Inna Meiman of Moscow, who was allowed to go abroad last month for treatment of a tumor on her neck, died Monday in the Lombardi Cancer Research Center of Georgetown University Hospital. She was 54 years old. She had refused to leave the Soviet Union earlier because her husband, Naum, a refusenik since 1975, was not allowed to accompany her.
Meiman was admitted to the hospital on January 20 and was undergoing tests for the start of chemotherapy. When she applied to go abroad, she said she wanted to undergo specialized radiation treatment, her only hope for survival. The Soviets granted Meiman a temporary visa for one year’s stay.
The Soviets would not allow her husband to come with her and had turned down his visa request on grounds of knowing “state secrets.” He is also characterized as a dissident by dint of his membership in the now disbanded Moscow Helsinki monitoring group.
Dr. Gerald Batist of Montreal, a research oncologist and founder of the International Cancer Patients Solidarity Committee, said at the time Inna and Naum were both seeking to leave the USSR together that it was extremely important that the couple remain together in face of Inna’s critical medical condition.
‘I HAVEN’T COME … TO DIE’
When she arrived in Washington last month, Inna Meiman described her own prognosis as “very grim.” But, she added, “I haven’t come to America to die; I have come to recover and to help others to get out of the Soviet Union.”
Admitting that she had left the USSR, and her husband, with mixed emotions, Meiman said she was “delighted” to help others to leave and to prove “We are not slaves but people with rights.” She added that she was also dismayed that her husband, her son and his family were not permitted to join her. “My arriving alone shows how bad things are in the Soviet Union. People are just desperate. If I had been allowed to come three years ago, my chances would be better.”
Last December, Sen. Gary Hart (D. Colo.) met in Moscow with top Soviet officials, including Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, and raised the issue of about 12 people who wanted to emigrate, among them cancer patients with relatives in the West. High on the Senator’s list was Inna Meiman, whose husband’s daughter, Olga Plum, lives in Boulder, Colo.
Shortly afterwards, the Soviet Foreign Ministry confirmed to U.S. Ambassador Arthur Hartman that Inna would be permitted to leave but had no comment about Naum being allowed to accompany her. Inna, a teacher of English, was married to Naum, a mathematician, in 1981.
‘LIVED AND DIED IN GREAT DIGNITY’
Commenting on the tragedy of Inna’s plight and death, the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry said Tuesday:
“We remember Inna Meiman, a brave friend, with sadness and great anger. For over three years, Soviet authorities repeatedly and cruelly denied her a medical visa to seek treatment abroad for cancer. Permission was granted deliberately only at the very end, three weeks before she expired. Her long-suffering husband himself refused emigration for 12 years, now is forcibly separated from his beloved wife even in death. The true, inhumane anti-Jewish policy of the Kremlin is again revealed.”
Morris Abram, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, said that for years, friends in the United States, Israel and other Western countries “implored the Soviet authorities to allow Meiman permission to travel outside the USSR for medical treatment. Unfortunately, permission was granted when her condition became untreatable. Meiman’s death is all the more poignant in the knowledge that she died thousands of miles away from her husband. Inna Meiman lived and died in great dignity. To the last, her thoughts were with her husband and all her fellow Jews in the Soviet Union who struggle for freedom.”
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.