Bruno Jasieński : biography
Bruno Jasieński ( born Wiktor Zysman, Klimontów, Congress Poland, 17 July 1901 – died 17 September 1938, in Butyrka prison, Moscow) was a Polish poet and leader of the Polish futurist movement,Dr Feliks Tomaszewski, Virtual Library of Polish Literature, University of Gdansk. executed during the Polish operation of the NKVD in the Soviet Union.
Wiktor (Bruno) was born to a Polish family of Zysmans with Jewish and German roots, but from his mother’s side he was a descendant of nobility (Pol. szlachta). His father, Jakub Zysman, was a local doctor and a social worker, member of the local intelligentsia. He converted to Protestantism, mostly to be able to marry a Catholic girl, Eufemia Maria Modzelewska, a Polish noble, member of the Modzelewski family of the Bończa coat of arms, with whom he had three children: Wiktor (pen name Bruno Jasieński), Jerzy and Irena. Today one of the streets of Klimontów is named after him.
Little is known of Jasieński’s early life, especially as he did not describe it in his works. He attended high school in Warsaw, but didn’t finish it. In 1914 his family moved to Russia, where Bruno graduated from the secondary school in Moscow. There, his fascination with Igor Severyanin’s ego-futurism started, followed by lectures of Velimir Chlebnikov, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Alexiey Kruchonykh’s Visual poems. In 1918, after Poland regained its independence, Bruno returned to Kraków, where he applied for a position in the philosophical faculty of the Jagiellonian University. However, he suspended his studies to join the volunteer unit of the Polish Army and took part in the disarming of Austrian and German soldiers. After the Polish-Soviet War (February 1919 – March 1921), he returned to University and studied at various faculties (including philosophy, law and Polish literature). He also became one of the founders of a club of futurists named Katarynka (Hurdy-gurdy).
Migration to USSR
In 1929 Jasieński moved to the USSR and settled in Leningrad, where he accepted Soviet citizenship, and was quickly promoted by the authorities. The first Russian edition of I Burn Paris (translated from l’Humanité) was issued in 130,000 copies and sold out in… one day. The same year his son was born and Bruno became the editor-in-chief of Kultura mas (Culture of the Masses), a Polish-language monthly and a journalist of the Soviet Tribune. The following year he divorced Klara, allegedly because of numerous scandals she was involved in. Soon afterwards he married Anna Berzin, with whom he had a daughter.
In 1932 he transferred from the Polish division of the French Communist Party to the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) and soon became a prominent member of that organization. He migrated to Moscow. During that period he served at various posts in the branch unions of communist writers. He was also granted honorary citizenship of Tajikistan. By the mid-1930s he became a strong supporter of Genrikh Yagoda’s political purges within the writers’ community. Jasieński is often mentioned as the initiator of the persecution of Isaak Babel. However, in 1937 the tide turned and Yagoda himself was arrested and Jasieński lost a powerful protector. Soon afterwards Jasieński’s former wife, Klara, who had had an affair with Yagoda, was also arrested, sentenced to death and executed. Jasieński was expelled from the party, and soon afterwards he was also caught up in the purges. Sentenced to 15 years in a labour camp, he was executed on 17 September 1938 in Butyrka prison in Moscow.
Jasieński’s second wife Anna was arrested in 1939 and sent to the Soviet Gulag where she survived for the remarkable 17 years. His underage son was sent to an orphanage to be brought up as Russian with no knowledge of his own past. He escaped from the orphanage during World War II. After the war, he engaged in some unspecified activities considered criminal under the Stalinist system, but eventually, he also discovered his true origins and adopted his real name. He became a member of various dissident organizations opposing Communism. He was killed in the 1970s.