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In early August 1922, GPU intelligence agents in the city of Kremenchug were conducting surveillance on a big target – a prominent Zionist nicknamed "Redhead." This young man, the commander of the Kremenchug legion "Maccabi" and head of the local Jewish scouts, was preparing to leave for Kharkiv, where the All-Ukrainian Congress of "Maccabi" and the All-Ukrainian Conference of Zionists from the "Ze'irei Zion" movement were to be held.

The head of the agent group reported that from August 6 to 8, 1922, the scoutmaster of the "Maccabi" legion tirelessly conducted various meetings and gatherings in Kremenchug. Surveillance agents observed him in Theater Lane, at the Candle Factory in Pomerki, and also at a house on Sumsky Lane, where Sema gathered several dozen Jews. That same evening, the young man organized a Zionist meeting in the garden of the Central Club "Vseobuch." The next day, the pattern repeated itself: Lyubarsky's "tail" was clearly noticed, as he had placed a female observer on the balcony of one of the houses where a large meeting was taking place.

Nearly thirty years later, at the end of Stalin's terror, the authorities came for the doctor Solomon Lyubarsky. He was a well-known figure, with his entire life in the public eye. Surveillance was unnecessary.

It might seem that there could be no connection between the Zionist of the turbulent 1920s, who was being watched by GPU agents in Kremenchug, and the distinguished surgeon of Siberia, known in the post-war period as Semen Romanovich Lyubarsky, a professor at the Novosibirsk Medical Institute. However, the fact remains: surgeon Lyubarsky was indeed the same "Redhead," who, along with his comrades, founded the Zionist movement "Hashomer Hatzair" in the Soviet Union.

In his youth, the surgeon Lyubarsky was known by a different name and patronymic – Solomon Rakhmilevich. Solomon Lyubarsky was born on March 24, 1903, in a Jewish family in Kremenchug. His father, Rakhmil Aronovich, was an employee, and his mother, Rosalia Aronovna, was a housewife. Sema Lyubarsky also had a younger brother named Michael or Milya, who later also became a Zionist.

Before the Civil War in Ukraine, Sema Lyubarsky attended the eight-grade Kremenchug Commercial School. From a young age, he was incredibly energetic and athletic, and he was recognized as the leader of local boys' gangs. These qualities were especially useful to him when the Jewish population began to suffer desperately from pogroms in 1918. When, in December 1918, the Directorate of the Ukrainian People's Republic replaced the government of Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi, a so-called "reserve militia" was established in several Ukrainian towns with the permission of the Kyiv authorities. Its primary role was to protect the Jewish population. According to some eyewitnesses of those events, one of the commanders of such "reserve militia" units, which mainly consisted of demobilized soldiers, was Sema Lyubarsky. Even as a teenager, he coped perfectly with his duties, and his name instilled genuine fear in the thugs who wanted to loot the Jewish streets.

In April 1919, Solomon Lyubarsky voluntarily joined the Red Guard. He first became a cadet in the commanders' courses of the Special Purpose Units (ChON) in Elisavetgrad and then joined the 4th Special Purpose Regiment. Later, he served in the 2nd Regiment, which operated on the southern and southwestern fronts. In battles with the "Makhnovists," ataman Grigoryev, and other opponents of the "proletarian power," he received a perforating thigh wound but continued to serve until 1922, demobilizing as a battalion commander. Sema Lyubarsky's unwavering belief in the power of the proletariat was combined with principled Zionism. This left-wing, socialist Zionism was extremely popular among Jewish youth in post-revolutionary Ukraine.

Upon returning from the front to his hometown of Kremenchug, Solomon Lyubarsky joined the " Ze'irei Zion" movement, which promoted the idea of Jews returning to Palestine and organized Hebrew courses in the city. As a former commander and avid sports enthusiast, Sema Lyubarsky decided to develop the local branch of the Jewish scouting organization "Maccabi" in Kremenchug. Soon, under the leadership of scoutmaster Sema Lyubarsky, the Kremenchug legion of "Maccabi" became one of the best in the country. The legion in Kremenchug had up to 700 members, mostly former gymnasium students who had transitioned to secondary schools after the educational reforms. Entire classes joined the scouts, and the movement also included girls from the Jewish Women's Vocational Sewing School.

The presence of the "Maccabi" members in Kremenchug left no chance for the Komsomol. The Jewish community, even children from quite poor families, showed no interest in joining the Young Leninists' club. This reluctance was especially pronounced after such impressive events as the "Maccabi" procession, which took place on the night of July 5, 1922. With Zionist songs, the scouts marched through Kremenchug, alarming the entire communist activist community.

"Redhead's" role in the Kremenchug movement was decisive. Besides organizing ceremonial gatherings, oaths on the blue-and-white flag, sports competitions, and other activities, Lyubarsky personally engaged in debates with the communists. According to the authorities, during one discussion about the labor movement in Palestine, Sema Lyubarsky stubbornly defended the perspective of "bourgeois Zionism."

In May 1922, Lyubarsky unexpectedly traveled to Moscow. For the sake of disguise, Sema carried a sack of flour with him, supposedly for sale. However, the real purpose of his visit was the organizational congress of the new Zionist youth movement, "Hashomer Hatzair." The theses for the founding congress were prepared by its main initiator, a student of the Lazarev Institute of Oriental Languages, Lasya Iskoz, while the organizational scheme was proposed by Sema Lyubarsky. "Hashomer Hatzair" aimed at the patriotic education of Jewish children and adolescents based on scouting principles.
Following the congress, Lyubarsky joined the leadership and headed the regional headquarters of "Hashomer Hatzair" in Kharkiv. In Ukraine's temporary capital, he lived in a commune with two other comrades. The activists worked tirelessly in Kharkiv, taking no days off, except for their constant trips around Ukraine. In addition to building the movement, the "shomrim" (guards) conducted "comradely courts" and administered exams. Solomon Lyubarsky himself examined the scouts, making them read and translate Hebrew stories. A great lover of Jewish history, he questioned the youngsters in detail about Jewish heroes, folk legends, and the ancient history of Eretz-Israel.

In December 1922, the repeated demonstrations with songs and flags around Kremenchug so irritated the communists that it led to the dissolution of the "Maccabi" legion created by Lyubarsky. During a Hanukkah parade involving over 200 people, the participants were surrounded by militia and members of the Kremenchug district branch of the GPU of the Ukrainian SSR. A large amount of material was confiscated from those present: flags, seals, leaflets, and magazines. The young scouts were detained by the police, and the leaders were taken away by the Chekists.

After the arrests in Kremenchug, Lyubarsky, who was living in Kharkiv, stopped staying overnight in his own room. However, he boldly appealed to the GPU leadership, petitioning for the release of the minors detained during the parade. By that time, he was well known to the authorities and had been summoned for questioning multiple times. Through their informants, the GPU was already aware of his activities but still called him in for interrogations. These interactions always followed the same pattern: "Comrade Lyubarsky, did you travel to Moscow?" - "No!" - "We know you did. For what purpose?" - "To speculate."

Lyubarsky's "acquaintance" with the GPU was due to the fact that at its inception, "Hashomer Hatzair" sought legalization in the Soviet Union. The Jewish scouts had no intention of fighting the Bolsheviks, focusing instead on Eretz-Israel. When scouts asked how he felt about the surrounding reality, Lyubarsky consistently replied, "Soviet power and communism are very good for us Jews, but not here, in Palestine." Following David Ben-Gurion's visit to Moscow, "Hashomer Hatzair" began to openly declare its aim of preparing young collectivist workers who would build a "Jewish, labor, socialist Palestine."

In May 1923, at the first congress of "Hashomer Hatzair" in Kharkiv, Sema Lyubarsky was appointed Chief of the movement's General Staff. The congress attendees officially adopted the name "Union of Jewish Scouts in Russia 'Hashomer Hatzair'." While they parted ways with the "Maccabi" organization, they proposed a federation of the "Maccabi," "HeHalutz," and "Hashomer Hatzair" unions to more effectively carry out practical work and fight for legalization.

Lyubarsky's remarkable personality greatly contributed to the rapid growth of "Hashomer Hatzair." Wearing a Budyonovka hat on his head, dressed in the Red Army uniform, and armed with a pistol, Sema marched the "shomrim" through Kharkiv, creating a sensation among the Jewish youth.
Such escapades soon deeply concerned the Chekists. In September 1924, following mass arrests in Ukraine, all members of the General Staff of "Hashomer Hatzair" were arrested in Moscow, including the two most prominent leaders, Lasya Iskoz and Sema Lyubarsky. Lyubarsky's arrest involved an actual chase after the "shomrim" through central Moscow. During his interrogation by the "head of the Zionists," OGPU Secret Department officer Iosif Chertok, Lyubarsky was openly defiant. Under the threat of a three-year imprisonment in Solovki, Lyubarsky and Iskoz decided to employ a ruse: they wrote a letter to the Evsektsiya newspaper, "Der Emes," announcing their decision to leave the Zionist organization.

The members of "Hashomer Hatzair," who were pre-informed of this maneuver, supported their leaders' decision to do whatever it took to continue their organizational work. However, this tactic was harshly condemned by the Zionist community in the Soviet Union and the labor movement in Palestine. The central council of "Hashomer Hatzair" declared that it would not tolerate "letters and declarations of renunciation," like those publicized by the organization's leaders. Sema Lyubarsky, who was also a member of the Zionist Socialist Party, was immediately expelled from its ranks.

Lyubarsky proved his loyalty to his ideals when he was re-arrested on November 2, 1926, for the same reasons. One of the founders and leaders of "Maccabi" and the left-wing "Hashomer Hatzair" could not bear the disgraceful label of a "former" Zionist who had recanted before the Bolsheviks. Since the time of his release in December 1924, Lyubarsky continued to serve as the Chief of the General Staff of "Hashomer Hatzair", but he operated underground, using false documents under the name Krechman. While in Moscow, he coordinated the work of regional headquarters, maintained contact with other Zionist movements, and sought funds to assist his arrested comrades, demanding resources and leaders from the Overseas Delegation of "Hashomer Hatzair" in Palestine.

Operating under the conditions of Soviet dictatorship was extremely challenging. In April 1926, when reporting to the Overseas Delegation of the organization ZSP about the problems of the left-wing "HeHalutz," Lyubarsky mentioned that the movement had lost about 2500 of its members, with fear and arrests playing a significant role. Another substantial issue was the ideological struggle within the movement itself. Some "shomrim" leaned towards more active political work within the USSR, thereby falling increasingly under the influence of the Zionist Socialist Party and its youth wing, "CC Jugend-Verband."

In March 1926, Lyubarsky and his fellow activist from "Hashomer Hatzair," Semen Katz, set out to meet with smugglers who were supposed to guide them through forest paths to Latvia. However, they were detained not far from the border. Lyubarsky and Katz were taken to the Pskov GPU, and then escorted to Moscow to meet with Lyubarsky's old acquaintance, the Chekist Chertok. During the journey, Lyubarsky noticed that his guard was distracted and managed to jump off the train. The fall into the ditch was not gentle, but despite being bruised, Sema Lyubarsky reached his contacts and resumed his work. This continued until late autumn when Lyubarsky was arrested again by the Chekists.

In the first half of February 1927, members of "Hashomer Hatzair" movement in the USSR were addressed by members of the General Staff, Herz Golodetz and Isaac Maryanski. The Zionists wrote that the movement was ready for attacks from the GPU, but there were attack that "every shomer, tzofe, and bone" should have known about in order to respond to them with doubled activity. The talk was about the arrest of the Chief of the General Staff – Solomon Lyubarsky. The leaders wrote that Sema's name was known to all members of the Union, and his merits to the Zionist-socialist movement in the USSR were difficult to overestimate. The seriousness of the attack was also mentioned in an information leaflet of the movement by a representative of one of the district headquarters under the pseudonym "Saul." "When we read that Sema and Fima were arrested, our first thought was: 'What will happen? How will we be able to repel this strongest attack from the GPU, which was dealt to us at a time when we had not yet recovered from the recent removal of the majority of the Union's activists?'"

For his many years of public activity, Sema Lyubarsky was sentenced by the Special Council of the OGPU to three years of imprisonment. Initially, Lyubarsky served his sentence in the Sverdlovsk and Verkhneuralsk political isolation camps, and then was exiled for three years to the village of Uvatskoye in the Tobolsk district.

Despite the repression and the actual defeat of the movement, its leaders, most of whom were in exile, continued to argue about the necessity of a "synthetic movement," in which the educational and "Palestinian" work of the organization would be complemented by ideological education and practical "political work." At a meeting in Voronezh in January 1930, factions supporting the old line clashed with supporters of political struggle. The latter were represented by Dava Marjanovsky, who had fled from exile, and former member of the General Staff Ilya Gurvich. In opposition to them were Raya Rozovskaya and Lev Serebryany, who represented, among others, Sema Lyubarsky, with whom they had crossed paths during exile and received instructions from him.

In 1933, Lyubarsky was released from exile, but due to his active involvement, he was only allowed to settle in a place where there were hardly any Jews. Perm became such a place, where Sema decided to continue his studies to become a doctor. It was more of a continuation of his education, as Lyubarsky had already attended several courses at the First Moscow Medical Institute before his second arrest. In such circumstances, the revival of Zionist activity was impossible, as it had been thoroughly suppressed by the repressive organs, and any attempts to resume it were harshly punished. In 1938, after moving to Omsk, Solomon Lyubarsky became the chief physician of the local clinical hospital and the deputy head of the Omsk city health department. In September 1939, he was appointed as an assistant professor at the Department of Faculty Surgery at the Omsk Medical Institute.

At the beginning of the Soviet-German war on June 23, 1941, Solomon Lyubarsky was drafted into the active army. Already in December 1941, during the Battle of Moscow, he became the chief surgeon of the First Shock Army. Thanks to a miracle, his parents, Rakhmil Aronovich and Rozaliya Aronovna, managed to leave Kremenchug and reach Omsk, where they were able to settle down thanks to the management of the Omsk Medical Institute.

Sema Lyubarsky participated in organizing the treatment of the wounded and sick during the Battle of Moscow, Leningrad-Novgorod, Riga and other military operations. In July 1942, he, as a military doctor of the 1st rank, received his first award – the Order of the Red Star.

The command noted that in combat conditions, Lyubarsky never lost his composure, distinguished himself with exceptional courage and initiative. Despite being repeatedly subjected to bombings and shelling, he always managed to accomplish the assigned tasks with his characteristic coolness.

In 1944, Solomon Lyubarsky led a special operational group of the Sanitary Department of the 1st Shock Army, which evacuated the wounded. With access to medical vehicles, Lyubarsky and his subordinates would collect the wounded from medical battalions and transport them to the first-line mobile surgical field hospitals, thereby saving their lives. By establishing uninterrupted blood transfusions and surgical care, he significantly reduced mortality rates.

Right on the front lines, between operations and ongoing service, Solomon Lyubarsky wrote his dissertation on the topic "Organization of Surgical Support for Offensive Operations of the First Shock Army in the 1941-1945 War" and became a candidate of medical sciences. During the war, he met his future wife, Klavdiya Ilyinichna, who served as the chief operating nurse in the hospital where he operated.

Solomon Lyubarsky, recipient of the medal "For the Defense of Moscow" and the orders of the "Red Star" and "Patriotic War" first and second degrees, retired from active duty in September 1951. With his wife and one-year-old son, Misha, they moved to Novosibirsk.

Lyubarsky was appointed Chief Surgeon of the West Siberian Military District, while also working as an assistant at the Department of Hospital Surgery at the Novosibirsk Medical Institute. The Lyubarsky couple soon became popular at the institute: Klavdiya Ilyinichna also enrolled as a student there. Lyubarsky instilled a love for the medical profession in the youth. His lectures were remembered for decades, and his compassionate approach to patients was known throughout the city.

In the same year, 1951, when the notorious struggle against cosmopolitanism gained momentum in the Soviet Union, they came for Solomon Lyubarsky. The state security organs never forgot about Lyubarsky's Zionism, but they made allowances for the fact that Lyubarsky voluntarily resided outside the European part of the USSR. In 1943, Lyubarsky joined the CPSU (Bolsheviks), but neither his party loyalty nor his excellent service in the ranks of the Soviet army helped him avoid another arrest.

It is worth noting that Semen Lyubarsky was remembered not only at the Lubyanka. According to several accounts, David Ben-Gurion had long awaited Lyubarsky's arrival in Eretz-Israel. The first Prime Minister of Israel placed great hopes on the prominent Zionist socialist. Ben-Gurion was personally acquainted with Milya Lyubarsky, Solomon's younger brother, who had once helped his brother develop the Zionist youth movement and, in the early years of Israel's existence, worked in the Ministry of Transport.

Interestingly, in 1952, when the Israeli embassy counselor in the USSR, Zeev Argaman, was approached by an agent of the KGB, the Israeli diplomat inquired about the fate of the former Chief of the General Staff of "Hashomer Hatzair", remembering him as a significant figure for the entire Zionist movement.

Lyubarsky served his new sentence in the Novgorod region. Fortunately, the administration of the colony saw fit to utilize Lyubarsky's experience, and he was appointed head of the surgical department of the prison hospital. In 1954, following a protest by the Prosecutor General of the USSR, Solomon Rakhmilevich was released, and his case was closed.

Since 1954, Solomon Lyubarsky worked as the deputy chief physician of Hospital No. 23 in Novosibirsk and continued to teach students at the Department of Hospital Surgery at the Novosibirsk Medical Institute. Lyubarsky was called in for the most complex surgeries, and even after his retirement in 1974, he was asked to provide consultations. In addition to military field surgery, Lyubarsky studied acute surgical pathology of the abdominal cavity. He published a total of eighteen scientific papers.

After retirement, Solomon Lyubarsky, a former scoutmaster and Chief of the General Staff of "Hashomer Hatzair", a war veteran, and a medical scientist, lived for only four more years. He passed away on July 11, 1978. The announcement of the death of the prominent Zionist was printed in the Israeli newspaper "Davar": there, in the kibbutzim and cities of Eretz-Israel, "shomrim" and "halutzim" who were once sent by "Readhead" to build their common homeland still lived on.


Bibliography and sources:

Personal file of Solomon Rakhmilevich Lyubarsky, assistant at the Department of Faculty Surgery, from the archival collection of the Omsk State Medical Academy. Historical Archive of the Omsk Region, Fond R-14, Opis 3, Dossier 2728.

Galili, Ziva. "Geography of Scandal: From Moscow Streets to Palestine (Eretz-Israel). Episode from the History of the Zionist Organization, Internal Struggle in Zionism, and with the OGPU." In Let the Candle Burn: In Memory of Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor A.P. Nenarokov, edited by ROSPEN, Moscow, 2021, pp. 222-241.

Materials on Zionists for the years 1923-1924, State Archives of Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Kyiv, Fond 13, Opis 1, Dossier 413, Vol. 2 (Part 1).

Control case of the Ministry of State Security of the Ukrainian SSR: materials on the use of the agent of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Odessa Region "Beby", January 16, 1952 - December 1, 1953. State Archives of Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), Kyiv, Fond 1, Opis 1, Dossier 643.

Generalized Database "Feats of the People in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945."

Mayorova, Elizaveta. "Medical Dynasty of the Lyubarskys." Website of the Novosibirsk Regional Association of Physicians, July 2, 2008.

Solomon Lyubarsky

1903 – 1978

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