“I am not a refusenik anymore,” a joyous Ida Nudel told reporters in a telephone interview from Moscow Monday. But she does not believe her exit visa signals a new policy of the Kremlin toward Soviet Jews.
Nudel, 56, was told by the Soviet authorities only last Friday that she will be allowed to leave the USSR to join her sister, Elana Fridman, in Israel, whom she has not seen for 16 years. Her name reportedly headed the list of former Prisoners of Conscience which Foreign Minister Shimon Peres gave Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze when they met in New York September 23.
But she feels the Soviets are using her and other prominent refuseniks recently granted exit visas to achieve certain diplomatic goals and improve their image. “In ancient times, the Pharaohs used to please the chiefs of neighboring countries with very exotic things,” Nudel said. “I feel that I am a white crocodile. I was used to please Mr. Reagan and Mr. Shultz before a meeting of the superpowers.”
Observers here tended to agree. They suggested Nudel was granted her visa on the eve of Yom Kippur because of the added public relations impact. Nudel, an engineer-economist, was in Moscow for a hearing for permission to resume residence there after being forced for five years to live in the Moldavian city of Bendery. Before that she lived in exile in Siberia from 1978-82.
But instead of getting her Moscow residency permit, she was summoned by Rudolf Kutznetsov, head of the Moscow OVIR (emigration bureau) and told to return to Bendery to get her papers in order because she had permission to emigrate.
Nudel told the Israeli reporters that it will take several weeks before she leaves for Israel, due mainly to the volume of paper work. “I will not remain here even one extra moment,” she said. “I am so excited I want to cry. I am looking forward to come home, to Israel.”
She added, “I am beginning to accept the fact that I am not a refusenik any more. Most of all, I want to be a normal Israeli citizen, and take my place in Israeli society. And I will, of course, work for the release of all my friends who I will be leaving behind.”
Meanwhile, another former Prisoner of Conscience, Yosef Bernstein, 50, of Kiev, is expected to arrive in Israel with his wife next Sunday. Bernstein, an industrial engineer, had been seeking an exit visa since June 1975. In 1984 he was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for “resisting police.” He was released a year early after a review of his case.
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.