Glasnost Hasn’t Helped Soviet Jews Seeking Visas, Begun Tells Hearing

Despite the new Soviet “glasnost” policy, Soviet Jews eligible for emigration are still denied exit visas, according to long-time refusenik leader Iosif Begun.

Begun testified by telephone Tuesday to a hearing on Soviet Jewry held by the New York City Council Subcommittee on Human Rights, chaired by Noach Dear of Brooklyn.

“There has been no improvement in the (treatment of Soviet Jews), in our case, with immigration,” said Begun from a Moscow apartment where refuseniks were gathered.

With Begun was former Prisoner of Conscience Leonid (Ari) Volvovsky, who was released from prison in March and then was denied an exit visa allegedly because he possessed secret documents. He will not be eligible to apply again until 1992.

Dear also spoke with Begun’s wife, Inna, via telephone at their Moscow home. She attributed the widespread knowledge about Begun’s case to American support of Soviet Jews and said the only chance for his emigration is through continued support and pressure on the Soviet government. She asked Dear to call again July 9, her husband’s birthday.

Personal testimonies on behalf of relatives unable to receive permission to leave the Soviet Union were presented here by Vladimir Rabinovich and Leonard Terlitsky. Rabinovich, who in 1980 emigrated with his mother and sister to Israel and the United States, represented his father Naum, a World War II hero now living in Zoporojie, UK-raine. Naum, honored by the Soviets and Americans for shooting down five Nazi planes and saving an American “Flying Fortress” by guiding the injured plane to a Soviet airport, first applied for an exit visa in 1981, but his application was refused with the reason that his emigration to join his family was “unpurposeful.”

Naum, 64, and in deteriorating health, including a recent heart attack, was quoted by his son from a letter that said, “Until I will be able to join them I will continue to grieve and it will not be possible to improve the condition of my heart.”

Terlitsky testified on behalf of his brother Mark, who was refused an exit visa in 1976 for reasons of state security. Mark was demoted from his position as an architect and was then fired from his job after attending Natan Sharansky’s trial. Mark’s mother suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease and his daughter, now 20, cannot pursue a career as violinist because of her status as a refusenik’s child.

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