08/17/1938 - 11/23/2020
Dr. Yury Polotsky, MD, PhD, born in 1938 in Leningrad, USSR, has passed away on Sunday night in Denver, surrounded by his loving children and grandchildren. Dr. Polotsky was known as a pathologist who discovered the ETEC subtype of Escherichia coli, a cause of GI infections. The funeral will take place at Temple Emanuel cemetery at Fairmount on Tuesday, November 24, 2020.
Dr. Polotsky was pre-deceased by his wife Dr. Anna Polotsky. He is survived by his children Seva (Anna) Polotsky of Baltimore, Md., and Alex (Hanah) Polotsky of Denver; grandchildren Mikhael, Esti, Avi, Yael, Rachel, Eli, and Yoshi and great-granddaughter Cecilia Kate. Contributions may be made to Denver Academy of Torah.
Yury's son's Alex wrote an essay, "My Father, My Hero" in 1995 for his medical school admission. The following are excerpts from the essay that still ring true to Yury's children and grandchildren.
The most influential person in my life is my father, Dr. Yury Polotsky, who had spent most of his adult life in Russia fighting with the state- supported anti-Semitism of the academic establishment I was always very impressed with his dedication to medicine and the persistence with which he achieved his goals. Yury was born in 1938 in Leningrad where he received an M. D. and a Ph D. in Pathology. His parents were also physicians: his father was a gynecologist and his mother was an internist. Yury's family came from the Jewish-populated villages in Eastern Poland which was annexed by the Russian empire in the eighteenth century. Even though Yury's ancestors had lived in Russia for more than two hundred years, no one considered him a "Russian'. Although he was a Soviet citizen and supposedly enjoyed equal rights, the deeply rooted anti- Semitism made Jews feel foreign and not belonging to their native land.
In 1979, Yury underwent his biggest crisis in his professional career. He was employed as a research Pathologist at one of the major centers of biomedical research in Russia. The head of the Department was going to retire in a year, and Yury was slated to take his job. However, it was not meant to be as two Jewish associates at Yury's Department applied for a permission to emigrate from the USSR which generated an outburst of racial hatred and an ugly anti-Semitic campaign. When it was over, Yury lost his job and was unable to find a position suitable to his qualifications because he happened to be Jewish too.
In 1980s the Soviet regime tightened emigration regulations and made it virtually impossible for Jews to leave the country. Having his career crushed and unable to get out of Russia, Yury took a low paying job as a Research Technician which he was over-qualified for. His family saw how devastated and humiliated Yury was by this stumbling block in his career, but he never let his spirits down and persevered.
Yury's superb professionalism had allowed him to work his way up the institutional ladder again, and in 1984 he successfully defended his thesis for a Doctor of Science degree in Anatomic Pathology. He became a head of a laboratory at the Leningrad Pasteur Institute and a principal investigator for the many projects that his team was working on. His dedication to research influenced his sons, who have followed him to pursue research careers in academic medicine.
In December 1991, Yury was able to leave USSR and started working as a Senior Research Associate at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington, D. C. His children witnessed how their fifty-three-year-old father struggled to improve his English and get used to a new culture. In February 1992 Yury underwent open heart surgery and was disabled for more than two months. He recovered and worked for 10 more years in the US as a research pathologist.
Working hard to achieve his career goals, Yury has never forgotten of the importance of his family. Yury and his wife Anna, who was also a pathologist in Russia, made sure that their children could get the best education possible. His son Dr. Seva Polotsky became a sleep researcher and Professor of Medicine at John Hopkins. His son, Dr. Alex Polotsky became a reproductive medicine physician and Professor of Ob/Gyn at the University of Colorado. Yury's influence had made a profound impact on his sons and his family. His family succeeded in the US and contributed to the American society as a way of saying "thank you" for providing Russian Jews a safe and welcoming home.
Published by Denver Post on Nov. 24, 2020.