NEW YORK (Oct. 18)
A Soviet Jewish emigre living in the United States learned on television Wednesday night that his grandparents have received permission to leave the Soviet Union.
Leonid Fridman of Boston heard the good news during “Capital to Capital,” an unusual program allowing American and Soviet journalists and government officials to exchange views via satellite.
The live discussion, broadcast by ABC News in the time slot usually reserved for “Nightline,” began with prerecorded news clips, including one of Fridman describing the plight of his grandparents, Natan and Etya Tkach, who for 10 years had been refused permission to emigrate for reasons of “secrecy.”
Leonid Zolotarovsky speaking from the Kremlin itself, informed ABC host Peter Jennings, on the floor of the U.S. Senate, that the clip was “outdated” because “they have left.” “Are you sure they can leave?” asked Jennings. “Because if you are, I assure you this is the first he has heard of it or anyone has heard of it,” Jennings replied, the “he” referring to Fridman.
The telecast was the second such program between members of Congress and the Kremlin, although unprecedented in frankness. The Soviets, who saw the over-one-hour broadcast Thursday morning beginning at 6:30 a.m., got the entire telecast, including the American commercials.
Press reports from Moscow indicate the Soviets were rather startled to awaken to an unexpected, uncensored American condemnation of their human rights record, emanating from the floor of the U.S. Senate, and being responded to in precise detail by members of their own government.
Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), seated adjacent to Jennings, slammed into the Soviet human rights record with marked directness. “We all know perfectly well that for most of this century the Soviet Union has been a hell for human rights,” he said.
Lynn Singer, executive director of the Long Island Committee for Soviet Jewry, said refuseniks Lev Elbert in Kiev, Vladimir Slepak in Moscow and Aba Taratuta in Leningrad were “very impressed” by the program, especially by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), chairman of the Helsinki Commission, who enumerated individual cases of refuseniks who were not yet permitted to leave.
Hoyer asked why the Soviets wouldn’t let refuseniks “like Leon Charny” leave, mistaking the younger brother living in Needham, Mass., for Benjamin Charny of Moscow, who suffers from cancer and heart disease, among several ailments.
Several relatives of refuseniks were present in Congress for the television program, including Galina Welishina, a Soviet emigre whose husband, Pietris Belphin, has been denied permission to emigrate 17 times on the basis of “state secrets.”
A deputy minister from Lithuania said he was familiar with this case and said “it is a case of state secrets.”
Rep. Clay Shaw (R-Fla.) referred to the five-year limit on “secrecy,” which Gorbachev himself attested to in 1985. The Lithuanian’s response was that “Gorbachev said five, 10 years, sometimes even more. I was there when he said it. I remember it well.”
Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.) enumerated cases of Jews who have over the years applied to leave the USSR. “Since 1968, we have 670,000 affidavits from Israel and 200,000 from the United States. I have a list of 383,000 who have requested emigration visas.” Gilman also referred to the “tightening up of restriction to only blood relatives.” During the live telecast, Deputy Minister Vladimir Zagladin said that 10,499 cases of Jewish refuseniks were “being examined” as of Oct. 1, and “everyone who has the right to will leave, although everyone will not want to exit.”
In Moscow, meanwhile, a demonstration by 69 persons, including Iosif Begun, in front of the Soviet television offices was broken up and 21 were taken away, some badly beaten, Singer reported. The group included Alia Zonis, 21, whose nose was reported broken in the melee.
Singer also reported that more permissions to emigrate were granted to long-term refuseniks late last week, including two Leningrad Jews, Joseph Radomizilsky and Boris Fridman, who was on a hunger strike, and Slava Schifrin and Lev Yusefovitch.