Biographies/Rebecca Durem Schulman

Tags: Russian Jewish Nurse Villa Paz

Researcher: Artem Ilyanok, Stuyvesant '20

Rebecca Durem Schulman was born in Dayton, Ohio—an industrial town considered the “birthplace of aviation”— on January 8th, 1911. She was a Russian-American Jew; when she was 4 years old, her mother took her to visit her grandmother in Russia. The visit was unfortunately timed, as the raging revolution occurring in Russia at the time trapped the Schulmans in Russia for four years, during which Schulman’s father sent his wife and daughter money to keep them alive. After she and her mother returned from Russia, the Schulman family settled in Brooklyn, New York, on 2168 77th Street (a part of Bensonhurst). Graduating from nursing school in 1931, Schulman served as both a private and a hospital nurse. At Beth Israel hospital in midtown Manhattan, which was founded 40 years earlier to serve Jewish immigrants, Schulman worked with Dr. Edward Barsky, an organizer for medical services in Spain. Dr. Barsky made Schulman aware of Spain’s need for medical resources and personnel. Although, in an interview years after the Spanish Civil War, Schulman said she was never "very political," she believed in Spain’s right to a democratically elected government. When Dr. Barksy asked her to work in Spain, a “restless, adventurous,”travel-eager, twenty-six-year-old Schulman said “yes, because they needed nurses and [she wanted] to help right a wrong.” While serving at Villa Paz, the American Base’s Hospital in Saelices, Schulman met Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteer Ramon Durem, who was recuperating from a leg wound. Durem was a notable poet; Schulam married him in Aranjuez on March 17th, 1938. After Republican armies were forced to retreat from Villa Paz after an aerial bombing of nearby Urrea de Gaén, Schulman was transported to Barcelona by train. On May 11, 1938, she returned to Brooklyn aboard the Normandie due to pregnancy. Reflecting on her experience in the war, Schulman said "I blossomed in Spain. Everyone was your Camarada. We were all together.”
Schulman died on August 17, 2002, in Claremont, California at the age of 91. She is survived by three daughters, Dolores—the daughter she gave birth to after returning from Spain and named after Dolores Ibarruri—Pilar and Vita, four grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.


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