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The following is a precis of the article sent to the Gymnasium in 1939 by Engineer Yaacov Semiatitzki, who Hebraized his name to Samid in September 1940. The article was never published because the war broke out.

This week I received the announcement of the twentieth anniversary of the Bialystok Hebrew Gymnasium. To tell the truth, a strange and indescribable feeling came over me at the moment that my eyes dwelt on this announcement. How come that it was not obvious to me how long the institution, where I was educated and reached maturity, had existed, and that I was unaware of the anniversary year which was approaching? Can one draw the conclusion that I had completely abandoned the "Temple of my Youth", had smashed its high places, and destroyed its altars in my heart? Or perhaps the opposite is true.

Precisely because a living and organic connection remains between myself and the school and I feel its very being in all my deeds and conduct - perhaps because of this, I am not in the habit of counting the years and making note of periods and dates associated with it, just as there is no restriction or limit to one's innermost soul. For a high school is not like a university. It is true that the latter provides one with a spade with which to dig, but the former bestows that "heightened spirituality", which at times of rest and calm, provides a never-ending source of elevated spiritual experience. The high school creates and assembles the material foundations from which the university moulds form and character.

"Knowledge acquired in childhood" is the decisive factor which determines the essence of a person in the future. These ideas disturbed my thoughts throughout that same workday on which I received the announcement. The knowledge of the school's anniversary gave me no respite, and disturbed my mental equilibrium. Wherever I went, pictures appeared before me from the eight years I spent studying at the school. I therefore decided to put my feelings on paper in order to share them with the teachers and students. And what a surprise! That evening, when I came to put this into practical expression, and to convey some of my innermost thoughts - I saw that my pen was dry.

All day I had butterflies in my stomach and my heart was almost bursting with excitement that it could hardly contain, and now their place had been taken by an empty void. Perhaps the reason for this phenomenon was the sense of distance, both geographical and of time, and it was difficult to find the appropriate idiom and suitable tone. Indeed, it is ten years since I left the school, and during the whole of that period I was not only outside Bialystok, but outside Poland. Only once, four years ago, did I meet teachers and students, when I gave them my impressions from abroad. Great changes and transformations have taken place in the course of my life since then: I exchanged my bench at school for one at the university, and later an office desk; other writing and drawing instruments took the place of my pen. And perhaps one can find the reason in the confused times which we are passing through all over the world, and it is hard to disconnect oneself from nightmarish events and the heavy burden of the yoke of responsibility - even in the realm of thoughts?

Day-to-day living demands strength, and the devotion of all one's energies to be on the alert. May one hide in the shadow of the wings of the past from the sound of shooting and the fire in the cornfield? Totally immersed in the labyrinth of these questions, and searching for a reason which would explain this strange phenomenon, my train of thought brought me to the spring, to that same "spring" known to us all, from which "the Children of Israel drew courage and strength" - and instantly, my pen was filled with black, bubbling ink. Surely the educational institution is one golden link in the chain of our renaissance, one of the foundation stones of our national Zionist edifice, and it deserves praise for producing from within it, youth, permeated with lofty ideals, who are prepared to defend the spiritual and cultural assets of their people.

Our suffering and our defensive campaign acquires encouraging sense and meaning when we see these national assets! Over all this hovers the question, has the school justified its existence, and was it correct in the path that it took, and on the other hand, have all the graduates of the school fulfilled the hopes that were placed in them? The school, when it set itself the aim of educating a generation deeply rooted in our tradition, and which would be a synthesis of Hebrew knowledge and European culture - not without difficulty, found the correct and appropriate path for this mission. It had to overcome many obstacles and difficulties: a shortage of suitable teachers, absence of proper text books, lack of settled tradition and method, and in addition, external interference. Happily, one can state that the institution stood firm constantly during its campaign, strove tirelessly to achieve the aim which it had set itself, and did not choose the path of least resistance. In spite of the ill winds which blew around it, trying to tempt it to abandon its main purpose and to adjust to popular demand - it did not lower its stature or alter its true nature.

It is sufficient to recall the painful question which created a storm at the time, the matter of the "Matura". The "Tarbut" institutions fought for equal government rights, and in spite of the qualitative and quantitative improvements which were introduced at the school, the government stood by its refusal to award graduates the right to receive a state matriculation certificate. After much lobbying, the government made a pretence of being prepared to fulfil the request of the Hebrew schools, with "one small condition": cutting the hours for teaching Hebrew and increasing those of Polish. This condition, which struck at the very heart of the institution, was decisively rejected by all. I am reminded of the protest strike which was declared when I was in the Seventh Class, against surrendering to the authorities; because at that time there was a fear that, under pressure exerted by individual parents, the institution would agree to accept these conditions. In spite of the fact that we students were the sufferers in this unjust state of affairs, we made sure that the sanctity of the school would not be desecrated and, even if it meant that our future path would be made the harder, and that we would have to multiply our efforts in order to reach a reasonable status in life, we decided that we would not allow our Hebrew spirit to be denied. It would be superfluous to describe the end of this battle, which was distinguished by achievements of both a partial and a permanent nature.

In the course of time, the "Polish Matura" lost its magic power of attraction. The tide turned: the Hebrew school proved its worth and succeeded in convincing the general public of its high standard. Its graduates became the subject of envy in the eyes of young students everywhere. The high educational standard of the school should also be mentioned. I am familiar with educational institutions in Eretz Yisrael, and can vouch for the fact that neither our school's curriculum nor its teaching methods fall below their standard. The "spiritual baggage" which Bialystok graduates carry with them when they leave the school is of no less value, and is no smaller, than that of the graduates of institutions in Eretz. I would like to conclude by wishing the Hebrew Gymnasium success and prosperity, and offer congratulations - to the teachers, trusting that they will derive satisfaction from their work - and to the students, in the hope that they will use their knowledge for the good of their people.

May this blessing, sent from the land of our aspirations - the source of blessings and consolations - also bear on its wings that spirit which beats in the hearts of the builders of our Land, and cause it to rest on all who support the establishment of national educational institutions.

The Story of the Hebrew Gymnasium in Bialystok find out more!

(c) Ya`acov Samid, 2003 Contact Ya`acov Samid