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New York to Moscow; This is JTA Calling David and Esther Markish

August 12, 1971
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Peretz Markish, the outstanding Jewish author and poet who, together with 23 other foremost Soviet Jewish writers and intellectuals, was executed on August 12, 1952, in the mass-liquidation of Jewish cultural leaders by Stalin, was after Stalin’s death rehabilitated by the Khrushchev regime. A volume of his works in Yiddish was even published in Moscow in recognition of the fact that his “liquidation” was a “mistake,” Yet, his wife Esther and his son David–both literary people–are still virtually imprisoned in the Soviet Union. They have applied for permission to leave for Israel, but their applications have been rejected. They now live in Moscow in the hope that the day will come when Soviet higher authorities may reconsider the rejection and permit them to leave the country. Information reaching the Jewish Telegraphic Agency recently indicated that they are both no longer practicing their literary professions–probably because they are being viewed with suspicion, seeking to emigrate to Israel–and that David was compelled to become a porter in order to make a living for himself and his mother. The JTA telephoned them today from New York to ask how they are being treated and whether they believe that they might still have a chance to secure emigration visas. What follows is a transcription of the tape recorded telephone conversation between this writer and Esther and David Markish which throws light on their moods and hopes.

(JTA) This is the Jewish Telegraphic Agency speaking to you from New York. Am I talking to Mrs. Esther Markish? (Esther Markish) Yes, you are talking to Mrs. Markish and David Markish. (JTA) We would like to know what are the chances for you and your son to obtain the exit visas for which you applied. (EM) Dear friend! If we could only know what we can do, we would have been happy. We do not know what to do. (JTA) Have your applications for the visas been rejected? (EM) Yes. We were refused the visas. (JTA) And have you reapplied for them? (EM) Upon the rejection of our applications we wrote several times to the authorities and asked for a re-examination. And we are still waiting. So far, our applications have been rejected twice. We again asked for a revision (review) of the refusal but I have little hope. Maybe it is possible to bring our case to the attention of the government (high Soviet leaders), but I do not know. (JTA) Is it true that your son lost his employment? (EM) My son did not lose employment. He is a writer; a scenario writer. However, after his application for a visa was rejected, he decided not to engage any longer in literary work. That was his decision. He is now a porter in a bakery. (JTA) And for whom did he write before he gave up his literary career? (EM) He had no position with any particular institution. He was doing his literary work at his desk at home. Since neither he nor I are now making a living from writing, but must live, he decided to take any work as an ordinary worker. The income is not much, but he thinks that it is better this way. This is his opinion. He does not want to earn a living from literary work.

(JTA) Have you any special message you would like to convey. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency serves the Jewish press. We can carry your message. (EM) One moment, please ! I will ask my son. He is right on my side. Talk to him. (He hardly talks English, however.) (JTA) He can talk to me in Russian. (EM) Very well, David Markish starts: (DM) (in English) I am David Markish. Do you speak Russian? (JTA) Yes, I speak Russian. (DM) Fine. Then talk to me in Russian. (JTA) There is an interest in our country to know in what kind of a profession you are engaged now. Your mother told me that you gave up your literary career and became a porter in a bakery. (DM) That is correct. (JTA) She also told me that your application for emigration was refused twice. (DM) Yes. We received a rejection of our second application for exit visas. (JTA) Were you given any explanation for the rejection? (DM) No. No reason was given. (JTA) And what is the attitude generally toward you and your mother? (DM) Generally we are among friends who, like me, want to emigrate to Israel. It is also natural that people of the intelligentsia and honest people should maintain a normally good attitude towards us. We did not encounter honest people who are not friendly toward us. (JTA) I want you and your mother to know that the fate of both of you is being watched by many here. They would like to see both of you being granted Soviet exit permits. Both of you will be received with open arms. (DM) We are very grateful for thinking of us. We hope that your interest in us will be of help to bring about our emigration. Thanks to all for remembering us.

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