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Natan Zabara

1908 - 1975

Natan Zabara was born in 1908 in the village of Rogachiv, Zhytomyr region in the family of a potter. The family had neither money nor connections. Even before the revolution in the Jewish cheder, he learned to read in Hebrew and Yiddish. When he grew up, he moved to the city of Novograd-Volynskiy and went to a school for working youth. In the morning he worked at a construction site, in the evening he studied, at night he read. In 1925, after graduating from school, he moved to Kiev and entered the Pedagogical Institute. In Kiev, he also lived on what he earned on a construction site. In his senior years he made his debut with the story “Tumor” in the Kharkov magazine “Prolit”. In the following years, his stories and stories began to appear on the pages of magazines that appeared in Yiddish in Kiev, Moscow, Minsk and Birobidzhan.

 

In 1931, Zabara was drafted into the Red Army. After demobilization, he entered the graduate school of the Institute of Jewish Culture in Kiev and spent less than two years there. By his own admission, literary activity did not leave the young author time for lectures and tests, and there was absolutely no interest in dry scientific work – Zabara did not manage to finish his postgraduate studies.

 

But the career of a novice journalist and writer went uphill. Before the start of the Great Patriotic War, Zabara managed to publish the story “Nilovka” (1934), written in Yiddish – about the changes that took place in Jewish townships in the first years of Soviet power, the novel “From country to country” (1938), a book of essays “People and Times” (1938), the novel “Father” (1940).

 

In December 1941, Natan Zabara ended up at the front, but he did not stop writing there either. From the winter of 1941-1942 to January 1948, Senior Lieutenant Natan Zabara was a war correspondent for several newspapers. Zabara wrote notes about front-line life, and during his leisure hours he studied German – since it was not difficult with knowledge of Yiddish. But now the war is over. Zabara ended up in the literature and arts propaganda department of the Teglikhe Rundschau newspaper, the publication of the Soviet military administration in Berlin. He lived in Berlin until 1948. Then he returned to Kiev and settled on Hospitalnaya Street in the apartment of his sister Estelle-Riva.

 

After 1948, clouds began to gather over Soviet Jews. The anti-Semitic campaign was initiated by the Kremlin. The leader himself, Joseph Stalin, was at the head of the persecution of Jews. Since 1949, his right hand in the Ukrainian SSR was Melnikov, the 1st secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine and a member of the expanded Presidium of the Central Committee of the CPSU. Melnikov launched an anti-Semitic campaign: under his direct leadership, his subordinates were looking for "cosmopolitans" and "spies" throughout the republic. Almost all Jewish writers in Ukraine fell under the Kremlin order, which he fulfilled so zealously. Among them was Natan Zabara.

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Natan Zabara was arrested on May 13, 1950. During the search, they found 15 folders with his own manuscripts and 63 books, most of which were in Hebrew, still a pre-revolutionary edition. The writer had no other property.

 

The MGB investigator Pogrebnoy, a well-known expert in extracting confessions, worked at the inquiry. Zabara had no chance to justify himself. He was accused of having links with the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (EAK). They used the protocols of interrogations of the writers David Hofstein and Abram Kagan, who had been imprisoned in the “cosmopolitan case” since 1949. According to Hofstein and Kagan, Nathan Zabara, during his stay in Berlin, brought Zionist periodicals published in the Anglo-American zone for the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. Investigator Pogrebnoy also managed to “establish” that Zabara was in constant contact with American intelligence agents in Germany and was a foreign spy.

 

Of course, at first Zabara completely denied the charges against him, but a month after his arrest, in June 1950, the defendant began to sign all the “confessions”. On May 5, 1951, a special meeting at the USSR Ministry of State Security found Natan Zabara guilty under Articles 54-10 part 2 of the Criminal Code of the Ukrainian SSR and 54-1 “b” of the Criminal Code of the Ukrainian SSR – treason and distribution of counter-revolutionary literature, and sentenced him to 10 years in the camps.

 

From 1950 to 1956, Zabara served his sentence in Kolyma. In the camp, he was one of the few who observed Jewish traditions and cared about the education of Jewish youth. While at work in the convoy garrison, Zabara often brought his comrades to the zone with something to eat.

 

Zabara was kept in the camp longer than others. Only on April 27, 1956, the resolution of the Special Meeting of the MGB of May 5, 1951 was canceled for lack of corpus delicti. In 1957, the rehabilitated Natan returned to the capital of Ukraine. In the camp, the writer decided to work on a historical writing about the life and struggle of the Jewish people. The novel was called “Galgal Ahoser” (“Everything is repeated”).

 

The years spent in camps not convinced him that the Soviet leadership was not interested in the development of Jewish culture. The Soviet writer, confident at the beginning of his life that Jews would participate on an equal basis with others in building communism in the USSR, at the end of his days became a convinced Zionist, believed that Jews should live in the land of their ancestors. Beginning in 1968, Zabara began to teach everyone Hebrew. Becoming one of the first teachers of the forbidden language in Kiev, Natan also introduced the activists of the Zionist movement to each other.

 

In November 1971, Natan Zabara submitted two parts of “Galgal Ahoser” for publication in Israel. He really wanted his novel to be published in Hebrew and in Russian without the Soviet censorship. On February 19, 1975, Natan Zabara died. The author's dream came true only three decades later – in 2004, a complete Russian translation of his main novel was published in Jerusalem.