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History is a great art. It is created by bright, intelligent, restless people. Such as our hero – Meer Braslavskiy. A revolutionary to the marrow of his bones, he spent his whole life fighting for the happiness of his people. In Russia, this struggle was doomed. But he managed to break free and try again.

He was born in Kerch, in the eastern Crimea. The family was large (eight children: five sons and three daughters) and completely assimilated. Jewish traditions in the Braslavskiy house were practically not observed, except, perhaps, for kashrut rules and trips to the synagogue on Yom Kippur.

Because of his father's work, the family traveled for a long time across the Caucasus and the Don, until they finally settled in Rostov-on-Don. Here all of Meer's older brothers and sisters went to local gymnasiums and became consistent socialists.

But, the Braslavskiy family also had its own “white crow” – the elder brother of Meer – Isaac (Yitzhak). Unlike all those at home who were sailing in the wake of socialist ideas common to Russia, he was seriously carried away by Zionism. At the age of 16, Isaac brought home a plaster high relief of Theodor Herzl and hung it in the living room. This was in 1917.

When the First World War began, an endless stream of refugees from the western provinces of Russia poured into the city. Life became difficult, and after the death of Moses Braslavskiy, the main breadwinner, the problems multiplied.

But in comparison with what began in the city immediately after the October Revolution of 1917, all the previous difficulties seemed to be just annoying inconveniences.

A real Bacchanalia was going on in Rostov, with a constant change of regimes and a kaleidoscope of numerous armies passing through the city. On December 2, 1917, the volunteer units of Ataman Kaledin managed to completely knock out the Bolsheviks from Rostov.

Two months later, on February 23, 1918, Rostov was again captured by the Bolshevik “socialist army” of Ensign Rudolf Sievers, an ethnic German who was considered a German agent by the whites. The Bolsheviks held out in Rostov until May 3, 1918.

The large 14-room house of the Braslavskiy’s was confiscated, and in return they were given a tiny apartment. Hungry days began in Rostov. One of the sisters had to give piano lessons. Meer himself took on any job, even the hardest. The main thing was to get food for the sick mother.

On May 8, the German 20th reserve division entered Rostov, which remained in the city until December 1918. The city was considered a key point for an uninterrupted supply of oil and opened the way for the German army to the North Caucasus. But the Germans were replaced by Denikin's Volunteer Army. Denikin, however, did not promise the Jews anything good either.

The events raging on the Don not only did not stop the development of the Zionist movement, but, on the contrary, gave it strength. Numerous incidents have pushed people to make Zionism the only path for the Jewish people. The first cavalry army of Budyonny, which entered Rostov-on-Don on January 10, 1920, differed little from the Denikinites. Units of the 6th Cavalry Division under the command of Semyon Timoshenko staged massive robberies and robberies in the city, several dozen Jews perished.
I had to rely only on myself. Meer Braslavskiy and his peers, mostly students, joined the self-defense unit to resist the pogromists who killed and robbed the Jewish population. But Meer was not a Zionist then: he was sucked in by the romance of the “legion of Russian intelligence officers”, an all-Russian scout organization.

Braslavskiy stayed in Russian scouts for several years, until at one of the city-wide buildings he saw a marvelous thing – Jewish scouts and Meer immediately got the idea of joining them.

Most of the members of the disbanded squad passed into the Hashomer Hatzair, created in 1922 at an underground congress in Moscow. It was a heavily politicized organization of the left-Zionist wing. The goal of the Rostov Jewish scouts was to prepare Jewish youth for resettlement in Eretz Israel and for kibbutz life.

Rostov's “Shomerians” regularly gathered in a grove or cemetery to read books and magazines together, to discuss the Zionist idea and political agenda. Young people, of course, were not limited to one ideology: there were sports, choir, and dances. On November and May holidays, young Zionists compiled and distributed leaflets.

Braslavskiy joined Hashomer Hatzair and soon became one of the leaders – Bogrim – of the organization in Rostov.

Once in the new company, he read the works of a man from the high relief in the living room – Theodor Herzl, found out who Joseph Trumpeldor is, which means “Eretz Israel” and “kibush ha-aretz” – the conquest of his country.

Once at the Braslavskiy’s there was a particularly hot and large meeting. Meer also attended the meeting, at which there were many speeches - it was the founding congress of the Rostov branch of the Zionist Socialist Party (צ״ס, TsS). Members organized the Jewish Famine Relief Committee in the city, which maintained ties with the Joint (the largest Jewish charity based in America and operating around the world).

Personally, the Zionist Socialist Party entrusted Meer Braslavskiy with a responsible task - he took the post of secretary of the Jewish Committee of Craftsmen and Handicraftsmen, created with the help of the party. The peak of the committee's activity was in 1924-1926. Its task was to provide Rostov artisans and handicraftsmen with raw materials and organize the sale of finished products. Thanks to party ties, the committee has repeatedly received loans for the purchase of raw materials and tools. Our own people in consumer cooperation helped with sales.

In addition to the Rostov branch of the Zionist Socialist Party, the Braslavskiy’s became one of the organizers of the HeHalutz cell in Rostov. Almost all of its members were parallel socialist Zionists. The HeHalutz movement promoted the practical preparation of Jewish youth for life in Palestine.

Meer Braslavskiy received an order from Moscow from the Central Committee “HeHalutz” on the need to intensify the work on preparing for aliyah on the spot. In parallel to his work in the Jewish Committee of Craftsmen and Handicraftsmen, he headed the “city akhshara” in Rostov-on-Don – labor practice and training in the craft of youth to prepare for departure to Eretz Israel. “Urban akhshara” was a shoe-making workshop, in which mainly Jews from the refugee community worked. Soon Braslavskiy organized and headed the “agricultural akhshara” in the Caucasus – there young people got used to kibbutz activities.

“HeHalutz” operated legally in Rostov-on-Don. But, in the end, the former members of the left wing of Poalei Zion put the question bluntly: either the members of the Central Council leave “HeHalutz”, or they will snitch. The secretary of “HeHalutz” stopped attending party meetings.

The situation on the Don was heating up. The atmosphere in the Braslavskiy family was also heating up. Isaac settled separately and communicated little with his relatives: one of the brothers was a fiery Bolshevik.

On December 12, 1925, the city faced another wave of arrests: the OGPU of the North Caucasus Territory arrested several dozen socialist Zionists, including minors.

In total, in the spring of 1926, about 30 people were detained in the city; they were members of the Zionist Socialist Party, its youth wing “Z. S. Jugend-Farband”, “Hashomer Hatzair” and the legal “HeHalutz”. 20-year-old Meer was also arrested. By that time, he was no longer a scout, but was developing the local branch of the Z. S. Jugend-Farband – the Zionist Socialist Youth League, which proclaimed the construction of a socialist Jewish society in Palestine, combining the ideas of a “revolutionary socialist war” with “constructive work”.

Among others was arrested the chairman of the Jewish Committee of Craftsmen and Handicraftsmen, where Braslavskiy was a secretary. The chairman was not listed in the parties, his only fault was that he provided Meer with a typewriter, on which the ill-fated leaflets were produced.

Soon it became known who snitched on the Zionists: shortly before the arrest, Braslavskiy and his fellow party members met a young man, an employee of a Soviet regional newspaper, who had arrived from another city. He had a letter of recommendation that no one bothered to check.

Braslavskiy was put in solitary confinement. When, a few weeks later, they were transferred to the general prison, one of the arrested members of the Jugend-Farband began to persuade Braslavskiy and the rest of the prisoners to sign a letter of renunciation of political activity. He assured: the Central Committee of the party decided that, in the event of mass arrests, it was necessary to sign a similar letter in order to continue further work. The supporter of the agreement with the authorities had a high prestige among young people, so they argued for a long time. Braslavskiy also spoke in front of his comrades in the cell. His main thesis was that the rejection of ideals is not only immoral, but also demoralizes the comrades left on the outside. The majority took Meer’s side, and no one signed the shameful letter. Besides his main opponent, who was soon released and returned to Rostov.

Throughout the investigation, Braslavskiy in every possible way denied any relation to the Zionist Socialist Party. Until one day, at a confrontation, he was not identified by one of the detained comrades. He did not have a choice: during the search they found notes from Braslavskiy.

But Meer was unexpectedly released. As it turned out later, the Chekists decided to establish operational surveillance over him. Feeling that something was wrong, Braslavskiy avoided meeting with fellow party members and only visited the activists of the still legal “HeHalutz”. Three months later, the young man was again behind bars. The investigator stated bluntly: since there was absolutely no benefit from Braslavskiy in calculating the Zionist socialists who remained at large, then there was no reason to free him.

By the decision of the Special Meeting at the OGPU on June 18, 1926, Meer Braslavskiy was sentenced to 3-year exile in Kazakhstan. A week later, the sentence was changed to deportation to Palestine, but the execution of the new sentence was delayed without a hint of progress.

Braslavskiy was ordered to prepare for the transportation. The prisoners asked the authorities for a farewell meeting with their relatives and friends, but they refused. Prisoners walked for a long time, finally arrived in Bolshenarymskoe of the Semipalatinsk region. There, in Kazakhstan, Braslavskiy met his future wife, who was also exiled because of her activities in the Zionist Socialist Party.

Bolshenarymskoe was located far from the railway, at the mouth of the right tributary of the Irtysh River. To the west of the village stretched a deserted steppe, to the east – the Altai Mountains. Nature itself did the job of a guard.

In Kazakhstan, the Braslavskiys submitted a petition to the OGPU with a request to send them to Palestine. The permission was received not immediately and not without the help of an old acquaintance of Braslavskiy's father – Ekaterina Peshkova.

Finally, in December 1928, the family arrived at the port of Jaffa. In British Palestine, Braslavskiy quickly got a position in accordance with his education – a chemical engineer.

On the spot, he was to be met by his elder brother Isaac, whom the OGPU also exiled to Palestine. But Isaac was nowhere to be found. Meer was looking for him throughout the country, money was sorely lacking, and the search took up all the free time and energy.

In the end, knowledgeable people told Braslavskiy that his brother committed suicide. The harsh conditions of exile and Butyrka's solitary confinement had a negative impact on the state of mind of Isaak Braslavskiy. In Eretz Yisrael, he managed to live only six months.

Having tragically lost his brother, Braslavskiy decided to fulfill his old dream - to become a kibbutznik. In 1928, he moved with his small family to Naharaim, where the Palestinian Electricity Company, organized by Pinchas Rutenberg, operated.

Braslavskiy began to work on the construction of a hydroelectric power station at the confluence of the Yarmuk River into the Jordan. Due to his excellent organizational skills, he was soon chosen as the leader of the working group – “kvutsy”.

During the purchase of land for the village, Meer Braslavskiy became one of the translators of the Emir of Transjordan, Abdullah, who came to Naharaim.

Despite the hard work and the unusual heat, Braslavskiy had a goal – to become a member of the kibbutz, founded in 1924 by Latvian “halutzim” not far from the place where he worked. And the kibbutzniks accepted him into their ranks. After 10 years, the settlers decided to move a little to the upper reaches of the Yarmuk River, where they founded the kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov (Ikhud). Together with them was the Braslavskiy family.

After working diligently for 15 years at Hevrat Hashmal HaNaharayim and the Palestinian Potash Company in Sdom, Braslavskiy headed a metalworking workshop in his native kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov. From the 1970s until his retirement, he worked at the Log plastic products plant.

Meer did not forget about social and educational work. Loved by his colleagues, he often told them about the adventures of his youth. Braslavskiy's wife also did not leave Zionist work; she was friends with the famous Israeli politician and teacher Zalman Aran, whom the family met back in Russia.
In Israel, the Braslavskiy couple had a second son, as well as two daughters. One of their grandchildren, Noam Braslavskiy, is a known Israeli artist and art curator. Adventurism and versatility, coupled with tireless hard work – certainly inherited from his grandfather – earned him the fame of an art revolutionary both in Israel and around the world.

Meer Braslavskiy

1905 – 1986

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