Banner Day for Refuseniks: Prominent and Long-time Refuseniks Given Permission to Emigrate
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Banner Day for Refuseniks: Prominent and Long-time Refuseniks Given Permission to Emigrate

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Within three hours Monday, several prominent and very longtime refuseniks in the Soviet Union were told they had received permission to emigrate. The list includes Iosif Begun, Viktor Brailovsky, Vladimir Lifshitz, Arkady Mai, Lev Sud and Semyon Yantovsky, according to Israel Radio, the Long Island Committee for Soviet Jewry and the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.

Begun, 55, a Moscow mathematician, lost his job when he first applied to emigrate in 1971. He is the best known of the group of clandestine teachers of Hebrew and served more than three years of a 12-year sentence on charges of anti-Soviet activities. He was released last February. Begun was recently refused permission once more to teach Hebrew. He is married to Inna and has a son, Boris.

In an interview with Israel Radio, Begun said he was elated but at the same time “suffering” over the fact that Ida Nudel and many other refuseniks were still trapped in the Soviet Union.

“We have to work together” for their release, he said in a live-broadcast phone conversation with Labor Member of Knesset Ora Namir, who recently visited him in Moscow when she was there as part of a delegation of Israeli women to a women’s conference. He said he did not yet know when he would make aliya, but expected “to wind up my affairs in Moscow and leave soon.”

Begun’s cousin in Brooklyn, Chaim Tepper, said he didn’t want these releases to be considered more than symbolic. “We want to see an onging continuous flow of refuseniks being allowed to leave the Soviet Union.”

Viktor Brailovsky, 52, a Moscow cyberneticist, first applied for an exit visa in October 1972. His first refusal was in January 1973. He was arrested in November 1980, charged with defaming the Soviet state and sentenced to five years’ internal exile. He was released in March 1984. His wife, Irina, will reportedly accompany him, along with their son, Leonid, 26, who is married to Elena. They have a two-month-old son, David.

Lev Sud, 30, and his wife Ala, 31, of Moscow, were first refused in August 1985. Ala is the sister of Yuri Shtern, spokesman of the Soviet Jewry Information and Education Center in Jerusalem. They have a daughter, Maryam, 7. They are observant Jews. Lev is a musician, Ala a computer programmer.

Vladimir Lifshitz of Leningrad, 46, was sentenced March 19, 1986 to three years in prison for anti-Soviet slander, based on letters he had written to friends in the West, as well as to then Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, asking them to raise the question of “the repatriation of Jews from the USSR.” His wife, Anya, son, Boris, and daughter, Maria, will reportedly join them. Boris, a 19-year-old engineering student, was offered a place and scholarship at Boston University last year.

Arkady Mai, 64, and his wife Helena Seidel, 59, of Moscow, are refuseniks since 1974, because of Mai’s supposed knowledge of “state secrets.” They told visiting Americans in May they didn’t “think there were any possibilities for them to emigrate.” They have a daughter, Naomi, 25. Mai is an electronics engineer, Seidel a linguist-lecturer who has spent whatever time she could translating. Mai reportedly contracted bronchial asthma during the World War II.

Semyon Yantovsky, 78, who recently did research on the conditions of synagogues in the Soviet Union, also got permission Monday. His wife, Erna Matlina, received her permission last week. Matlina’s son is in Israel. Yantovsky’s first refusal was in 1978. His profession was lecturer in religion. He speaks English and Hebrew.

Vladimir Lifshitz, 46, was notified Monday also, according to the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. Lifshitz was first refused January 1, 1981. A systems analyst and mathematician, he lost his job as head of the division of economic forecasting at the All-Union Scientific Research Institute for the Jewelry Industry. He was arrested January 8, 1986, after staging several hunger strikes. He was a Hebrew teacher and cultural activist in Leningrad. He is married to Anna and has two children, Boris and Maria. Boris has been offered a place at Boston University and financial help.


Only one Jewish Prisoner of Conscience reportedly remains in jail: Alexei Magaryk, who is expected to be released in a few days. Twenty-six former prisoners have not received exit visas, among them Ida Nudel.

According to Lynn Singer, LICSJ executive director, at the Chautauqua, NY, human rights conference last week, Samuil Zivs, vice chairman of the Soviet Anti-Zionist Committee and of the Association of Soviet Lawyers, publicly said: “I can now give you two secrets: that Magaryk will be released by the 14th of September, and Joseph Zisels (a Prisoner of Conscience from Moscow) will be out in October.” Zisels’ wife and teen-age son have been living in Israel for five months. Pamela Cohen, president of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, said “It’s not surprising that the Soviets chose this moment, eight days before the start of the Shultz-Shevardnadze talks, to make this announcement.”

However, she said, “It’s a tangible and dramatic indication that Soviet leaders are aware of the constant efforts in behalf of Soviet Jews that are undertaken by our government and leading human rights groups, such as the UCSJ; it’s an indication that the pressure for movement forward has to be kept up.”

The NCSJ said, “While we are gratified by the permissions granted to three former Prisoners of Conscience, and several long-term refuseniks, we can only hope that permissions will soon be granted to the thousands of other refuseniks who wish to exercise their basic human right of freedom of emigration.”

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