Page 216 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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The family settled for the winter in Vilna. Marie recalls the
frigid winter in spartan living quarters where heat was provided
mainly by the passionate discourse o f the theoretician Nachman
and his disciples. The summer was spent in a primitive dacha
in the nearby suburbs, and here, despite the lack o f funds even
to purchase adequate food, the comrades were nourished on
ideological argumentation. But for the impressionable six year
old child, perhaps the most significant episode occurred when
she encountered “ the riddle o f Jewish experience in its crudest
form.”3 Marie Syrkin today says that she learned the meaning
o f “ pogrom” from friendly village children who instructed her
to paint a cross on her house i f the killing began. But when
she reported this to her father he was quick to instruct her
otherwise: “The answer, I was taught and grew up believing,
lay in a socialist society and a socialist Jewish state.”4
These had been relatively liberal times in Czarist Russia, but
they were not to last very long. When the press was squelched
once and for all and arrests resumed, Syrkin’s publication
had to close down, and in order to avoid arrest himself,
Nachman Syrkin and his wife and child moved again — back
to Paris as a stopover before he would depart for America where
he had been invited to edit
Das Volk,
the journal o f the Socialist-
Territorial movement. Once established in America, he would
send for Marie and her mother.
At the age o f nine, the young Marie Syrkin moved once and
for all to the United States. By all contemporary psychological
measures she should have arrived withdrawn and maladjusted,
but such was not the case. She adjusted to life in the Bronx
as easily as she had adjusted to life in France and Russia. Per­
haps the best explanation for this surprising lack o f anxiety
lies in the fact that Marie was a very beautiful and unusually
intelligent child, adored by her parents and treated as a prodigy.
She could, by the age o f ten, speak and read German, French,
Russian, and now English which she learned in school.
Another factor contributing to Marie’s Bronx equanimity
must have been the relative security she found in the America
o f the first years o f this century. The child who recalled fear
3. Marie Syrkin.
The State o f the Jews.
Washington, 1980, p. 1.
4. Ibid.