Natan Blat

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Natan Blat (1892-1965) was the oldest brother of my grandmother; after he was arrested by the NKVD, he survived the Soviet gulag and life in the Soviet Union until 1945, when he finally could return to Poland.

Natan[1.46] was born in 1982 to Hersz Josek and Hena, apparently in Mikulince, L'viv, now Ukraine, my great grandparents, probably as they were travelling, since even by then Nowy Dwór was their usual place of residence[1.46.1]. He was their first son and as such, inherited the mainstay of the family business; since they were military contractors and supplied the Modlin base located near Nowy Dwór Maz, near Warsaw it is likely that such was the reason why Natan had his address and business in the town.

Natan was arrested by the NKVD at almost the same time, in 1939, than my grandfather in Slonim, now Belarus. For reasons that we still don't know, he was apparently not liberated after the general amnesty for Polish political prisoners that the government of the USSR passed after Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union; another possibility is that he could not return to Poland but for some reason was also unable to join the Anders Army which was being formed at the time in the USSR before it was moved to Iran.

What is certain is that his brother Khaim and other members of the family were arrested at the time too - both my mother and uncle remember all of them reaching their house in Slonim shortly before the Soviets invaded eastern Poland. In fact, my mother remembers receiving two dolls as gifts from Natan and Khaim, one blond, and another African. My mother, who was less than five years old at the time could later remember little else except that suddenly there were a lot of people at their house. She saw Natan again only after the war ended.

Only my grandmother and her children - my mother and uncle - fled in time. Of those arrested by the NKVD, only Natan and my grandfather, H.A. Braun survived. We know that some were liberated in the USSR and their tracks get lost in places like Kazakhstan, so it is possible that they were left wandering with no hope of ever returning. Others, like in the case of Khaim and according to testimonies of other relatives, were assassinated by the Nazis in Eastern Europe.

However, our family was on the hit lists of both the Nazis - they killed almost every relative that lived in Warsaw - and the Soviets, as the murder of Józef Skowronek (Natan's uncle) suggests (see Józef Skowronek) so it is also possible that they died at the hands of either the Nazis or the Soviet regime.

Natan never married; according to one of the tenants of the family house who was there since the time of WWII, after Natan returned from the Soviet Union he was something of a broken man. This matches what my grandmother said in the sense that she tried to convince Natan to flee Poland with her, to no avail, since he was tired of "running around"; later she tried to convince him to travel to Argentina, also with no results.

According to the description of the lady that lived in one of the apartments of the house, at the time Natan was still alive the big hof or patio that the house has was a garden filled with aromatic flowers. Natan was for the children of the town the grand father of all. He was very popular among the kids, to whom he gave away candies. He died of old age causes in Nowy Dwór, in 1965.

Young Natan Blat.
Young Natan Blat[94.38].
Old Natan Blat.
Old Natan Blat[94.39].

At about that time, the communist regime that always coveted the house but could never get it began laying asphalt on many of the streets of the town; the streets were elevated about 50 cm, changing the aspect of the town and the houses around; for whatever reason, which could be either to avoid having low grounds that could be flooded, or just out of contempt for our family, sand, stones, cement and brick were summarily dropped over the stone work of the old patio, also destroying the garden.

Some members of the communist party also seized for themselves a chunk of the land, building a shop and paying no rent or taxes whatsoever, expecting to receive the lot as their own after some decades.

The communist authorities always wanted the house; after grandmother left Poland his brother Natan kept it against all odds since private property and communism do not make a perfect match; he succeeded and before his death and in agreement with my grandmother and grandfather, he appointed a cousin of my mother who was also living there and was a lawyer to take care of it.

After the fall of communism, my family succeeded in finishing all the property paperwork that was left on a very long stand-by due to the endless technicalities of communism. In 2010 we succeeded evicting the communist intruders. The house, now considered a historic building by the authorities and "priceless" by real estate agents, is undergoing restoration.

It was probably the only house in Poland that belonged to a Jewish family that couldn't be confiscated by the Nazis, wasn't destroyed and couldn't be seized by the communist either. The family had interests in the town since about 1836; the oldest schematics for the house are dated 1854. Ever since then, the half-a-city-block sized house at ul. Warszawska 2 has been part of the family life and business. This would have been largely impossible without Natan.

Nathan Blat in front of the family house in Nowy Dwór Maz.
Nathan Blat in front of the family house in Nowy Dwór Maz. after its conversion into a "shopping mall"; on the background the corner
of ul. Warszawska is visible. Notice the cobblestones that covered ul. Kosciuszki.

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