Mikhail Borishanskii was born in 1923 in Moscow. His maternal grandfather had been a rabbi in Moscow; his paternal grandfather was the prominent revolutionary terrorist David Borishanskii, a member of the illegal Combat Organization of the Socialist Revolutionary Party. Paradoxically, Mikhail's father, Yefim, was an ordinary factory worker. Mikhail's mother died in 1928. Quite a few of Mikhail's maternal relatives and close friends worked at the GosET, popularly known as Solomon Mikhoels' Jewish [Yiddish] theater, and some of them acted upon its stage. As a result, Mikhail grew up in a Jewish atmosphere and acquired a secular Jewish identity [O.93/10774].
In 1940, Mikhail Borishanskii entered the Moscow Institute of Soviet Law (the present-day Moscow State Law University), and he was able to complete his first year of study by June 1941, when the Soviet-German War broke out. Two weeks later, the authorities declared that all male students of the Soviet Law Institute were to be transferred to the Red Army's Military Law Academy. Mikhail and some other students stubbornly refused. Mikhail argued that, during a war like this, he ought to be a frontline fighter. Thus, all the "refuseniks" were drafted into the Red Army. However, several days later Borishanskii was sent to a military medical academy in Kuibyshev (present-day Samara). As he would put it in a later interview1, his internal Jewishness baulked at having to stay in that city in the Soviet rear while the war against Hitler was going on, so he deliberately failed his exams. He was then sent to the Tatishchev training camp south of Kuibyshev. Upon completing his training, he was dispatched to the defense of Moscow. However, in December Private Borishanskii was withdrawn from frontline duty, and, as a soldier with an unfinished higher education, he was assigned to a school of military communications. In early 1943, Lieutenant Borishanskii was attached to a communications battalion of the 18th Guards Rifle Corps, with which he would serve until the end of World War II.
In the summer of 1943, Borishanskii took part in the Battle of the Kursk Salient, where he was lightly shell-shocked. After Kursk, with the 2nd Ukrainian Front, he passed through Ukraine, the Carpathian Mountains, Romania, Hungary, southern Poland, and Austria, and ended the war in Czechoslovakia, where his division had to take part in the suppression of the resistance offered by the so-called Schörner group (the German Field Marshall Ferdinand Schörner refused to recognize the capitulation of the Wehrmacht on May 8, 1945, and continued to fight until May 13).
After the end of the war in Europe, the 2nd Ukrainian Front was transferred to the Far East, where the Soviet Union was to join the war against Japan. Borishanskii's 18th Guards Army was sent to Mongolia, where he took part in a march from the Yugodzyr-Khid datsan (a Buddhist monastery) in the direction of Beijing. After the end of the war, he served in the Kuril Islands, and only in 1947 was he discharged from the army, whereupon he returned to Moscow.
Borishanskii was awarded the Order of the Red Star; the Order of the Patriotic War, 2nd class, and medals for the capture of Budapest, Vienna, and Prague, as well as other medals. However, his greatest source of pride was his medal "For Courage", which had been awarded to him in 1943, during the Kursk Salient operation, when the Red Army was much more reluctant to decorate its soldiers than in the period 1944-45. He also received some military decorations of Czechoslovakia and Mongolia.
Despite experiencing some difficulties during the Stalinist anti-Jewish campaign, Mikhail Borishanskii was able to graduate from the Soviet Law Institute in 1951, and he went on to have a successful administrative career. The last, and longest, post he held was that of a department head at the Ministry of the Food Industry.
During the Perestroika period and the surge of antisemitism that it caused, Borishanskii began to receive written and oral threats. In 1991, fearing for his and his wife's lives, he immigrated to the USA (his son had immigrated to Israel even earlier). Borishanski settled in Los Angeles.
- 1. [O.93/10774]