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Special Interview Tiemkin: a Father with a Mission

Dr. Alexander Tiemkin, a Soviet Jew now living in Israel, has come to the United States to seek help in freeing his 16-year-old daughter from the Soviet Union. “It is the Soviet Union that kidnapped my daughter…and it is the Soviet Union that has to return my daughter to me,” he declared in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Tiemkin, now a professor of physics at Tel Aviv University, believes that pressure from American government officials and a public campaign by the American people can help bring his daughter, Marina, to Israel. It is for this purpose that he has come to the United States for three weeks under the auspices of the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry.

As one of his first public acts, he participated in a press conference today sponsored by the New York Legal Coalition on Soviet Jewry, an affiliate of the GNYCSJ, at which more than 100 New York City councilmen and New York State legislators signed an “open letter” urging that he be reunited with his daughter.

ISRAEL IS THE TRUE HOMELAND

In his interview with the JTA at the GNYCSJ headquarters, Tiemkin described his struggle to leave the Soviet Union and the kidnapping of his daughter to prevent her from going with him. He described how his ex-wife, Maya Raiskaya, Marina’s mother, conspired with Soviet authorities to prevent his daughter from emigrating to Israel.

Tiemkin said that both he and Marina had always considered that their true homeland was Israel and not the Soviet Union. He noted that Marina had experienced anti-Semitism, like most Soviet Jewish children, in school since kindergarten both from children and teachers. He said that Marina secretly began studying Hebrew at the age of seven and at the age of 12 read “The Diary of Anne Frank” with whom she identified herself.

However, Marina’s mother, a psychiatrist, did not want to emigrate. In 1971, when Tiemkin first proposed to emigrate, he suggested to Marina that she wait until she reaches the age of 18 and then seek to join him in Israel. “But she said Israel was her motherland and she could not live outside Israel,” he said.

Tiemkin said that when he first proposed to his wife that they leave for Israel she said that both he and his daughter should be committed as insane for wanting to go to Israel. He said she then got her cousin, a KGB official, to threaten him. He noted that the KGB had begun to investigate him even before he applied for an exit visa.

Tiemkin and his daughter applied for emigration visas on May 23, 1972. He immediately lost his job and his wife divorced him. On Sept. 26, 1972, Tiemkin and Marina announced they were citizens of Israel under a new law in the Jewish State. He said they were then given exit visas on Oct. 19, 1972 because, Tiemkin believes, his name was on a list that former President Nixon presented to Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. But shortly before they were to depart he was told that Marina could not leave.

SAID TO BE HARMFUL INFLUENCE

In the divorce, Marina’s mother was given custody of Marina but Tiemkin continued to live in the same apartment with his former wife, daughter, and mother-in-law. Marina’s mother then sought to deprive Tiemkin of all rights to his daughter and she was granted this on the grounds that he was a harmful influence on his daughter because he influenced her to want to go to Israel.

Tiemkin and his daughter then lived with friends for three weeks, going to the visa office every day. During that time he and his daughter were grabbed on the street and taken to a police station and interrogated for 10 hours without food or water. He said they tried to get Marina to make anti-Soviet statements but all she would say was that she wanted to go to Israel because it is her homeland.

Tiemkin said that on Feb. 19, 1973, the police and KGB broke into his mother’s apartment and forcibly took his daughter away. He did not know what happened to her for a month-and-a-half until she was able to get to a telephone and call a Moscow Jewish activist and tell him that she was at a Pioneer camp on the Black Sea. Tiemkin was allowed to visit her that April. It was the last time he saw her. Tiemkin, who continued the struggle for his daughter, was then forced to leave the USSR alone under threat of imprisonment. He left the Soviet Union on Oct. 22, 1973.

AN OUTRAGEOUS CHAPTER

Tiemkin said that after he left Marina was returned to Moscow and now lives with her mother. But he said she is still a prisoner. She cannot write him, is not allowed to use the telephone even for local calls and is constantly shadowed. This has resulted in severe emotional problems. “What should be the best years of her life, she has to spend as a prisoner,” he said.

But Tiemkin does not plan to give up his struggle. And the GNYCSJ has launched an all out effort on Marina’s behalf. “The treatment Marina has undergone at the hands of the Soviet Union represents one of the most outrageous chapters of the USSR’s catalogue of oppression of Soviet Jews, and we will not relent until she is able to join her father in Israel,” declared Malcolm Hoenlein, the GNYCSJ’s executive director.

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