Leonid Volvovsky, a leader of the Soviet Union’s Jewish cultural movement who spent 16 months in a Siberian labor camp for “slandering the Soviet state,” has received permission to emigrate to Israel.
The news was first reported in Israel on Wednesday and later confirmed by the Long Island Committee on Soviet Jewry.
Volvovsky, 45, a computer scientist, and his wife, Ludmila, a radio engineer, plan to join their 19-year-old daughter Kira in Jerusalem, where she has been living since receiving permission to emigrate in November.
Leonid Volvovsky had first been denied permission to emigrate in 1974 on the grounds that he possessed state secrets. Soon thereafter he was dismissed from his position at the Moscow Research Institute of Complex Mechanization and Automization in Oil and Gas.
The couple were denied permission as late as June of this year, and were told that permission would not come until 1992.
That same month, a note was taped to their apartment door reading “Item 70,” referring to the Soviet legal code number for crimes of “anti-Soviet propaganda.” The note was a reference to Volvovsky’s prison sentence, which ended in March.
Volvovsky, one of the most popular Hebrew teachers and youth leaders within the Jewish community in the Soviet Union, was sentenced to a three-year term in October 1985 after a search of his apartment by Soviet police turned up a large quantity of Jewish books, including a copy of Leon Uris’ “Exodus.”
At the time, he and his wife were living in Gorky, where they had been expelled for their high-profile activity in Moscow teaching Hebrew and Jewish culture.
After Volvovsky’s arrest, his wife spent much of her time in the company of refusenik friends in Moscow. She would proudly tell visiting Americans how her husband, when asked during his trial to identify himself, gave the court his Hebrew name, Ari, and defiantly described himself as a citizen of Israel.
The couple said they would go to Israel as soon as they could complete the necessary emigration and travel arrangements.
(Contributing to this report were David Landau in Jerusalem and Andrew Silow Carroll and Mark Joffe in New York.)