Special Interview with Silva Zalmanson
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Special Interview with Silva Zalmanson

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Silva Zalmanson believes that only strict monitoring by the American government will ensure realization of the agreement allowing Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel. She stressed today in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the Soviet Union does not like to make concessions and only agreed to the deal contained in the exchange of letters Oct. 18 between Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash,) and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger because the USSR needs American trade.

Wearing a blue Jacket, white blouse and red skirt. Miss Zalmanson spoke Russian as she was interviewed through a translator at the offices of the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry. The Conference is sponsoring her visit to New York which began with her arrival frond Israel Monday night. Her nation-wide three-week tour is sponsored by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.

Miss Zalmanson’s release from a Soviet labor camp last Aug. after she had served four years of her 10-year sentence was directly due to the pressure of public opinion, she said. But she added she was afraid that her freedom might have been only a “symbolic bone thrown to the West” to quiet the international clamor over her case. She expressed fear that others, such as her husband, Edward Kuznetsov, and her two brothers, Vulf and Israel, might not be freed before the end of their sentences. Her husband, who was originally sentenced to death for his role in the alleged conspiracy to hijack a Soviet plane to Israel, had his sentence commuted to 15 years after a world-wide protest Vulf is serving a 10-year term, and Israel, 8 years.


Miss Zalmanson said she was particularly concerned about the 40 Jewish “Prisoners of Conscience” still in Soviet labor camps and felt that efforts to free them should gain top priority because they were in danger of their lives. Noting her own illness while in a labor camp, she said the Soviet authorities do not provide proper medical attention and the only way to get it is to go on a hunger strike. She has not received any news from her husband since her release, and only one letter from her brothers.

Because of this she expressed concern that the references to the prisoners in the Jackson-Kissinger letters were vague. Malcolm Hoenlein. the GNYCSJ’s executive director, noted that Miss Zalmanson had met with Sen. Jacob Javits (R.NY) for breakfast yesterday and he had promised to seek a clearer statement on the POCs. Javits also asked for a list of Soviet Jews who have been harassed since the agreement was announced, Hoenlein said.

Miss Zalmanson said that public pressure in the United States and other Western nations must now be intensified to ensure that the agreement is kept and that the prisoners and other Soviet Jews are allowed to emigrate.


She spoke warmly of her feelings toward Israel where she has been living for the past two months. She said the people she has met have treated her with great hospitality, frequently bringing tears to her eyes. She noted that she never cried before her enemies but now that she is among her people she lets her tears flow.

“It’s like living in a dream.” Miss Zalmanson said. She added that she is still “captured” by her prison experiences and that in Israel she feels as though she is in a movie theater. As for criticism by some Soviet immigrants, Miss Zalmanson said Israel does more for newcomers than any other country. She speaks some Hebrew which she learned before being sent to prison, and remarked that Hebrew textbooks were smuggled to her in prison but conditions were too difficult for her to study.


Miss Zalmanson, recalling the first Leningrad trial in Dec. 1970 in which she and the others were sentenced, said that the average Russian wanted all of them to be shot. Asked about the Soviet government’s charges that she, her husband and brothers, and others at the trial were intending to hijack a Soviet plane, she said the group had planned the hijacking, over the opposition of the Israeli government, because they had no hope and were seeking a miracle.

She said they wanted to stage a demonstration because it was impossible to continue living as they were, never knowing if they would be allowed to go to Israel. She said they always believed that they had a 50 percent chance of being killed and a 50 percent chance of being imprisoned.

Before the Leningrad trial, Israel had urged the United Nations to adopt an anti-hijacking resolution. Miss Zalmanson noted. After the trial, she added, the Soviet Union supported the measure and it was finally adopted. She also noted that after she and her friends were sentenced the Soviet Union began allowing large-scale emigration to Israel because of the publicity caused by the trial.

Miss Zalmanson spoke movingly of the two non-Jews who had Joined the Leningrad group and were given even harsher treatment in the camps than the Jews. She said she did not agree with the Israeli government’s refusal to grant them citizenship. She said her husband and others will not accept release from their sentence unless the two non-Jews are also released.

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