NEW YORK (May. 17)
Two long-term refuseniks and former Prisoners of Conscience have been granted permission to emigrate from the Soviet Union, according to Soviet Jewry activist groups here. Mark Nepomniashchy, a 56-year-old electrical engineer from Odessa, and his son-in-law, Yakov Levin, a 28-year old Hebrew teacher from Moscow, will immigrate to Israel.
Both men were refused exit visas to Israel in 1979 — Nepomniashchy on the grounds of “insufficient kinship” and Levin on the grounds of “lack of parental consent.” The next five years of their lives were fraught with KGB interrogations and invasions of their homes.
In 1984, Levin was arrested on charges of “circulating false materials which defame the Soviet state and social system.” Two months later, Nepomniashchy was arrested in connection with the ongoing investigation of Levin, then his daughter Yehudit’s fiance. The two men were sentenced to three years in a labor camp on identical charges.
Levin and Yehudit Nepomniashchy were permitted to marry in 1985 at the Donetsk labor camp. Following the ceremony, which was attended by many Muscovite Jews, the newlyweds spent three days together at the camp.
In March 1987, Levin and his father-in-law were released early from imprisonment and they rejoined their wives in Odessa, where they waited, until now, to receive permission to be repatriated in Israel.
“We are delighted that Nepomniashchy and Levin have been allowed to finally live their lives as Jews in Israel,” said Alan Pesky, chairman of the Coalition to Free Soviet Jews. “However, we must not be lulled into a false sense of security and made to believe that the Soviet Jewry issue has been resolved. . . . We must demand that there be a normalized and speedy emigration process for all Soviet Jews who wish to leave.”
Jerry Strober of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry said that these cases could be anomalies and not necessarily a portent of any change for the better in Soviet emigration policy. He added that this policy has been so arbitrary in the past, that “we will just have to wait and see if this is an indication of anything greater.”