The Situation of Leonid Plyushch, March 1975 (35.1)

<<No 36 : 31 May 1975>>

“On 27 December 1974 Leonid Plyushch’s injections were stopped. As a result of the suspension of treatment Plyushch’s health at once improved somewhat. However, he was not transferred from the surveillance ward.” With these words ended the report on Plyushch in CCE 34.9.

In January they again prescribed a neuroleptic drug for Plyushch. Again the consequences were apathy, indifference, fatigue. At present he writes one letter of five to 10 lines each month. He cannot read, he does not take exercise.

His wife Tatyana Zhitnikova was refused her second January visit on the grounds of a quarantine, but they promised to give her, as an exception, a short meeting within several days.

On 4 February the promised visit did not take place. Pruss, the director of the hospital, said that Plyushch had boils on his face, inflammation had set in, and it was impossible to bring him through the courtyard: “He might catch cold.”

The following dialogue took place between Pruss and T. Zhitnikova:

— Why has Leonid Plyushch been transferred to the surveillance ward?

— In connection with the deterioration of his mental condition.

— How has this manifested itself?

— You yourself have complained that he does not write letters. That is a symptom.

— But why exactly is he in a ward with violent inmates?

— We are not obliged to give you an account of why and where he is being kept.

— Was there a commission in January?

— No. At your request an extraordinary commission sat in November, and it says in the directives that a commission is called once every six months. Therefore, now it will be in May.

About a week later the visit took place, in spite of the continuing quarantine. Plyushch was in very bad condition: oedema was evident, his sluggishness had increased, he had lost interest even in his children. He himself did not recount anything, he answered questions only in monosyllables. There were red blotches on his face (on account of erysipelas, the treating doctor had told Plyushch).

At a visit on 3 March Plyushch looked even worse. To his drowsiness and apathy was added severe oedema. He was still being kept in the surveillance ward and was still taking the same tablets. In the ward he tries to close himself off, to withdraw into himself. The withdrawal, now habitual for him, takes place even during visiting time. His wife noted that sometimes his gaze grew dim or was directed somewhere past her. At these times he neither saw nor heard anything. It was necessary to call him. and then he would ‘return”. To questions about his health, he replied ‘Everything is all right”. The doctor had instructed that he could not receive books (since “he already has far too many of them”) or tinned meat.

A visit on 21 March: Leonid Plyushch was in the same condition as before, and in the same ward, and as before he was being subjected to “treatment”.

The treating doctor, L, A. Lyubarskaya, “conducts “health-restoring” conversations with L. Plyushch. She asks L. I. to re-tell the articles written by him, which served as material for the charge of “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda”; she expresses interest in why he wrote them. The doctor tries to convince her patient that these articles are evidence of his illness; she asks whether he understands this.

During the visit L. Plyushch’s wife cautiously hinted to him that perhaps he could write a statement from which it could be concluded that he regards his articles as “a deviation from the norm”. Plyushch, who until this moment had been indifferent, suddenly pulled himself together and said firmly: “I won’t write anything for them.”

***

At the end of February T. Zhitnikova sent to the Procurator of the Ukrainian SSR a complaint about the fact that for two months the regional procurator had not replied to her demand to bring the doctors of the special psychiatric hospital to criminal responsibility for deliberately incorrect treatment (see CCE 34.9). At the beginning of March she was informed that the Dnepropetrovsk procurator’s office had been instructed to study her complaint and give an answer.

On 21 March T. Zhitnikova and T. Khodorovich were received by Bedrik, the procurator of Dnepropetrovsk Region. He stated that the Plyushch case was complicated; it was necessary that “professors should examine” Plyushch; for his own part, he “promises categorically to give an answer within three or four days”. All the same, no answer followed in the course of March.

***

The English psychiatrist Gery Low-Beer has agreed to go to the Soviet Union as an expert if the court case instigated by T. Zhitnikova against the doctors of the Dnepropetrovsk special psychiatric hospital takes place. He has informed F. K. Pruss, the director of the hospital, and the procurator of Dnepropetrovsk region about this. Dr Low-Beer has also sent a letter to Snezhnevsky.

The French barrister de Felice has applied for a visa to go to the USSR to take part in the same trial.

***

On 31 March a demonstration took place in the USA in defence of L. Plyushch.

In March T. S. Khodorovich and Yu. F. Orlov published an article entitled “They Have Turned Leonid Plyushch into a Madman. Why?”