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[Page 230]

From School Desk to Arrest

Leah Goldin

Translated by Judy Montel

The author, Leah Goldin (1905-1955) was born in Minsk, moved to Israel in 1924. She was, up to her death, a member of Kibbutz Ashdot-Ya'akov. The sketch is taken from the Socialist Zionist (S”Z) Book, edited by Yehuda Erez, published by Am Oved, 1963.
At the Reali School in Minsk, where I studied, there were many students from proletariat families. The students went to the Komsomol. Dancing classes were also not lacking, nor were plays nor “free love.” All of these were not my neighbors, I found satisfaction at home. My circle of friends were Christian girls.

At that time a family came to live in our neighborhood who had daughters who were interested in Zionism. The began to pull me to Zionist circles. True, they did not speak openly about Zionism or Eretz Israel, but about learning circles. They proved to me that it was necessary to learn about the Jewish question and Hebrew culture. Once, when we returned from school, they took me to a house during a circle's discussion. I remember: a small and narrow room, filled with people listening intently to the words of one of the members. A tiny wick-lamp made the shadows of the participants tremble. I was astounded to see the faces of the people. This was not how I imagined a “learning circle”. I understood that this “sitting together” was above learning, even though I did not know that evening that this circle had any connection to Eretz Israel and Zionism.

The days of Chanuka arrived. A state of emergency was declared in the city. The members of the circle gathered for a Chanuka party. We sat all night, because it was forbidden to walk in the streets at night. At that party, one of the members tried to speak with me openly about the goals of the circle. Again, he did not need to speak much to convince me. The discussions in the circle and the atmosphere with which they were imbued had already prepared me for absorbing the idea of Zionism

In 1923, on one of the evenings, they arrested me, and I was then 15 years old. They searched and didn't find anything, only, in one of the corners of the attic where I kept stamps and passport forms. Minsk lies on the border and comrades who crossed the border illegally passed by there. I didn't know just what the materials were that I had been given to hide, and never saw those fellows who came to us on their way out of the country. I only found out about this later.

I sat in jail for two months. My mother found out that it was not allowed to arrest under-aged youth. She quickly went to the school, took my birth certificate and visited the investigator. He answered her: “If she is politically active, then she is of-age and punishable.” It turned out that the investigator knew ever little detail of the activities of our circle. Among us was a yeshiva student who passed on to him information about all of our plans. In the jail cell we were put together with women who were criminals and prostitutes. One of them in particular caused me grief. In the same jail our friends were also held, and only a hallway separated between us. From time to time, we exchanged notes. One day that woman confronted me and told me that she was going to tell the authorities that I was in contact with the others. During the inspection, I spoke first and complained that we were held, young girls – with criminals and prostitutes. This woman was transferred to another cell and we were rid of unpleasant neighbors.

When I got out of jail, L. Levita attempted to organize us into “HaKhaver HaTza'ir” (Young Comrade). His words did not convince us. We could not grasp the idea of being organized as student youth. Would only the professional intelligentsia build the country? Why, therefore, should we change? One day Shalom Haktin came to us. He suggested that we join the Socialist Zionist youth. We did not know fully what this movement was. Our political education was meager, but we joined this movement. We felt it was our place.

We did not have a chance to do much and we were arrested again. They arrested 300 Zionists at once in Minsk. However, this time we were more hardened. We decided not to go out to work. One of the officials yelled at me and insisted that I obey and go out to work, if not, he would send me to a solitary cell. I refused. He pushed me down and trampled on me with his legs, and ordered the supervisor on duty to bring ropes to tie me up. The latter told him that they were not allowed to do that. During the inspection, I complained about the official's behavior. They asked me if I had witnesses who could affirm what I said. The next day the official saw me and with his teeth clenched let a curse slip out. That day he was removed from the jail. Some of the Zionist prisoners had their imprisonment exchanged for moving to Eretz Israel. Because of my age, I was not given a certificate. I was included as a “bride” without knowing who my “groom” was. The authorities turned a blind eye to the blatant forgeries in these “couples”.

We were 35 people leaving Minsk. We were given a special train car. Along all the streets of Minsk, Zionists stood and congratulated us on our aliya.

{Photo: Members of “Kadima” in Minsk in 1921. The author, Lea Goldin, is number 8.

1. Lapidot. 2. Mrs. Dukorski 3. Fania Eckstein 4. Binyamin Tyomkin. 5. Fira Braverman-Rotman 6. Batya Molochnikov. 7. Matlia Taif. 8. Lea Goldin-Mahershak. 9. Eliyahu Kissen. 10. Berta Puchinski. 11. Polia Gordon-Rabinovitch. 12. (no name listed). 13. Bindler. 14. Emma Katz-Yavneh. 15. Mania Weinstein. 16. Anya Taif. 17. Yosef Goldgor. 18. Moshe Tasman. 19 Shapira. 20. Grisha Tzorfas. 21. Yosef Zimmerman. 22. Yo'el Rakovschik. 24. Kravitz. 25. Gotlieb. 27. Akiva Gordon. 28. Katzenelson. 31. Ze'ev Faller. 32. Eli'ezer Morgenstern. 33. Gedalia Polyeshchuk (Ya'ari). 37. Astrachan.}

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