Menu JTA Search

Son of Refuseniks Cites Parents’ Plight to Refute Claim by Soviet Anti-zionist Committee

The claim by the Soviet government-sponsored Anti-Zionist Committee that all Jews who wanted to leave the USSR have done so "is just a lie," it was stressed here by a former Moscow Jew, who now lives in Israel.

"I am here and my parents are there (in the Soviet Union), " Igor Tufeld, a 25-year-old Moscow native, said in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Tufeld is in the United States, under the auspices of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, to seek help in getting his parents out of the USSR and to urge the American public, "especially American Jews, to intensify their efforts" on behalf of Soviet Jewry.

The extra push is needed now in response to drastic cuts in Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union and to the recent formation of the Soviets’ official Anti-Zionist Committee, Tufeld said. "It is important to let the Soviet authorities know that the Soviet Jews are not forgotten."

HEALTH CARE IMPAIRED

Tufeld’s parents, Vladimir and Izolda, first applied for exit visas in 1977 and were refused on the grounds that they know state secrets. Vladimir Tufeld worked as an engineer in a Moscow factory where he had a security clearance.

The elder Tufelds are both in poor health, and their medical care has been impaired by repeated interference by the Soviet authorities, according to their son. Most recently, he said, he had to appeal to members of the International Conference of Neurosurgeons held in Munich last year to convince the Soviet representative to operate on his mother, who had been suffering from a brain tumor.

Previous appeals, including letters sent to the Soviet government by 40 U.S. Congressmen, various leading surgeons, and the Governor of Colorado, to allow Mrs. Tufeld to come to the U.S. for surgery or have an American doctor fly to Russia, proved unsuccessful, Tufeld said.

Tufeld himself, who was beaten up outside the Moscow synagogue during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, applied for an exit visa in 1976, at the age of 19. When refused because he had no relatives in Israel, he took part in the October, 1976 Supreme Soviet demonstration, and was imprisoned for 15 days along with Anatoly Shcharansky and other prominent Jewish dissidents.

Tufeld said that since the formation of the Anti-Zionist Committee, the mood among the refuseniks was "very depressed," according to a telephone conversation he had ten days ago with his parents. The committee was formed, he said, partly in response to the Third International Conference on Soviet Jewry held in Jerusalem last March, which condemned the repression of Jewish culture and the severe cuts in Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union.

He noted that the Soviet response was similar in 1971, after the first such conference in Brussels. Then "they gathered the top 15 Jews in front of foreign journalists to say that everything (is fine) for Soviet Jews," Tufeld said.

The most outspoken members of the Anti-Zionist Committee are also prominent Jews, according to Tufeld. Its leader, General David Dragunsky, is a former member of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party and a recipient of the "Hero of the Soviet Union" award, one of the highest designations in the country. The Committee is again "trying to show that there are no problems in the Soviet Union for Jews," Tufeld said.

SHOW-CASING JEWS

In what Tufeld saw as a related move, the Soviets are sending a "multi-ethnic" group of popular Soviet performers to the United States next month. Most of the people who will be attracted to the performance will be Russian-speaking, and most of those are Jews, said a NCSJ spokesman who was present at the interview.

The group is "trying to portray that the Soviet Union treats all ethnic groups well and that they can work together harmoniously," the spokesman said. One of the actors is "not so good, but he’s Jewish," according to Tufeld.

"The Soviet Union can use this as a propaganda device; people who left the Soviet Union are now flocking to see" the group, the spokesman said. This and the Anti-Zionist Committee represent an "attempt to showcase Jews, place them in prominent public roles, give the impression that there is no persecution of Jews in the Soviet Union," she said

"Igor’s very presence in the United States to testify before Congressional committees and to speak around the nation represents an immediate response" to the recent Soviet actions, she added. While in the U.S., Tufeld testified before the House Sub-Committee on Human Rights and the Helsinki Commission, which monitors the Helsinki Accords. He also met with seven Congressmen who are soon leaving for an official trip to the Soviet Union.

NEXT STORY