Margalit Kavenstock's wedding. At her side: Yaakov Liash and Yehezkel Pularevitch.
Shabi Yehezkel Maor (Pularevitch): A Biography
Summarised and translated from: The Israel Ministry for Defense Memorial website
Yehezkel and Ella Pularevitch's son was born on the 25th April 1939 in Kovno (Lithuania) and named Shabi (short for "Shlomo Ben Yosef"), for the Etzel commander executed by the British Mandatory government in Eretz Yisrael. He was also named Ya'akov, after Ya'akov Raz, another hero of the Etzel. The family spoke several languages at home, including Ivrit and Yiddish, and the child's first word was spoken in Hebrew.
A week before the Nazi invasion of the USSR in the summer of 1941, when the Soviet Union entered the Second World War, his father was sentenced to ten years in the Gulag on charges of Zionism and deported to a concentration camp in
Siberia. Shabi Ya'akov was deported to a rural settlement in Siberian exile with his mother and grandmother, where they lived in arduous conditions, suffering the extremes of cold and famine. From childhood, Shabi Ya'akov loved reading. At the age of nine, when they visited a market with his mother and she wanted to buy him an apple at an exorbitant price, he said that he would prefer a book. He was an extremely gifted child and would take books with him to school, so as not to get bored during lessons. His mother tried to provide him with a Jewish educaiton and explained the reason for his father's imprisonment. Shabi Ya'akov went to primary school, where he was an outstanding pupil, but his teachers did not award him the grades he deserved for his excellent work, because he was the son of an "enemy of the people". He was musically gifted and had an excellent voice: his future seemed assured as a singer.
However, when Shabi Ya'akov finished his compulsory schooling, he would have needed to travel 200 kilometres to attend a senior school. He was also approaching the age of 16, when he would receive an internal "passport" (ID card); if he remained in his mother's home, it would include a reference to his status as the son of an "enemy of the people" and he would not be allowed to leave his place of residence in exile. He therefore came up with a plan to leave home at 15 and study somewhere so far away that he would be able to apply for his passport using his birth certificate, together with his school card, based on his new place of residence. He managed to carry out his plan: he travelled to Lithuania, where he attended a local school for a while, and then applied for his papers, after which he returned to
Siberia and completed his secondary school studies there. He was to have been awarded a gold medal as an outstanding student, but the award was cancelled last minute, because he was the son of an "enemy of the people". After school, Shabi Ya'akov decided to study medicine, sat the competitive entry exam and won a place to study in the Medical Faculty at
KrasnoyarskUniversity, which was one thousand kilometres away from his home.
His parents first applied to leave for
Israel in 1956, while Shabi was in secondary school, but their request was rejected on the grounds that they lacked the necessary identification documents. The application was refused at the local office and was not even dispatched to
Moscow. But Shabi Ya'akov did not give up. In summer 1957, his father was allowed to leave Siberia and return to
Lithuania; his mother managed to follow on only in December that year. Shabi remained behind in
Siberia, where he pursued his academic studies.
This was the period when Polish citizens who had been living in (annexed) Soviet territory before the (Soviet entry into the) Second World War were being repatriated. From Poland, the repatriated citizens would emigrate to other countries, including
Israel. The right to repatriation extended to all the members of the family. When he heard about this, Shabi Ya'akov moved to Kovno and transferred to
KovnoUniversity. Despite the fact that the language of instruction in his group was Russian, not Lithuanian, he had to sit additional examinations. Hoping to acquire repatriation rights, he entered a fictitious marriage with a Polish girl, as a result of which his whole family had the right to apply for an exit visa. Their struggle to emigrate via
Poland went on for two years, during which they received continual rejections, until their "file" was finally closed and archived. He then divorced his fictitious wife and the entire family set itself to the fight to be allowed to go on Aliyah under the umbrella of "family reunification". During this period, he also completed his studies at university and began working as a doctor in Palanga (
Lithuania). He belonged to a Jewish organization, which performed Jewish songs and sang Betar movement songs.
In 1964, Dutch Minister Dr Kreg visited
Israel and Menachem Begin – a friend of the family and then Member of the Knesset – approached him with a request to assist the Pularevitch family with their Aliyah. After his visit to Israel, Dr Kreg made an official visit to the
USSR. A few months later, the Ambassador of the Netherlands in
Israel informed Menachem Begin that his request had been fulfilled. As soon as Shabi Ya'akov completed his military service in the Soviet Army as a lieutenant, in 1964, he received permission to emigrate to
Israel, together with his parents and grandfather. This finally happened in May 1965, but the story did not end there: the Soviet authorities came to terms with the Aliyah of the elder generation, but exerted pression on Shabi Ya'akov to stay in the USSR "of his own free will", because the state had disbursed considerable sums on his education. Despite this pressure, Shabi Ya'akov remained adamant and refused to sign any such document. He said that he would never leave his parents and his place would always be alongside them….
Finally, in June 1965, the whole family arrived in
Israel. Shabi Ya'akov began his studies of Hebrew in Ulpan Etzion, in
Jerusalem, and simultaneously worked at the Bikur Holim hospital. After he completed Ulpan, he went to work as a doctor in Internal Medicine at the Kaplan hospital in Rehovot. In June 1966, he was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, where he completed an officers' course and was commissioned to serve as regimental medical officer in the Negev Brigade.
When he learned that the situation on the Syrian frontier was worsening, he voluntarily transferred there. He then learned that doctors were needed in the Israeli Navy, and applied for a transfer; he was accepted as a doctor in the submarine fleet. He travelled to the
UK, where he completed a training course for submarine personnel and a work experience period on a submarine. During the Six Day War, he served on the Noga. His subsequent posting was to the command of the Dakar, the Israeli submarine that sank without trace in the
Mediterranean Sea in 1968.
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