Medical Study of Soviet Refusniks Indicates Serious Medical Problems

A medical study of the health conditions of Jews in various parts of the Soviet Union who have been denied emigration visas shows that they “are in serious medical condition.” The Washington Committee for Soviet Jewry said that the report it received from Moscow was based on a study headed by Dr. Ernest Axelrod, himself a refusnik.

“The hardships of the refusnik’s life, especially among aged persons, result in the worsening of existing ailments and development of new ailments,” according to the report. “With every day the number of fatal cases increases.” The study, which was conducted by Jewish doctors who are refusniks, said that in 1976 several refusniks died because of undue stress.

It named Yefim Davidovich of Minsk, Anna Begun of Moscow and Dimitri Shteiman of Vilna. In an “especially dangerous physical condition, the report said, are Veniamin Lifshitz of Vilna, Gersheni, Ahronson and Lifman of Kovno (no first names were given) and Moisey Liberman and Mark Genin of Kiev.

SPECIFIC PROBLEMS CITED

The study, which was made in Moscow, in Byelorussia, Moldavia, the Baltic states and the Ukraine, said: “The life of refusniks is especially hard in small towns as a result of social isolation, unemployment and separation from families. The decision to apply for an emigration visa is associated with a painful re-shaping of the personality. The denial of a visa results in a deep psychological and psychosomatic reaction.

“After refusal, the person lives in an artificial and extremely unhealthy psychological atmosphere. At the stage of application for a visa, active psychological processes are predominant. For example (these include) reevaluation of previous experience, planning for the future and preparation for leaving. The refusal brings about a quick reaction followed by difficult adaptation to a new passive existence. This adaptation is deficient since it is formed at the expense of normal functioning of an organism.”

The committee reported that Dr. Axelrod declared he was confident the only way to help these patients was to insure their prompt release from the Soviet Union which would remove the socio-psychological stress which he said is the reason for their ailments.

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