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Mischa Maisky

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Mischa Maisky was born in Riga in 1948 which was then part of the Soviet Union. At that time it was very difficult for Jewish people in the Soviet Union. When he was 22, he was imprisoned in a labour camp for 18 months. He had to shovel cement instead of playing the cello.

The reason the Soviet government gave for sending Mischa Maisky to a labour camp was that he had bought a tape-recorder illegally. But that was not the real reason he was arrested. The real reason was that his sister had moved to Israel. The Soviet government did not want Jewish people to leave the Soviet Union. Many were not allowed to leave and they became known as 'refuseniks'. When people did manage to leave, the government made life very difficult for their families. After his sister left, Mischa Maisky was no longer invited to play in concerts and he wasn't allowed to go abroad. That is why, when he bought a tape-recorder illegally, he was sent to a labour camp.

When his prison sentence ended, Mischa Maisky left the Soviet Union. He had to start his life again in a new country where he didn't speak the language and he didn't know anyone. He hadn't played the cello for two years and he didn't have his own cello.

Now Mischa Maisky is a world-famous cellist.

This is pretty cool: firedance (Mischa Maisky plays Fire Dance by Manuel de Falla)