Menu JTA Search

Two Refuseniks Arrive in Israel; Another, with Cancer, Remains

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

Two longtime refuseniks arrived in Israel with their families Saturday night, culminating separate quests for exit permits that lasted more than a decade.

Roald (Alek) Zelichonok, who was sent to a Soviet labor camp in 1985 for teaching Hebrew in his Leningrad living room, arrived here with his wife, Galina.

He surprised television viewers by speaking flawless Hebrew on an interview program a few hours after the couple landed. He explained that he learned the language by listening to Israel Radio broadcasts via shortwave.

Zelichonok, who first applied to emigrate in 1978, said he overcame official jamming “by various tricks which I do not want to diclose. “He added that those “tricks” are no longer needed because the Soviets have stopped jamming Israel Radio’s Hebrew and Russian language programs.

Also arriving here Saturday night was Elena Keiss-Kuna, a prominent Jewish cultural activist who had engaged in several hunger strikes during her 14 years of refusal.

She landed here with her son, Andre, 18, and husband, George Kun, an engineer.

Keiss-Kuna, also of Leingrad, first applied to leave in 1974, along with her sister Anna Rosnovsky, who received permission that year. Rosnovsky is now a violinist with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

VIOLATION OF VIENNA DOCUMENT?

Mcanwhile, a third Leningrad refusenik, Vera Sheiba, is in America to visit her children. Her husband, Lev, remains behind.

But Soviet authorities have yet to grant permission to cancer patient Georgi Samoilovich of Moscow, despite their claims, encoded in law and stated in international agreements, that a sick person may leave within three days of his application for a visa.

Samoilovich, 67, who suffers from large-cell lymphoma, has been refused on the grounds that he knows state secrets.

The International Physicians Commission, based in Chicago, issued a statement calling Samoilovich “the first known case of non-compliance to the provisions of the Vienna Concluding Document signed by the Soviets and 34 other countries.”

That agreement was signed earlier this month in Vienna, at the conclusion of the East-West Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The document states that participating nations will “decide within three working days” to act on travel applications for those who “have a proven need of urgent medical treatment or who can be shown to be critically or terminally ill.”

Samoilovich went to the Moscow OVIR emigration office on Jan. 23 and spoke with Soviet official Hya Karakulko.

According to the International Physicians Commission, Karakulko reportedly told him the document “has nothing to do with you. It pertains only to foreigners who must enter the Soviet Union in an emergency.”

In November, Yuri Reshetov, a foreign minister in charge of humanitarian affairs, was in New York with a Soviet delegation to discuss religious needs with a group of American Orthodox Jews.

Asked about the case of refuseniks with cancer, he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that knowledge of state secrets overrides any permission for ill people to leave.

Samoilovich, who has been ill for about two years, has been an active participant in Soviet Jewish cultural events. He is a founding editor of a samizdat journal, Problems of Refusal.

(JTA staff writer Susan Birnbaum contributed to this report.)

NEXT STORY