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January 18, 1985 - Image 16

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-01-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

16

Friday, January 18, 1985

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

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Avital's vigil

Continued from preceding page

Avital had no idea when
Anatoly would be released from
detention but, nevertheless, she
went ahead with arrangements
for their marriage. Just three
hours before the ceremony was
due to begin, Anatoly was re-
leased. He had only enough time
to shower and dress before step-
ping under the chuppah for the
Jewish wedding service.
At dawn the next morning, on
July 5, 1974, the day her exit visa
was due to expire, Avital
Shcharansky left Moscow for Is-
rael.
They wrote to each other every
day; occasionally, they managed
to speak by telephone. All the
while, Anatoly continued to guide
other Jews through the bureauc-
ratic nightmare of applying to
leave the Soviet Union.
He became a leading figure in
the Helsinki Monitoring Group
which recorded Soviet violations
of human rights. He used his
knowledge of the Soviet legal aid
system to aid other national and
religious groups in their fight for
basic freedoms. And, because he is
articulate and fluent in English,
he became the spokesman for
Jewish and non-Jewish activists
in' Moscow, communicating reg-
ularly with foreign correspon-
dents based in the Soviet Union.
For a time, Anatoly seemed to
live a charmed life. He believed
that his high public profile would
protect him from official retribu-
tion. But he was wrong. On March
15, 1977, almost three years after
Avital had left Moscow, Anatoly
was arrested, held incom-
municado for 16 months, then
charged with treason and anti-
Sovet slander and agitation.
Avital was in Geneva when she
heard of his arrest. She recalls
thinking, "Now it begins. I must
be strong. Now I am his voice, his
mind, his hands, his soul. Every-
thing depends on me. They won't
let him defend himself, and I must
fight for two."
At his trial, Anatoly
Shcharansky vigorously pro-
tested his innocence, but the re-
sult, he knew, was a foregone con-
clusion. Since then, Anatoly has
endured the hell of a Siberian
prison camp, frequently being
punished for unknown mis-
demeanors by long bouts of solit-
ary confinement. Infrequent,
heavily censored letters to his
mother speak of chest and head
pains, which doctors in the West
fear are serious manifestations.
Avital worries about his health,
but she refuses to give way to de-
spair because she knows that he
has not. "I know that his courage,
his spirit are as strong as ever,"
she says. "He may be tired and ill
and frustrated, but everything is
bearable. His life has become a.
way of getting to Israel.

"You see, in a way Anatoly is
already free. He is energetic, very
lively and he has a great sense of
humor. He was born like that.
Nothing that anyone can do to
him will ever change him."
Avital's own strength and reso-
lution are nourished by her love of
her new land and by her new-
found faith in Judaism. Now, all
aspects of her life are governed by
Jewigi law. Most noticeably, she
keeps her hair covered at all
times, and never wears jeans or
short sleeves.
Some of Avital's friends worry
about this new religious woman.
How will Anatoly cope, on his re-
lease, with such a. wife? Avital is
amused by the question. "I don't
know," she answers. "I don't think
he is far from Judaism. But you'll
have to ask him for yourself."
Anatoly will certainly see other
changes in the young woman he
met 11 years ago. Avital is lovely
still, but she is thin and pale, and
the dark shadows under her eyes
speak of the strain of living as she
does. Underneath the physical
frailty and air of helplessness,
though, is a formidable toughness
and determination. When people
urge Avital to live her own life,

Now it begins. I must
be strong. Now I am
his voice, his mind,
his hands, his soul.
Everything depends
on me. They won't let
him defend himself,
and I must fight for
two.

she replies curtly: "I am doing
what I have to do. This is my life."
Her dream, her only ambition
now, is to live in Jerusalem with
her husband and the children she
yearns to have. But while the time
for a normal family has not yet
come, Avital retains an almost
mystical belief that her husband
will be released soon — tomorrow
or next week. Certainly before the
year is out.
"If he remains in prison," she
says, "it would be a great injus-
tice. And I do not believe there is
such injustice in the world."
Unfortunately, in spite of the
goodwill and support of the West's
most powerful figures, there is
just one man who can write a
happy ending to the love story of
Avital and Anatoly Shcharansky.
But Soviet leader Konstantin
Chernenko has yet to show that
he has a romantic side to his na-
ture.

Washington lesson

Designer and brand name sportswear, coats and more at very special prices.

Is it possible that with relations
improving slightly between
Washington and Moscow, Avital
Shcharansky's international
campaign for her husband's re-
lease may finally have a happy
ending?

That's what she's hoping, but
she came to Washington last week
to meet with officials at a time of .
personal crisis for her husband.
He is reported hospitalized for a
weak heart and his family has not
heard from him in many weeks.

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