Mehta to Appeal to Hammer for Release of Refusenik

Zubin Mehta, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s conductor and musical director, will seek the intervention of Armand Hammer, the Russian-born American oil magnate who is on good personal terms with the Kremlin leadership, in the case of Elena Keiss-Kuna of Leningrad.

Keiss-Kuna, the sister of philharmonic violinist Anna Rosnovsky, has been trying since 1974 to get emigration permits from the Soviet authorities for herself and her husband.

Mehta told a news conference here Wednesday that he will ask Hammer, the oil industrialist who came to Israel this week to celebrate his 90th birthday, to intercede on behalf of Keiss-Kuna.

Mehta said he himself had appealed for the release of the couple when he conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Moscow earlier this year.

Keiss-Kuna, who was fired from her job as an engineer when she applied for exit visas 14 years ago, was told at the time she could not leave “because of state secrets she knows.”

Mehta said he told Soviet officials “that the only secret she could now have was a recipe for borscht.”

Her husband, also an engineer who lost his job, has been working as a truck driver.

Their son, who is of military age, will soon be drafted into the Soviet armed forces, meaning that the family will not be allowed to leave for many years unless special arrangements are made now, Mehta said.

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