Breslin, Padraic (1907–42), dissident communist, was born 14 June 1907 in London to Irish emigrant parents; his father hailed from Glenties, Co. Donegal. The family moved to Dublin (c.1920), settling on the North Strand, where Breslin received a secondary education. Extremely erudite, he developed a lasting interest and firm grounding in philosophy. Influenced by an uncle recently involved in the socialist movement in America, who took him to political meetings and marches, he joined (1922) the tiny Communist Party of Ireland, led by Roddy Connolly (qv). The principal founder and leader of the party's youth section (the Young Communist League of Ireland), he wrote articles and edited the youth section's column for the party organ, Workers’ Republic. On dissolution of the CPI (1923), he joined the other members in entering the new Irish affiliate of the Communist International, the Irish Worker League of James ‘Big Jim’ Larkin (qv).
He was among eight young members (including James Larkin (qv), jun., and Sean Murray (qv)) sent by the IWL in 1928 at Comintern invitation to study at the International Lenin School, Moscow, in an effort to instill ideological rectitude within the Irish movement in the face of Big Jim Larkin's capriciousness. In Moscow he met and married (1929) Yekaterina (‘Katya’) Kreizer, a Russian student of languages, who on completing her degree worked as a translator of Japanese in the oriental section of the Soviet secret service, the NKVD; they had one daughter and one son. Though Breslin was expelled from the course for ideological divergence (1929/30) – while accepting Marxist-Leninist political theory, he rejected Marxist materialism, asserting a spiritual dimension to reality – he had become quickly fluent in Russian, and was retained at the Lenin school as a translator into the mid 1930s. He also worked as a journalist on the English-language, non-party newspaper, Moscow Daily News, writing articles and translating poetry (ranging from propagandist doggerel to works of Vladimir Mayakovsky). A freelance translator into English of Russian songs, folk tales, and children's stories, Breslin wrote an English lyric of the song ‘How wide my native land’, which was popularised internationally by the American leftist singer Paul Robeson. He expressed his increasing disillusionment with the Stalinist regime to family, friends, and, rashly, to casual social contacts. With his wife experiencing continual pressure from superiors who viewed spouses of foreign nationals as potential security risks, he obtained USSR citizenship in 1936.
In the midst of a marital breakdown culminating in divorce, he met and married secondly (1936) Maighréad Nic Mhaicín (qv) (Margaret (‘Daisy’) McMackin), a Donegal-born, Belfast-reared linguist with a degree in Celtic languages and French from QCB, and a past scholarship student at the Sorbonne, who was working as a translator in Moscow. In November 1937 she returned alone to Ireland to give birth to their child, a daughter, born in Belfast in June 1938. Living precariously on freelance translation commissions, Breslin was desperate to join his wife and child in Ireland, and made persistent entreaties to revoke the granting of Soviet citizenship and restore his Irish citizenship, which were refused by authorities in both Moscow and Dublin. After his first wife's arrest and imprisonment (1938), he shared care for their two children with her parents. Arrested under suspicion of being a foreign agent (December 1940), he endured some sixty interrogation sessions. While no grounds could be established for an espionage charge, he admitted under extreme duress to anti-Soviet opinions and statements, and was sentenced by a special board of the secret police to eight years’ detention for ‘counter-revolutionary agitation’ (September 1941). After a further six months in Moscow's Butyrka prison, he was transported on a prisoner train to Chistopol prison, Tatarstan. Though suffering from general ill health and weakness, he was transferred to the Volgolag corrective labour camp, near Kazan, on the Volga River. His death there three days after arrival in June 1942 was officially ascribed to heart failure owing to tuberculosis.
His first wife, Katya Kreizer, after release from labour camps and reunion with their children (1946), resumed work in the secret service. Their daughter, Irina Patrickovna Breslina (b. 1934), worked in Leningrad (St Petersburg) as a botanist, and their son, Genrikh Patrikeyevich Kreizer (1937–2002) was a biological mathematician in Pushchino. Breslin's second wife, Maighréad Nic Mhaicín, who never remarried, returned to Dublin, where she taught Russian at TCD. Their daughter, Mairéad Breslin Kelly, a Dublin tour guide, was united with her Russian half-siblings in 1993 after years of searching. Padraic Breslin was posthumously rehabilitated of any crime by order of the Russian government (26 February 1991).