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Unsinkable Soviet Jews Set Sail for Freedom

August 16, 1988
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Alexander and Luba Berman of Moscow last week became the first Soviet Jewish couple to leave their country for Israel on a yacht.

Luba, 33, and Alexander, known as “Sasha,” 51, are presently in Stockholm, trying to raise more money for a continuation of their sea-borne aliyah.

In a telephone interview from Stockholm Sunday night, the Bermans told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that they sailed from Riga in Estonia and arrived at the small village of Faaroesund on Gotland, a Swedish island southwest of the mainland.

Arriving without a flag or Swedish visa, the couple were briefly detained at a local police station while awaiting the arrival of an interpreter.

The Israeli Embassy issued the couple temporary travel documents.

Still, the Bermans are some $2,200 short of the $2,500 they need to continue their voyage. They have found shelter in the central Stockholm home of their interpreter, a former Soviet Jew named Eugenia Puritc, and are now busy trying to raise funds.

They completely refuse to consider the possibility of failure. “We will get the money,” said Sasha. “It is not a question of if, but how we will come to Israel on our yacht.”

Sasha Berman, a scientist, and Luba Berman, a musician, received emigration visas on April 18, and immediately started preparing for their voyage.

According to the couple, many Jewish families would like to leave the Soviet Union by boat, but “due to the enormous difficulties involved in preparing the boat for the sea voyage, they can’t make it.”

The two readied themselves for the cruise by eating as little as possible during the months prior to their departure. According to Sasha, who studies the biology of the arctic tundra, they expect few problems in adjusting to the Israeli climate. “The arid climate of the Russian tundra is quite similar to that of the Negev.”

The Bermans plan to leave Stockholm on Aug. 26 or 27. Their course will take them down towards the Danish island of Bornholm, through the English Channel, around the Iberian peninsula through the Straits of Gibraltar, and then through the Mediterranean Sea towards Israel.

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