Poc Says He Was Surprised by His Release from a Soviet Labor Camp

Prisoner of Conscience Roald (Alex) Zelichonok was surprised by his release from a labor camp in Kazakhstan over the weekend. “Now my problem is to leave here and make my way to Israel,” he told Voice of Israel Radio by telephone from Leningrad Monday in what he said was his first conversation in Hebrew in two years.

Zelichonok,50,an electrical engineer, clandestine teacher of Hebrew and a refusenik since 1978 was one of 42 political prisoners unexpectedly freed from Soviet prisons and labor camps by decree of the Supreme Soviet. He had served half of a three-year sentence imposed in August 1985 for “defamation of the Soviet State and social system.”

He said he had not known until four days ago of his impending release, and was set free within three hours after the orders came from Moscow, according to regulations. He thanked the government of Israel, the Jewish people and other friends who had helped his wife, Galina, and encouraged him.

TOUCHES ON A VEXING PROBLEM

Zelichonok touched on a controversy that has long bedeviled Soviet Jewry activists when he denounced as a “disgrace” the fact that a fellow POC, Yuri Tarnapolsky, who was released recently, preferred to immigrate to the United States instead of to Israel. “This is unbearable, this really hurts,” Zelichonok said.

He said his strongest wish now is to go to Israel, but if he cannot get an exit visa he would continue to teach Hebrew in the USSR.

The Absorption Ministry, meanwhile, has prepared a master plan for the mass absorption of Soviet Jews, based on an estimated 10,000 immigrants a year. Its projected cost is $221 million. According to the Ministry, some 241,000 Jews have left the Soviet Union since 1971. Of that number, 159,000 immigrated to Israel and 82,000 went elsewhere.

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