NEW YORK (Dec. 21)
Former refusenik Rimma Bravve arrived in New York Friday after what she called “waiting for this day to come for eight years.” Speaking in fluent English, the 32-year-old woman, who is suffering from advanced ovarian cancer, wiped back tears as she embraced her mother, Khanna Anbinder, whom she had not seen in six years.
“This is the happiest day of my life,” said Bravve at a press conference at JFK Airport here Friday afternoon. This sentiment was echoed by her petite mother, a retired pediatrician who has been living in Rochester, NY, since 1980.
Bravve and her husband Vladimir, who emigrated with her, were met by a large retinue of supporters, including her sister, Larisa Shapiro, a computer scientist living in Rochester who accompanied her sister from Vienna; Larisa’s husband, Boris; Leon Charny, a Soviet emigre who has been publicizing Bravve’s plight as well as that of his brother in Moscow, Benjamin Charny, another cancer patient refusenik; Gerald Batist, a Montreal oncologist who has worked tirelessly since last spring for Bravve’s release and that of other cancer patients; and Sens. Alfonse D’Amato (R. NY) and Frank Lautenberg (D. NJ), both instrumental in pushing for their release.
Also in attendance were members of the Rochester Jewish Federation, who wore placards with photographs of other cancer patient refuseniks.
The Bravves received their visas December 16 following a month-long period of publicity after the Soviet Ambassador to the Helsinki Accord follow-up talks in Vienna announced their visas and following which the Bravves repeatedly sought to obtain these visas, which were delayed.
‘VICTORY OF HOPE OVER DESPAIR’
The attractive young couple flew to Vienna last Thursday, accompanied on their flight from Moscow by Sen. Gary Hart (D. Colo.) who, while visiting the Soviet Union, met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
The Bravves were accompanied by D’Amato on their return flight from Vienna. The New York Senator had been in constant contact with their family, as well as with Leon Charny and Batist, about the other cancer patients.
D’Amato cased the Bravves’ immigration process and customs clearance with the State Department in Vienna. He was there as chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which did preparatory work for the Helsinki talks.
D’Amato called Bravve’s release “a victory of hope over despair, a victory of courage over indifference and a victory of love over disdain.” He remarked on the coincidence of Bravve’s release and that of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, who was told by phone Friday by Gorbachev that his six-year internal exile in the closed city of Gorky was ended and he could return to Moscow.
Sakharov’s wife, Yelena Bonner, also exiled to Gorky, was pardoned for her “anti-Soviet activities.” for which she was convicted in 1984.
“We hope,” said D’Amato, “given the news about Dr. Sakharov and his wife, that maybe Mr. Gorbachev is beginning to move toward a new era.” He added, “We watch hopefully, expectantly.”
In Vienna, D’Amato told a news conference with the Bravves that he will continue to press for the release of the cancer patient refuseniks who seek to be reunited with their families in the West. He said that “One can’t but wonder if you can trust a government on international issues such as arms control when they continue to abuse their own citizens.”
ANOTHER CANCER PATIENT ALLOWED TO LEAVE
In a related development. cancer patient Inna Meiman, 53, was told last Thursday that she can leave for treatment of a tumor on her neck. However, her husband, Naum, 75, who is also reported ailing, will not be allowed to accompany his wife. Hart spoke to Gorbachev specifically about Meiman’s case during his Moscow talks with the Soviet leader.
Rimma Bravve wore a placard with Meiman’s photograph as she spoke to the press Friday at JFK Airport. “I left in Moscow my friends, who are still awaiting the decision of their fate, while every day — every hour — is important for them.” She spoke specifically about every cancer victim awaiting a visa, including Charny, 49, and Meiman, both of Moscow, Leah Maryasin, 61, of Riga, and Yuri Shpeizman, 54, of Leningrad.
Anbinder, brushing away tears and hugging her daughter, told the press that “since seeing Rimma and Volodya (Vladimir’s nickname), a hope exits that others will not suffer so much the way my daughter did.”
Larisa Shapiro told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that waiting so long for her sister’s release, during which time she flew to Vienna and attended several press conferences, “was like pulling on a long, long rope” and waiting to get to the end of it.
The entire retinue, including D’Amato, flew from JFK Airport to Rochester, where Rimma will be medically evaluated at the University of Rochester Medical Center. An oncologist there, Dr. Jackson Beecham, has offered to treat her.