“For these dirty bits of paper,” said Viktor Samoilovich, “we waited 10 years.”
The “dirty bits of paper” were exit visas for Samoilovich and his mother, Vera, two refuseniks who were reunited in Vienna last week with Viktor’s father, Georgi.
Georgi Samoilovich became a cause celebre for the British government to test the Soviet Union on its human rights commitments. This week, the family was in London to say thanks.
Last year, Georgi Samoilovich, a 66-year-old Moscow Jewish mathematician who had been a refusenik for 16 years, was diagnosed as having lymph cancer.
After fierce pressure by the Medical Campaign for Soviet Jewry, the Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry and the British Foreign Office, Soviet authorities allowed Samoilovich to come to Britain in April for treatment at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital.
In an emotional ceremony at the hospital Monday, Samoilovich and his son presented two platelet rotators to the hematology department at the hospital, where he was successfully treated.
Dr. Daniel Catovsky, a native of Buenos Aires who is professor of hematology, told an applauding staff, “We are very grateful for this gift, and we are so happy that George is better and that his family is here.”
As his nurses waved, Samoilovich recalled the help he and his family received from the British government.
“One thing is sure — without the help and support of the British government, nothing would have succeeded in saving my life and my family. Even in Vienna, the British Consulate opened specifically, late at night, to give us visas for Britain,” he said.
Viktor Samoilovich echoed his father. “All the time my father was being treated in London, the British Embassy in Moscow invited my mother and me for meetings and kept in touch with what was happening.” That was so important, he said, because, “the biggest disaster for the Jews is to be forgotten.”
Viktor now awaits another “dirty bit of paper,” this one for his wife, Tanya, a physician who hopes to join the entire family in America.
The Samoilovich family will settle in New Jersey, at the invitation of the head of the Hackensack Medical Center Oncology Department, Dr. Richard Rosenbluth, and his wife, Susan, publisher of the Jewish Voice and Opinion, a private monthly magazine published in Englewood, N.J. Both have lobbied extensively on behalf of the Samoilovich family.
Vera Samoilovich, who suffered a heart attack after her husband went to London, was taken ill when the family arrived this week in London. She was swiftly taken to Hillingdon Hospital’s intensive-care unit.
The family hopes to come to the United States once she recovers.
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.