Reunited at Last: Shcharansky’s Family Arrives in Israel

The family of former imprisoned Soviet Jewish activist Natan Shcharansky was reunited with friends amid emotional greetings at Ben Gurion Airport here Monday night.

Natan’s mother, 77-year-old Ida Milgrom, arrived with her elder son Leonid, 41, his wife Raya, 40, and their children Alexander, 14, and Boris, 18 months. Natan, 38, had flown to Vienna earlier Monday to meet his family’s flight from Moscow and accompany them here aboard an El Al flight.

Although the family and close friends had asked well-wishers not to come to the airport, the arrival area was packed tight with local and foreign reporters who jostled and pestered the family for statements they were apparently not prepared to make.

Milgrom, with tears in her eyes, told the crowd: “I am happy, happy, happy to be at last with all my children.” She sat between her sons, holding their hands. She spoke in Russian and Natan translated for her into Hebrew and English.

AN IMPORTANT LESSON

Both thanked all those who made the reunion possible. Natan, now fluent in Hebrew, said: “This is not simply wonderful. It is an important lesson that no quiet diplomacy, even at the highest levels, can help if it is not accompanied by a strong public campaign to convince the Soviet Union to let our people go.”

Leonid denied a Newsweek magaine report that he did not think he would remain in Israel. “It is very, very good to be here on our land. I am very happy that the case of Shcharansky has ended just now,” he said.

He added that Soviet Jews did not feel more hopeful after last week’s Soviet-Israel talks in Helsinki. “These talks,” he said, “meant nothing to Soviet Jews.” He stressed that the situation of Soviet Jews was very bad.

Leonid begged off further questions, explaining that he was “very, very tired … I have a young baby here. Please let me go.”

From the Cameroons, Prime Minister Shimon Peres sent a cable of welcome to the family, saying this was a great day for them and for all Israelis.

In Vienna, the family reunion took place in private, in an airport security room. The family later spoke to reporters. Leonid said he was “very, very tired after the last few days in the Soviet Union. There are so many correspondents here. It is difficult to face it again. I am not a movie star.”

AN EMOTIONAL FAREWELL IN MOSCOW

In Moscow, the family bid an emotional farewell to friends at Sheremetyevo International Airport. “Now I don’t have Soviet citizenship. Now I don’t have a passport,” Milgrom said. “But I have the dream to being reunited with my Anatoly (who has changed his name to Natan), who lost his life and regained it–and what more could a mother want.”

She had refused to emigrate from the Soviet Union while Natan was imprisoned. She visited him in prison whenever she was allowed. She said her separation from her friends would be difficult and admitted to being nervous. “I want to cry and I want to laugh,” she said.

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