Boris Kalendarov, a 21-year-old Leningrad student refusnik and an unofficial Hebrew teacher, was sentenced yesterday to two years’ imprisonment in an eight-hour trial for alleged “draft evasion,” the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ) learned. The SSSJ charged that “in reality, the Hebrew language was on trial, since the Kremlin seeks to destroy that link to our ancient Jewish heritage.”
As distinguished from trials of many other Jewish activists, the court was packed with refusniks. A representative from the American Consulate in Lehingrod was ejected, but a lawyer from London was allowed to remain. Two defense witnesses were permitted, Boris and his mother Evgenia. Prosecution witnesses were members of the police and military, the SSSJ reported.
The SSSJ said that “threats and trials on ‘draft evasion’ are a sword commonly hung over the head of young Jewish males who seek to emigrate.” Kalendarov and his parents applied for exit visas to Israel in 1973,and were refused because of his engineer mother’s alleged “state secrets.” Boris’ sister Mila, however, was permitted to emigrate, Kalendarov was in hiding about a year before his March 8 arrest.
In his final address to the court, which he insisted be placed in the court records, Kalendarov declared: “I never said I did not want to serve in the Soviet army, but I thought I was unworthy because I did not want to be a Soviet citizen. I thought it would be an insult to my fellow soldiers. I never did anything against Soviet lows or the Soviet system; I have never been anti-Soviet. The reason I was eligible for the army was because I was expelled from school for applying to emigrate.
“My wish to leave and to cease to be a Soviet citizen has not been extinguished. I still want to emigrate to Israel, and will do so after my release.” The SSSJ said that Kalendarov has seven days in which to file an appeal.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.