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July 31, 1987 - Image 12

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-07-31

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Soviet Jews

Continued from Page 7

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12

FRIDAY, JULY 31, 1987

negotiations between the
Soviet Union and the United
States on trade and disarma-
ment. In a burst of un-
characteristic candor, the
deputy director of Ovir in
Moscow told Evgenia
Palanker that she was ab-
solutely correct.
Few believe that the United
States would barter national
security for Jews. We also
have no guarantee that the
reasons stated by Ovir to Mrs.
Palanker actually represent
official Soviet policy, but we
at least know that the Soviets
are willing to let the west
perceive that they want Jews
to be chips on the bargaining
table.
Turning now to the conven-
tional wisdom that visits to
refuseniks should be held in
secret: In Moscow we arrang-
ed to meet a Jewish man on
a street several metro sta-
tions from the hotel. At the
end of the evening he asked
to accompany us from his
apartment to our hotel since
he wanted to see what a
deluxe tourist hotel looked
like inside. He walked into
the hotel lobby directly in
front of the guards who are
there to make certain that on-
ly registered guests enter and
he came up to our room
without fear. He said that
either the guards would let
him pass or they would not.
In either event, he had
nothing to lose.
Vili Palanker met us
almost in front of the hotel
and engaged us in lively con-
versation near the entrance.
When several others from our
tour group walked by and
greeted us, he openly and in
a loud voice invited them all
to come to his apartment. He
said he wants to hide nothing
and wants the authorities to
know about every visitor he
receives.
In Leningrad we met with
Evgeny and Irena Lein and
their 15-year-old son Alex.
The Lein's daughter, son-in-
law and grandchildren have
just been granted permission
to leave. The Leins have suf-
fered much; their case is
among the worst. Yet when I
asked Evgeny on the
telephone how I might get a
taxi to his apartment he told
me to get one at the hotel
even though we had been told
in the U.S. not to do this since
the driver might report the
trip to the KGB.
When I asked if this could
hurt him, he replied that he
is well known to the KGB (as
are all refuseniks), they know
he receives visitors and he
wants them to know. He said:
"Tell our story to everyone."
Notwithstanding the fact
that the Leins have suffered
much (loss of work, beatings

and exile to Siberia), Evgeny
said that among the Russian
people attitudes are chang-
ing. His old friends are corn-
ing back, his neighbors are
becoming more friendly and
his son now has a young Rus-
sian friend. In Moscow and in
Armenia I also heard stories
of acts of friendship being ex-
tended to Jews by ordinary
Soviet citizens.
While it is true that most
Jews who apply to leave still
suffer severe economic hard-
ships, this policy is not con-
sistently applied.
Glasnost, it seems, has not
changed Soviet policy. It has,
however, started to allow the

"We should all
have a ready
answer for
Olga . ."

Soviet people to express
themselves more openly —
even to Jews. We also observ-
ed many acts of friendship
and kindness directed toward
us as Americans as we mov-
ed from place to place, often
independently of our tour
guides.
Finally, and sadly, the pic-
ture would not be complete
without the statement of our
Soviet tour guide, Olga, as we
were about to depart from the
USSR. She is a member of the
Communist Party and was
well aware of our being
Jewish. She knew of the even-
ings we quietly broke away
from the group to pursue "in-
dependent activities." As I
was about to board the plane
she said, "Jews who meet in
their apartments and engage
in anti-Soviet activities with
the aid of foreign visitors will
be persecuted."
Here is the answer we
should all have for Olga:
• The Soviet Union will be
inundated with American
tourists who will visit Soviet
Jews and the visits will be as
open as the hosts care to
make them.
• The stories will be told
and retold as often as possible
to anyone who will listen.
• Not only will we attempt
to pressure the Soviet Union
to let Jews leave, we will use
our best efforts to gain them
the enjoyment of the same,
albeit limited, rights as other
Soviet citizens.
• The refuseniks are con-
vinced that constant pressure
brings limited results over
time. Until another and bet-
ter solution appears on the
horizon we will faithfully
carry out our obligation to
our fellow Jews.
We will thumb our noses at
Olga and carry on.

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