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Six Long-term Refuseniks Get Permission to Emigrate

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Six more long-term refuseniks, some of them denied exit visas on grounds they possessed state secrets, have been granted permission to leave the Soviet Union, and one of them, a much decorated World War II hero, has already left, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ) reported.

According to the NCSJ, Col. Lev Ovsishcher, who fought with the Red Army, departed for Israel Monday. He had been denied a visa for 15 years on secrecy grounds and was stripped of his rank when he first applied.

Ovsishcher is expected to be followed shortly by Leonid Yusefovitch, Mark Shifrin, Andrei Lifschitz, Boris Fridman and Evgeny Yakir, all with their families.

Yusefovitch, whose wife, Ekaterina, is a Hebrew teacher in Moscow, refused to report for military reserve duty two months ago because he considered himself a citizen of Israel. The couple was first refused exit permits in 1981 because Leonid allegedly was privy to state secrets.

The same pretext was given Fridman, engineer and an activist from Leningrad, when he first applied in 1978. His wife, Ludmilla, suffers from cancer and is an invalid.

Shifrin and his wife, Slava, first applied to emigrate in 1981. Lifschitz was first refused in 1978 and has since worked as a janitor. He and Shifrin are both engineers and religiously observant.

Alleged “secret” work as a mechanical engineer deprived Yakir of a visa when he applied in 1974. His wife, Rimma, is a computer engineer. Yaki’s father and uncle were generals in the Red Army, killed when Stalin purged his officers’ corps shortly before World War II.

The Yakir family was adopted by Congregation B’nai Jehudah, in Kansas City, Mo., on Yakir’s 54th birthday, June 8, 1985. The Mayor of Kansas City proclaimed “Evgeny Yakir Day” at the time.

But while more refuseniks are being granted exit permits, all is not well for the family of Anna Kholmiansky, wife of former Prisoner of Conscience Aleksandr Kholmiansky. She began a huger strike Sunday to protest the continued refusal of Soviet authorities to grant them permission to leave the USSR, the NCSJ reported.

In the case of the Kholmianskys, refusal is based on a rule requiring anyone seeking to emigrate to obtain a statement from his or her parents that the applicant has no financial obligations toward them.

“These parents who wish to prevent emigration of their children may do so by refusing to issue such a document,” Anna Kholmiansky stated in a letter to the authorities announcing her hunger strike.

“No other proofs are accepted and the authorities wash their hands, claiming the problem to be purely a family one. Thus, this ingeniously designed clause allows the authorities to hold people here for generations without affecting the image of a new Soviet liberalism,” Kholmiansky said in her letter, which was made available to the NCSJ.

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