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frontline headquarters as the soldier responsible for maps. He was adjunct to a unit of Cossacks, who were considered extreme Jew haters but who treated Ratner well thanks to his skills. He later served on the staff of Marshal Brusilov, the Supreme Commander of the Western Front, and was only transferred from there due to his demand to serve on the front. He was stationed with a communication company, and had one day arrived to a remote unit that had been completely wiped out after a heavy bombardment. For a whole night, he maintained communications from the outpost and awarded a badge for excellence – the Holy Georgian Cross.
After the Revolution of 1917, he arrived with his unit to a "Red" division and was appointed as its Chief of Staff with the rank of Polkovnik (Colonel). He extricated it from a confrontation with the German Army, and for the first time he had high status. Throughout all his postings until then, including the command positions, he served as a mere sergeant – due to his Judaism.
After a lengthy term of service during the Red-White Civil War, he grew weary of intra-Russian conflicts. He returned to Odessa and met Zionist activists for the first time. Afterwards he moved to Western Europe, completed his architectural studies in Germany and made Aliya in 1923. Until then, he did not view himself as a Zionist and had indeed come to the Land of Israel because he missed a female friend of his in Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem he worked as a builder, and built the first building of the university on Mount Scopus and the first houses on Ben-Yehuda Street. Among his Jerusalemite friends were also Rachel Bluwstein (Rachel the Poetess), who wrote three songs about him. He accompanied her until her final day, when she died of tuberculosis at the age of 41.
He initially refused to join the "Haganah", saying that he had had enough during his military service throughout World War I. However, upon learning the conditions in Palestine he changed his mind and in 1925 he swore allegiance to the "Haganah" in Haifa, the city he lived in. For years he avoided telling anyone of his extensive military background in Russia and underwent all the courses of the "Haganah" with squad mates, but eventually the truth came out. His nom de guerre in the Haganah, "Yohanan", soon became his first name in Hebrew. At the same time, he began teaching in the Technion in Haifa, which had just opened its doors, as the assistant to the Head of the Architecture Faculty, Prof. Alexander Baerwald. He received initial planning works in Haifa, and planed among other projects, the Amphitheatre in Hadar HaCarmel.
In 1928, he got the chance of a lifetime, even though he did not know it yet. All the planners and architects in the Land of Israel were informed that the Zionist institutions was about to build the "National Institutions Building" in the Rehavia Neighborhood in Jerusalem, and that a competition would soon be held between the leading architects in the Land of Israel over the planning of the building. Dozens of architects, from the most famous to the partially anonymous – as Ratner was at the time – submitted their proposals.

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