Lev Ozerov

Lev Ozerov (1914–1996) was born Lev Goldberg in Kyiv, Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire. He began to publish poems in the early 1930s, and as his literary career took off, he adopted a Slavic-sounding pseudonym (from ozero, the Russian word for “lake”), though he never rejected his Jewish roots. Ozerov was a close friend of many prominent Yiddish poets, including Leyb Kvitko and Shmuel Halkin, whose work he translated into Russian. He was also one of the first to write, in both prose and verse, about the Babi Yar massacre in 1941. His commitment to giving voice to the voiceless also found expression in his work as a critic and editor. In 1946, while serving on the staff of the journal October, Ozerov helped the great poet Nikolay Zabolotsky return to print after eight years in the Gulag. Ozerov’s review of a 1958 collection of Anna Akhmatova’s verse broke the so-called “blockade” against her work, and the edition he published of Boris Pasternak’s poems in 1965 marked the beginning of that poet’s slow posthumous rehabilitation after the Zhivago affair of 1957–1958. But perhaps Ozerov’s greatest contribution—as both a poet and an advocate for the unjustly silenced—is his collection Portraits Without Frames, which was published in 1999, three years after his death.