Музей Марка Шагала
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Liudmila Khmelnitskaya. Mariasia Chagall: before Revolution


Liudmila Khmelnitskaya.
Mariasia Chagall: before Revolution

As it is well know, Marc Chagall had one brother David and five sisters, the youngest was Mariasia Chagall.

In 2002 Marc Chagall Museum received as a gift "Personal file No. 240 of Chagall Marusia Zakharovna" due to which it was possible to establish some additional facts from the biography of the artist's sister.

So, in "Personal file" it is mentioned, that Mariasia studied at the 7-th Soviet labour uniform school of II level and finished it in 1920. In post-revolution time this school appeared in the result of reforming one of the private Vitebsk educational institutions - Davidova's programmar school.

The graduate of the Mogilyov female Mariinskaja grammar school and Moscow pedagogical courses Darja Samojlovna Davidova opened her private 4-class female Jewish programmar school in Vitebsk in 1907. By this time she had already received sufficient experience of pedagogical and administrative work, during 12 years being a holder of a city private 3-class female Jewish school which also had evening classes for adult women. Grammar schools in pre-revolutionary Russia were average educational institutions of 8-years training. Programmar schools had 4 or 6 first classes and had the program, identical with corresponding classes of grammar schools. Pupils having finished grammar schools received certificates and had the right to enter all higher educational institutions. Graduates of programmar schools were issued only certificates.

In the programmar school of Darja Davidova which was located in the house No. 7 in Tolstoy street studied about 200 Jewish girls. Before the Revolution tuition fee was from 30 up to 60 roubles per year. After the Revolution the programmar school became the 7-th Soviet school of I and II levels where pupils of both sexes studied. However as the tuition fee still remained the only source of existence of this educational institution, it has not been abolished, and in connection with transitional difficulties it was considerably increased - 60 up to 200 roubles per year. Former owner of the programmar school, probably, enjoyed the confidence of new authorities as after "school council' was formed in April, 1919 in the 7th school, which supervised all its activities, she became its "chairwoman".

Mariasia Chagall entered Davidova's programmar school even before the Revolution, in 1913, and she had to finish the Soviet school. Probably, her elder sisters had studied in the same programmar school that was a peculiar family tradition. Some documents of the last years of Mariasia's education at the 7-th Soviet school kept safe. We found her surname in " the List of names of pupils to be provided  hot breakfasts ", that was compiled at the end of December, 1918. During this disturbing and hungry time Mariasia Chagall was a pupil of III group of II level. (ГАВО, ф.246, оп.1, д.162, л.22) Besides her 69 girls from Jewish families studied in the group.

Also we found interesting data on educational process in the former programmar school in deed certifying acceptance of all available property by the council of the 7-th school in April, 1919. As during the civil war hardly any new manuals were bought for the school, pupils, most likely, used only what had been left in the inheritance from the old regime programmar school. The inventory list gave careful and detailed description of school-books of arithmetic, geometry, geographic and historic maps, "pictures of seasons", tables on botany and human anatomy, "classroom of physics with visual aids on natural sciences in the number of 218 items " including test tubes, retorts, flasks, beakers, thermometers, electric battery, electric bulb, bellows, collections of stones and butterflies, stuffed birds, tables of the mammals, and other numerous cognitive things. Girls learned music and singing (the grand piano, by the way, was damaged during fire, and the school administration requested a new one), learned to distinguish grain cereals, acquainted with spices, flax and its products, woolen, tanning, wood-processing productions, paper and glass manufactures.

By the second year of the Revolution the library of the former programmar school numbered 687 volumes of books. The majority of girls attending the school before the Revolution, who came from rather poor Jewish families of Vitebsk, in their everyday life spoke Yiddish. At the programmar school they also learned Russian, German and French. For beginers in Russian there was the textbook by Aizenshtandt and Dajhes "For our kids. Reading book in Russian for Jewish children ". For senior schoolgirls were full collected works of Veresayev, Korolenko, Turgenev, Goncharov, Moliere, Kipling, Dickens and other authors. The textbook by Badendik was used for teaching beginers in German. " First steps to German" written by the former teacher of Vitebsk man's Alexksandrovskaya grammer school Alexander Badendik was printed at the local printing house in 1887 and since then was very popular in various educational institutions of the city. In the school library there were also text books on Jewish history and language, including textbooks by Dubnov, Moses Pentateuch, textbooks "according to the rules of the Jewish belief". (Ibid., pp. 3-11)

Having finished the 7-th school of II level Mariasia Chagall studied at the 1st party school, afterwards from October, 1920 began to work as a censor of mail in Vitebsk branch of the military censorship which was a structural division of the local Emergency commission. Administrative career of the girl in the above establishment obviously was not successful from the very beginning - in February, 1921 " for negligent attitude to official duties " she was arrested " for three day with performance of official duties ". In two months she got into even more serious trouble - in the beginning of May the chief of the 7-th branch of the secret service under Vitgubcheka (Vitebsk province emergency commission) "established the fact " of disclosure of confidential information by the citizen Chagall. As it was found out in the result of prosecuted inquiry, Mariasia told "the well known bourgeois family of Vitebsk the very Rosenfelds" about her working place and the fact of existence of military censorship, for what she was arrested " for 30 day without performance of working obligations ".

All the above frightened the girl so much, that having served her sentence (which nevertheless was shortened upon her request to 10 day), at the end of June, 1921 she importunately got her discharge and moved from Vitebsk to live with her sisters in Petrograd.

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