Previous works : «Madame Butterfly – Japonisme, Puccini & the Search for the Real Cho-Cho-San” –Berkeley, California – Stone Bridge Press – 2001.
© L’Harmattan, 2011 5-7, rue de l’École-polytechnique ; 75005 Paris http://www.librairieharmattan.com email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org ISBN : 978-2-296-55946-2 EAN : 9782296559462
JAN VAN RIJ
SOME OFTHEM The Story of a Russian, Jewish Family and its Worldwide Peregrinations in Times of War and Revolution
for Kees, Antoinette and Gabriella
This is the story of a Jewish family from one of the poorest regions of Tsarist Russia, of how a strong and enterprising member of the family arrived penniless in the Far East and helped to shape the history of his time, and how it brought him fame, fortune and honour and finally the eclipse of all he had built. The title Some ofThem, which I explain below, aims to portray him and his relatives as unusual people not only driven by a powerful ambition but also conscious of a mission and instrumental in a destiny larger than themselves. This book would never have been written had I not met Martin Blakeway in Tokyo in the autumn of 1983. Between other activities Martin was teaching Japanese students at Sophia and Waseda Universities and in the process trying to convince them to become useful citizens of the world. Among the foreigners in Tokyo he enjoyed the reputation of having been the real life model of the pilot Foster J. Mac Williams who flew the Yemenite Jews from Aden to Israel in Leon Uriss 1958 novel Exodus. The true story turned out to be different but no less remarkable.Martin and I saw each other often in the 1980s in Tokyo. During one of our many convivial evenings he
gave me my first insight into the fascinating story of his family and I began to grasp what an extraordinary saga lay behind the fragments he told me. I was working on another project but already the idea of writing a book on this colourful family living in distant places and stirring times started to take shape. Eventually the true story of the part Martin played in the exodus of the Yemenite Jews also came up. In 1950, a barely nineteen years old student, he became by chance involved in the dramatic journey of these people and their ancient Torah scrolls from their biblical environment into the modern world of Israel. At length Martin returned to Jersey in the Channel Islands, where his parents then lived. As he came home and bent to greet his mother on the doorstep, she put her finger to her lips and whispered: Sshh, Im one of them.Surprised, Martin had to wait until the next day when his English father was out of the house to learn from his mother that both the maternal Russian grandfather he had never known and the Austrian grandmother he believed to be a French Protestant were Jewish. At the same time he discovered that his father did not know it either. His grandmother had warned her own children never to betray their Jewish origins to anybody. But they still were Some ofThem.The family survived and prospered, some in spite of the antisemitism of the age, others at least outwardly disavowing their Jewish origins or, like Martin, not even aware of them. Martins own philosophy and his lifelong ties with people of all races and persuasions have in no way been affected by this revelation, as his own story, to be told one day by himself, I hope, will abundantly prove.