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May 31, 1985 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-05-31

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Friday, May 31, 1985



Is My Mother's
Hair Still Black?

ello," I said over
the telephone.
"I've just
returned from the Soviet Union and I
saw your father and mother, Luba and
Eliezer, at a Purim party in Moscow."
"Yes," Lisa answered, a little
"Luba asked me to bring a shawl that
she had crocheted for you, and also a
couple of toys, little wooden bears, for
your two children.
"I also took a photograph of Luba
and Eliezer," I said. "I will send it to
"Tell me, does my mother still have
black hair?" Lisa cried.
"Yes, yes," I said, "it's gray too, but
she is still a very handsome woman, and.
she still has black hair."
"I have had only one picture of my
mother in the six years since I left, one
picture only," she explained tearfully.
"Luba said she is well, and your
father too. You will see a little cut on
your father's cheek in the photograph.
It's nothing; he told me that he just
banged himself on an open door."
"My father has ulcers, my mother has
high blood pressure," Lisa said. "How
I wish I could get good ► medicine to
Neither of her parents had requested
anything for themselves. "They only
wanted to send something to you," I ex-
plained, "because you have been so
good to them."
She asked if her parents had enough
to eat. I told of the Purim party where

families had pooled their food for a
festive spread, and that her mother had
explained how these people were taking
care of each other. I told her how Pasha,
whom Lisa knew, had read the megilla
in Russian.
"My father could have read it in
Hebrew," Lisa explained, "because he
comes from a Hasidic background."
"They read it in Russian so everyone
could understand," I said, "and every-
one did — even us."
Lisa told me that her correspondence
with her parents had been very circum-
spect because of difficulties her brother
had had with the military authorities.
Now, though, he had reluctantly com-
pleted army service, automatically stall-
ing for at least five more years any
chance of his emigration. But he had
been dismissed from school before being
faced with the choice of army or jail.
What kind of job could he get? What
girl would date him?
I told Lisa that her mother had said
her greatest consolation was having her
son home with them again after so
many years of being frightened about
his safety. I said I was sorry I had been
0, unable to bring out a letter from her
mother — one which would not have
been read first by the Soviet authori-
ties. It would have been illegal and
dangerous. Probably by coincidence, I
had been singled out to be given the
most thorough security search at the
airport when I left the country.



wife, Svetlana. We are admiring some
beautiful needlework she has learned to do
since she left her job as a computer pro-
gramming teacher to care for her daugh-
ter's bronchial asthma condition.
And, finally, come celebrate Purim at a
party of refuseniks presided over by Pavel
(Pasha) and Marta Abramovich. Twenty-
two Jews crowd around tables laden with
all the food and drink that several families
could muster, including precious slices of
fresh grapefruit, a winter delicacy in
Moscow. Pasha was an electronics engi-
neer when he first applied to emigrate to
Israel in 1971. Dismissed from his job, he
became a teacher of Hebrew, now a
dangerous, illegal occupation, which he
has been pressured to discontinue.
Pasha has publicly renounced Soviet
citizenship, claiming instead Israeli
citizenship. His home has been raided, he
has been charged with "parasitism," the
KGB warned him to stay away from
Moscow during the Olympic Games in
In 1979, he was also awarded Israel's
Ben Yehuda Medal in absentia at the
Jerusalem Conference on Jewish Culture
in the USSR. The award was presented in
recognition of his having organized a week-
long cultural seminar to mark the 100th
anniversary of the first Hebrew-Russian
dictionary with lectures and discussions of
Jewish culture held in private apartments
in Moscow.
Pasha is at the hub of a circle of refuse-
nik families. That extended family sus-
tains its members, supports them, cheers
them. Pasha's strength and courage in-
spire them.
Pasha reads the megilla in Russian at
our Purim party, but we Americans com-
prehend its meaning. We join in tapping
our water, vodka and wine glasses when-
ever the name of Haman is spoken, com-
municating our understanding of the
modern Haman who oppresses and men-
aces those who sit with us around the
table. Despite the comic merriment de-
creed by the mistress of ceremonies at the
party, jolly, white-haired Lena, we, the
guests, understand no less than our hosts
the sadness underlying the evening's
Some refusenik families are in dire need.
In Leningrad, one proud family accepted
gifts of clothing and food only after
American visitors assured them that the
items were being offered by a Jewish
organization, not as individual charity.
Other families, while suffering social and
professional isolation and ostracism, main-
tain a decent living standard. All adult
family members try to find work, even
though the jobs may be menial, and they
are usually able to keep the apartments
and possessions they acquired when they

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