Isaak Breido was born in 1920 in the town of Kurgan in western Siberia, where his parents were staying during a work-related trip. Isaak's paternal grandparents had been among the first Jewish residents of St. Petersburg, having been granted the right to reside in the capital of Tsarist Russia as skilled workers. His mother Vera was allowed to live in St. Petersburg as the daughter of a Jewish soldier in the Tsarist army. In 1921, Isaak's parents returned to Petrograd (St. Petersburg bore this Russified name from 1914 to 1924, and was then renamed Leningrad), and his childhood and youth were spent in this city.
In the 1920s, Isaak's father Samuil owned a private workshop. Because of this, he was arrested in 1931, and spent several months in various prisons. Samuil and his wife Vera were to be exiled from Leningrad to the provinces – but, unexpectedly, Vera's American sister Betty (Basia-Liba) came to the defense of her relatives. This leftist New Yorker was in Leningrad at the time. She showed up at the offices of the GPU (the precursor to the KGB) and, waving her U.S. passport, demanded that the Breidos be allowed to return to Leningrad. Betty's surprise visit to the GPU had the desired effect. However, all of Samuil's brothers (Isaak's uncles) remained under arrest, and two of them would eventually perish in the Gulag camps.
In 1938, Isaak completed high school and enrolled in the 1st Medical Institute (University) of Leningrad, intending to become a surgeon. In June 1941, the Soviet-German War broke out, and Isaak tried to enlist in the Red Army, but was rejected. He continued to study in Leningrad, although the city was now under German siege. In March 1942, he fell ill with dystrophy, scurvy, and incipient tuberculosis. Isaak was evacuated through Lake Ladoga to the Urals, where he graduated from a medical institute in Ufa.
In August 1943, Dr. Isaak Breido was dispatched to the Kalinin Front and attached to the 39th Army, where he served as a surgeon at a "first line" (i.e., frontline) hospital. In October 1943, he was attached to the 60th Tank Brigade, which liberated Vitebsk in November that year. Breido would later recall 1 that the Soviet offensive on Vitebsk was poorly planned, and the brigade suffered enormous casualties, making the medical personnel very busy. In 1944, as a physician of the 199th Guards Rifle Regiment, he took part in the liberation of Belorussia (Operation Bagration). In the second half of 1944, the 199th Regiment was transferred to the 1st Baltic Front, and fought in Latvia. In July 1944 – May 1945, Breido participated in the liquidation of the Courland Pocket in northwestern Latvia. He met V-E Day in Liepāja, Latvia.
Toward the end of the war, Guards Private Isaak Breido was awarded two Orders of the Red Star, as well as a number of medals. He was discharged from the army in 1946. He suffered a great deal during the Stalinist antisemitic campaign, but was able to resume his medical career after Stalin's death in 1953. Breido worked as a surgeon, specializing in thyroid surgery. He went on to publish four monographs and some sixty articles.
Isaak Breido died in 2005.
- 1. [O.93/2392]