Page 215 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

Basic HTML Version

2 0 7
in zealous “dedicated hardship.” 1 As for Bassya, despite her
conviction that women should have independent careers, that
they should not be “shackled by men and society and should
be free,” 2 she soon discovered that the birth o f her child one
year after her marriage, the demands o f her husband’s political
life which necessitated frequent moves from one country to an­
other, and concerns for her health resulted in the abandonment
o f her medical studies. But it did not stop her from continuing
activities in behalf o f socialist Zionism; during the first few years
o f her marriage, in those years o f the 1905 revolution, Bassya
twice returned to Russia carrying revolutionary pamphlets in
the false bottom o f her trunk.
These were years, however, when the Syrkins’ peripatetic life
meant that by the time their daughter Marie was nine she had
already lived in four countries — Switzerland, Germany,
France, and Russia. For an ordinary child such disruptions ac­
companied by ever present economic hardship might have
caused serious psychological damage, but for Marie who was
something o f a prodigy, the experience was to have a positive
effect. In 1903 Nachman was exiled from Germany for radical
activities and the family moved to Paris; but revolutionary vi­
brations were felt in France as well, so the passionately com­
mitted Bassya, now twenty-six years old, once more became in­
volved. First, leaving her husband and daughter alone for sev­
eral months, she travelled to Russia in order to smuggle rev­
olutionary tracts. When she returned to Paris, however, she suf­
fered a recurrence o f tuberculosis and Zivia Syrkin, Nachman’s
powerful mother, immediately arrived on the scene to whisk
Bassya and Marie o f f to Nervi, Italy, for cure and recuperation.
When Bassya recovered she rejoined her husband in Paris, only
to take o f f again for Russia to disseminate political pamphlets.
Not long after, in 1905, father and child followed — Nachman
returning for the first time to the Russia he had left eighteen
years before.
1. Marie Syrkin.
Nachman Syrkin: Socialist Zionist.
N ew York, 1961, p. 153.
2. Ibid., p. 60.