Abraham Alfred Chakin, also known as “Chick,” was born on December 28th, 1904, in Russia. He immigrated to the United States in September 1905 with his parents, Samuel Chakin and Pauline Chakin, who were Jewish. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Chakin studied education at Cornell University, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in 1926. He was a skilled athlete and was the star of Cornell’s wrestling team, winning the Intercollegiate Championship in his senior year. Additionally, he nearly made the US Olympic team in 1924.
After graduating from Cornell, he moved back to New York City where he found a job as a physical education teacher at City College. He also became the coach of the City College wrestling team. He was involved in the College Teachers Union and the Anti-Fascist Association throughout the 1930s.
In July 1936, Chakin traveled to Barcelona for the People’s Olympiad, which was intended to be an alternative to the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics. On July 19th, only a couple of days before the start of the event, there was a military uprising of rebel troops, starting the Spanish Civil War. The games were canceled, and Chakin returned to the US with his team.
In 1937, Chakin left his job at City College to join the International Brigades. He served with the Canadian Mackenzie-Papineau (“Mac-Paps”) Battalion as an armorer. This battalion was part of the XV International Brigade. Chakin fought in several major battles, most notably the Battle of Teruel. Chakin was captured by Fascist troops on March 17th, 1938, near Caspe, as his brigade retreated from Teruel during the Aragon Offensive. He was executed a few days later, at the age of 33.
“NINE ATHLETES SELECTED; Will Compete for U.S. in People's Olympics in Barcelona.” New York Times, July 2, 1936.
Guide to the papers of Bernard N. Danchik Alba.033. Accessed June 3, 2022. http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/tamwag/alba_033/admininfo.html.
Rosenstone, Robert A. “The Men of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion.” The Journal of American History 54, no. 2 (1967): 327. https://doi.org/10.2307/1894809.
Wentzell, Tyler. “Canada's Foreign Enlistment Act and the Spanish Civil War.” Labour / Le Travail 80, no. 1 (2017): 213–46. https://doi.org/10.1353/llt.2017.0048.