Grodno (also named "Hrodna", "Horodno" or "Grodne"), now a large city in western Belarus, was an important crossroads town in the north-east corner of the 2nd Polish republic between the two world wars. It is also the home of a very ancient Jewish community, dating back to the fourteenth century. In the 1920-30's over 40% of the city's population was Jewish; more than 20,000 Jews resided in Grodno, out of a total population of 50,000. This was a very diverse Jewish community, with Zionists, Bundists, and a majority of Orthodox Jews (mostly Misnagdim). This diversity is reflected in the map of the local media and press. Grodno Jews, like Jews throughout Poland, were ardent readers of newspapers, and they too read the Warsaw-based dailies Hajnt and Der Moment. But besides these popular dailies, several local newspapers published in town also had a solid readership; Zionist weeklies (Unzer Leben, 1926-1927; Unzer Wort, 1933-1935), A Bund-affiliated weekly (Grodner Shtime, 1927-1939), and an unaffiliated daily-commercial newspaper (Grodner Moment, 1924-1939).
A new daily newspaper, the Grodner Lebn, joined the Grodner Moment in October 1938 as an alternative unaffiliated daily-commercial newspaper. The newspaper's publisher was Mones Gan, and its first editor was Jakub Gryn. Gryn was soon replaced by Tauba Garber, who edited the newspaper up to its last issue in August 1939. Garber was also the publisher of the newspapers starting January 1939.
The first issue was published on October 20th, 1938, and on its cover page appeared an editorial with the newspaper's credo: "In rough times, especially for Jews, we are launching the Grodner Lebn (…). In times when we as Jews are being silenced, and different platforms on which we used to be able to express ourselves are shutting down… As despair and lack of hope are being widespread… Yiddish press is practically the last stage on which we can protest out loud (…). In full awareness and responsibility that we bestow upon ourselves, we join the circles of volunteers fighting for a better future for the Jewish people (…). This is our goal in publishing this newspaper, and we call everyone to join hands with us."
Despite these impassioned pleas, full of pathos, the newspaper did not only deal with the burning issues of the day facing the Jewish people, but also covered the prosaic and the mundane. Its news reports covered a wide variety of topics, focusing on the local Jewish community and its institutions, alongside with coverage of nationwide affairs, and occasionally worldwide issues and occurrences in Eretz-Israel. Each issue was usually 4 pages long, and up to 10 pages long on Fridays. In the inner pages and on the back pages appeared recurring sections and columns, such as Serial novels (which were very popular in other contemporary Jewish and non-Jewish newspapers), Feuilletons, Theatre reviews and on Friday editions also a Humor section alongside political and historical articles.
Like many newspapers, then and nowadays as well, the Grodner Lebn's business model was built upon revenue from both subscribed readers and sellings at bookstores and kiosks, and from companies paying for advertisements and announcements. As a result, promotions of small local businesses, advertisments of new movies at the local cinemas or the upcoming Purim festivities were in abundance. These and many more are additional and primary sources that can help us grasp the Zeitgeist of Jewish cultural and everyday life in Grodno on the eve of World War II.
The last issue we have is issue #201, printed on August 31st 1939. Although not proven, this is most probably the last issue of this newspaper ever published.