 1950s, and until she emigrated to Israel in 1973, Guzik toured the Soviet Union with a variety show, whose program included Sholem Aleichem’s Blonzhende shtern (Wandering Stars).

Guzik’s concerts, like those of other Yiddish artists—Sidi Tal, Nehama Lifshits, Zinovii Shulman, Emil Hurevits, Binyomin Khaiatovskii, Shaul Liubimov—invariably drew full houses, with tickets selling out immediately. In addition to being major occasions for Jews throughout the length and breadth of the Soviet Union, the concerts also played an important role in the consolidation of the Jewish national movement in the USSR. Guzik, for example, appeared at evenings of Jewish songs organized by Jewish activists in Riga in the late 1950s.

As the popularity of Yiddish concerts in general and of Guzik specifically soared, the authorities obligated her to introduce more items reflecting socialist realism. She had to fight her own war of attrition with the authorities for every piece in Yiddish she sought to include in her performances. Since she had to fulfill her quota of performances and did not wish to forego incorporating some Yiddish songs in every recital, Guzik and her husband, Mikhail Chaikovskii, who would introduce the program and appear with her, began in 1960 giving concerts in the smaller towns of Ukraine and Moldavia.

The most dramatic performance of Guzik’s career was in Moscow on 5 June 1967, the day the Six-Day War broke out. On this occasion, Chaikovskii spoke of the artist’s role in giving encouragement in times of national distress and described the concert as Guzik’s contribution to the Jewish people’s war effort. After arriving in Israel, Guzik was no longer able to attract an audience.