Harry Urban (Garri Semionovitch Urban)

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 18 November 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:1241

Jewish doctor and author who survived prison camp to practise in Uzbekistan, Ukraine, and Venezuela

Harry Urban's medical training at Padua University in the late 1930s could scarcely have prepared him for the horrors he was to experience as a prisoner in a Soviet labour camp inside the Arctic Circle, or in Tashkent and the furthest reaches of Kazakhstan, or—after the second world war—dealing with tropical diseases in the remote plains of Apure in Venezuela.

Despite coming from Poland (the son of a farmer; his mother died when he was 14) he went to university in Italy because of the quota imposed on Jewish students in the 1930s by the Polish government. He graduated in 1939 and returned home, but as Poland disintegrated found himself in the south of the country, in Galicia. On Christmas Eve that year he attempted to swim across the River Prut and into Romania but was shot, captured, and sentenced by the Moscow Troika court to five years hard labour at Niva III camp, near Kandalaksha in the Arctic …

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