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February 03, 1989 - Image 95

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-02-03

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Brink's Home
will cost you only
$1995* a month.

American ‘Refuseniks'
Haunt An Italian Town

Ladispoli, Italy (JTA) — In
a modest, two-room apart-
ment just a block away from
the Mediterranean Sea, fear,
uncertainty and bewilder-
ment sit hand in hand.
"We can't understand why
we were singled out from all
the Jews in Ladispoli," said
22-year-old Eugene Zafrin.
"Our reasons for leaving the
Soviet Union are strong
enough to leave as refugees.
They don't differ very much
from those of people who were
let in" to the United States.
Zafrin, a computer techni-
cian from Moscow, is one of
some 200 Jews who have left
the Soviet Union in recent
months and been refused per-
mission to enter the United
States as refugees.
With grim humor, they call
themselves "refuseniks" —
an ironic reference to the
Soviet Jews still denied exit
"Yes, we are refuseniks
here," said Ljubov Myaskov-
sky, a 35-year-old economist
from Moscow. She, her hus-
band, Ramon, a 35-year-old
auto mechanic, and their two
young children also were
refused refugee status.
"We were very surprised at
the U.S. consul's decision, she
said. "We didn't see any
reason for it."
Soviet Jews have been
entering the United States as
refugees through Italy for at .
least 15 years. Italy has a
relatively open-door policy as
a transit country for political
refugees waiting for visas to
enter the United States,
Canada and Australia.
In addition to Soviet Jews,
thousands of Poles, Ethio-
pians, Iranians and others are
here, hoping for visas.
About 1,000 Soviet Jewish
families are awaiting U.S.
visas — as many as 4,000 peo-
ple. They are temporarily
housed in Ladispoli, a seaside
resort town north of Rome.
They are given a per-diem
financial allowance, covering
rent and food, by the
American Jewish Joint
Distribution Committee.
HAIS, the Hebrew Immigrant
Aid Society, assists the im-
migrants with documenta-
tion, pre-migration planning
and transportation.
American sources say about
6 to 7 percent of Soviet Jews
who have applied for visas in
recent months have not
qualified for refugee status.
The U.S. State Department
said that Soviet Jews seeking
entry to the United States
will not be turned away. If

they do not qualify for refugee
status, they may enter the
United States under the U.S.
attorney general's parole
authority. But this dis-
qualifies them from receiving
U.S. refugee resettlement
assistance and makes it more
difficult to become American
Under the parole system,
potential immigrants must
find sponsors in the United
States. Soviet Jews waiting
here say that if they do not
find a sponsor within a month
after being refused refugee
status for a second time, their
living allowances are cut off,
their stay in Italy becomes il-
legal and their only choice is
to immigrate to Israel.
Many here who have been
refused refugee status do not

know the United
States is the
country which,
over the years, has
shown respect for
refugees and

have family or friends in the
United States. They do not
know what they will do,
Zafrin said. "They are
frightened of not being able to
find a sponsor."
Soviet refugees can go to
Israel whenever they choose.
Most do not want to live
"The United States is the
only country in the world
where I have relatives and
friends," Zafrin said, explain-
ing his preference for the
United States. "I have an un-
cle, close friends from my in-
stitute in Moscow.
"Besides," he added, "I
know the United States is the
country which, over the years,
has shown respect for
refugees and immigrants."
The Myaskovskys also want
to go to the United States
because they have friends in
New York, Boston, and Hart-
ford, Conn. — but nobody in
Israel. "We want to live in a
free country," Ljubov
Myaskovsky added.
To obtain U.S. refugee
status, immigrants must
demonstrate a "well-founded
fear of persecution" in the
country of their origin. Both
the Myaskovskys and Zafrin
detailed anti-Semitic harass-
ment and discrimination in
Moscow, which they said was
as bad as the persecution suf-
fered by Soviet Jews who have
received refugee status.

"For five years I could not
find a job," Ljubov Myaskov-
sky said. "They checked the
page on my identity papers.
When they saw I was a Jew,
they didn't want to hire me.
And when our child went to
school, the teacher refused to
have him in the class because
he was a Jew."
Myaskovsky also said she
and her husband received
threatening telephone calls
from people who said they
would kidnap their children.
"We received hate mail and
threats. We couldn't leave the
children alone on the street,"
she said. "We were afraid."
Zafrin was refused admis-
sion to Moscow State Univer-
sity apparently because of his
Jewish background. He said
he could not attend
synagogue: "If you were seen
in synagogue, you could be ex-
pelled from the institute
where I worked."
Zafrin's parents wanted to
emigrate, too, but were not
allowed to because they could
not get written permission
from their own parents.
Soviet law requires parental
consent even for adults who
wish to emigrate.
Meanwhile, the "refuse-
niks" sit and wait. Zafrin and
the Myaskovskys left the
Soviet Union together on
Sept. 2. They spent about 12
days in a transit center in
Vienna and a week at a tran-
sit center in Rome before com-
ing to Ladispoli.
Zafrin and the Myakovskys
say they will apply a second
time for refugee status. If
they are refused then they
will look into the possibility
of entering the United States
under the parole system.
The three adults and two
children share an apartment
on Via Kennedy — a quiet,
block-long street leading
directly to the Mediterra-
nean. It is a small apartment
in a modern building, with
two rooms, a good-sized kit-
chen and a bath.
Many other Soviet Jews
have found accommodations
in the neighborhood, and
Russian. is routinely heard on
the street. The money they
receive from the Joint
Distribution Committee is
sufficient for rent and food.
"We try to make money in
other ways, but it's actually
illegal," Zafrin said.
Zafrin said the Soviet Jews
have little contact with the
Rome Jewish community, but
opportunities exist for Jewish
life in Ladispoli. There is a

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