Naomi Replansky and Eva Kollisch
Naomi Replansky and Eva Kollisch both began their literary activism in a factory. Born in the Bronx in 1918, Replansky toiled in factories, starting on an assembly line during World War II in the heyday of Rosie the Riveter, and eventually graduated to operating a lathe. Years later, she trained herself to become a pioneering computer programmer for not-for-profit organizations, starting with the earliest punch cards used by the first giant computers. This variegated background helped Replansky develop into an eloquent poet of the working class. She published her first poems in 1936, and the first collection of her work, Ring Song, was published by Scribner in 1952. Her 1973 poem “An Inheritance” reads in part:
‘Five dollars, four dollars, three dollars, two,
This is the worry that never got said
And showed so plain in my father’s frown
It drifted down like soot, like snow,
I shook it off with a shake of the head.
I skated down the steepest hill.
When the wind blows wrong, I can hear it today.
And, as if in its rightful place,
For some decades, Replansky and Kollisch have shared their lives on the Upper West Side. Eva Kollisch, an American Jewish author and a professor emerita at Sarah Lawrence College, was born in Vienna in 1925. She was rescued from the Nazis on a 1939 Kindertransport to the United Kingdom, eventually arriving in America in 1940. Like Replansky, Kollisch started out working in factories during World War II, though she eventually became a specialist in German and comparative literature.
Kollisch published the memoir Girl in Movement in 2000, about her life as a young Viennese Jewish refugee in Staten Island. One review praises “…the marvel of her youthful, and continuing, commitment to social justice, and her search for more complex visions of freedom. Eva Kollisch could have been swept away by history: instead she turned to grapple with it.” In 2008 she published The Ground Under My Feet, a meditation on being a Holocaust survivor. Grace Paley described the book as “…beautifully written. It has more history in it than most historians give us.”
An activist for over half six decades, in anti-war, feminist and human rights causes, most recently Kollisch is a member of One by One, a small intergenerational group that practices dialogue with the enemy.