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Soviet Emigre Who Was in Prison 10 Years Says 250,000 Russian Jews Want to Emigrate

Mrs. Luba Bershadskaya, who spent 10 years in three Soviet prison camps, believes about 250,000 Jews in the Soviet Union have asked for visas for emigration to Israel. She said she based her estimate on information she had acquired from friends and her frequent visits to the visa office in Moscow before her departure for Israel last July, and from sources in Israel. Mrs. Bershadskaya’s figure, given to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an exclusive interview yesterday, compared favorably with the statement by Israeli Absorption Minister Nathan Peled in the Knesset on Sunday that the total number of Russian Jews who want to come to Israel was believed to run into tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands. In her private opinion, Mrs. Bershadskaya said, a million and a half of the more than three million Jews in the Soviet Union would emigrate immediately if they were allowed to leave. Mrs. Bershadskaya gave the interview after a luncheon with a dozen Congressmen in the House dining room. The luncheon was sponsored by Rep. James Scheuer, New York Democrat. Mrs. Bershadskaya deplored violence as a manifestation of solidarity with Soviet Jews. She said that Jews in Russia receive information about what is said of them in the outside world from the Voice of America, Kol Israel, the BBC, Radio Liberty, all based in West Germany, and the Canadian Broadcasting Co.

“Even those who are afraid to apply for visas are not afraid to listen,” she said, The Russian emigre came to Washington after traveling for six weeks in the United States and Canada. She made about 125 speeches and held many news conferences and private talks about the plight of Soviet Jews. She said she was sentenced in 1940 to 6-10 years’ imprisonment “on suspicion of criminal connections with Americans.” A former ballet dancer and for four years an employee at the American Embassy in Moscow. She worked in the prison as a laundress. When she returned to Moscow in 1956, Mrs. Bershadskaya said, she found that her three children had been told in their schools that their mother was an enemy of the people. Mrs. Bershadskaya divorced her first husband. She remarried in Moscow and her husband is now in Israel. Before 1946, she said, she did not feel like a Jew. When she was released from prison she said she found “more difficulties from anti-Semitism in Moscow than in the prisons.” Friends, she said, would not help her because she was Jewish. Mrs. Bershadskaya said “I did not expect so much interest (shown by Americans and Canadians). I am sorry my friends in Russia cannot see this. I cry when I see this. When I finish my speeches, many people kiss me. They tell me they understand me. I am very tired. But when I begin to speak, I forget that I am tired because the crowds are so interested.”

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