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Anatoly Shcharansky is in Poor Health; Avital Says He is Disturbed by Nightmares and Has to Rest

March 20, 1986
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Growing speculation that Anatoly Shcharansky is in poor health was confirmed Wednesday by his wife, Avital. But she said a report that he was too ill to attend a banquet in his honor Tuesday night was “a little exaggerated.”

Avital Shcharansky, who was reunited with her husband in West Germany on February II when he was released by Soviet authorities in an East-West prisoner exchange after spending nine years in Russian prisons and labor camps, said he “has to rest …He is resting now… He has to walk a lot.”

She also disclosed that Shcharansky’s sleep was disturbed by nightmares, “dreams of the punishment cell.” He had been kept in solitary confinement for long periods during his incarceration as punishment for protesting against his harsh treatment.

Avital made her comments in reply to questions during a brief appearance before a conference here of the U.S. Union of Councils for Soviet Jewry; the British “Group of 35,” which has been campaigning for emigration rights for Soviet Jews; and the Jerusalem-based Soviet Jewry Education and Information Center.

The “Group of 35” held a banquet in Tel Aviv Tuesday night to honor Shcharansky. He did not appear and Soviet aliya sources said he was too ill even to record greetings to the banquet.


The same sources said he has not been able to sleep or to adapt to a normal diet after years of deprivation in the Soviet Gulag. According to these sources, Shcharansky, 38, has trouble walking any distance because of a heart condition.

But his wife said he was eating lots of fruit and vegetables for their vitamin content and her remark that “he has to walk a lot” seemed to scotch reports that he found walking difficult.

Concern over Shcharansky’s health arose because he has not been seen in public for several weeks. He and his wife have been at a holiday resort in northern Israel. When the couple was reunited last month they hadn’t seen each other since their wedding day in Moscow in 1974. It was understood they would seek seclusion after the tumultuous welcome Shcharansky received on his arrival in Israel.

At that time he looked fit, walked briskly, spoke to reporters and addressed well-wishers at length. Doctors who examined him after his arrival found him to be well, though fatigued and suffering from an unspecified heart condition. Avital said her husband would have a second medical checkup after their holiday.

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