WASHINGTON (Oct. 16)
Michael Shirman, a 31-year-old Soviet immigrant to Israel, calmly told a Capitol Hill press conference Thursday that he has been given about a month to live unless he receives a bone-marrow transplant “immediately” from his sister now in Moscow.
Shirman, who suffers from acute leukemia, said that while his sister, Inessa Flerova, and her two daughters are finally being allowed to emigrate from the USSR, the Soviet Union is refusing to let her husband Viktor leave.
The young biologist, who immigrated to Israel with his mother in 1980, said he will not allow his sister to come to Israel without her husband. He said he cannot allow her “to save my life at the cost of the destruction of my sister’s family.” He has expressed fear that if the operation was not successful she would be alone in Israel without a brother or a husband.
The press conference was held under the auspices of Sens. Paul Simon (D. III.) and Charles Grassley (R. Iowa).
Before going to Capitol Hill, Shirman met at the State Department with Thomas Simon Jr., Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Soviet Union Affairs, according to John Rosenberg, a spokesman for the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews. Shirman presented a letter to Secretary of State George Shultz to Simon asking that Shultz “intervene on my behalf with the Soviet authorities.” Rosenberg noted that Simon discussed the case with Soviet officials during the Reagan-Gorbachev meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, October 11-12.
TALKED TO SOVIET OFFICIALS
Shirman, who was also in Iceland at the time, said he also talked to Soviet officials. He said they told him “your case is very small” and they were dealing with major issues.
Sen. Simon said that Iceland showed the need “to build a base of better trust and understanding” between the United States and the Soviet Union. “Here is one small gesture that will cost the Soviet Union nothing,” he said. Grassley said in a statement that “it is incomprehensible that the Soviet Union has remained obstinate and unbending in such an obvious case of human need.”
Shirman said after he was told in December 1985 that he should try to have his sister come to Israel for a bone-marrow transplant, she sought permission for a temporary visit. But she was told she could not visit a Soviet emigrant, he said.
The entire Flerov family eventually sought to emigrate and were given permission last August. But then Viktor Flerov’s father refused to sign an official release. Viktor is now on a hunger strike. Shirman said he no longer responds to chemotherapy. He said the usual statistics in cases such as his are that the patient dies within 30 days. He was scheduled to enter Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York Thursday night.