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Six-week Bucharest Hunger Strikers Win Visas for Israel

August 18, 1982
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After six weeks of a desperate hunger strike for freedom, Sergiu and Rusanda Ratescu of Bucharest, Rumania, yesterday finally received exit visas for Israel for which they have waited for 12 years, according to the Center for Russian and East European Jewry and the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry.

Reached by telephone by the Center and the SSSJ, the Ratescus said “there are still many formalities to be worked out,” but they hoped they would leave in two or three weeks. In 1977 the couple was given exit visas and sold all their possessions, but permission to emigrate was suddenly cancelled, the Center and SSSJ said.

The two Soviet Jewry groups, with the help of many members of the Senate and House, spearheaded a campaign for the Ratescus’ release. The couple told the Center and SSSJ that “we will never forget” what the American lawmakers and the two groups did for them “in all our desperate days. Only yesterday we felt helpless, half dead — and now we have come back to life.” Sergiu Ratescu is Jewish, but Rusanda is not.

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