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Memorial for Refusenik Halted; Aged Emigre Pleads for Daughter

June 12, 1987
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A group of 20-25 refuseniks was halted Wednesday in front of Leningrad City Hall five minutes into a memorial ceremony for Yuri Shpeizman, the refusenik who died May 10 upon arrival in Vienna en route to Israel.

The group was detained for two hours and must report to authorities Thursday to learn of their punishment, according to the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.

The refuseniks were observing the traditional “Shloshim” 30-days observance for Shpeizman, a cancer patient and 10-year refusenik who died of cardiac arrest at age 55, right after leaving the Soviet Union.

The Leningrad group refused orders to move the demonstration to the Leningrad cemetery. Shpeizman is buried in Israel. His widow, Nelly, now lives in Israel with their daughter, Rita Levin, who has been there 10 years.


On Monday and Tuesday, an aged “Mother for Freedom” again visited New York and Washington to plead the case of her daughter. Ktziya Ratner, 82, held a small and peaceful demonstration across from the Soviet UN Mission to ask for the emigration of her daughter, Judith Ratner Bialy, a prominent 10-year refusenik whose hands and legs were disabled in an automobile accident in 1979, when she was driving her aunt to the airport to emigrate to Israel. Her aunt died in the crash.

On Monday, Ratner, who was sponsored by the Coalition to Free Soviet Jews, read some of her poetry at the demonstration, which she writes in Yiddish in her Rehovot, Israel, home of 14 years.

She then tried unsuccessfully to deliver a petition to the Soviet UN Mission. Inside, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency was politely told that they “unfortunately cannot accept any petitions because we are only allowed to do UN work. We are not permitted by law to do the work of the Soviet Embassy. She must go to Washington.”

Ratner, frail and saddened, indeed entered the Soviet Embassy Tuesday, and her petition was accepted cordially by a Second Secretary, who assured her request would be cabled to Moscow. That visit was facilitated by the joint efforts of Rep. Tom Lantos (D. Calif.) of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, and the Washington Jewish Community Council.

Ratner visited the Soviet Consulate in Washington on Wednesday, according to NCSJ, helped by Rep. Ron Dellums (D. Calif.).

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