Demonstrations, May-June 1978 (50.8-1)

<<No. 50 : November 1978>>

The women refuseniks of Moscow are continuing their struggle (CCEs 47-49).

[1]

On the morning of 23 May Ida Nudel, Natalya Khasina, Faina Kogan, Elena Chernobylskaya, Galina Nizhnikova and Natalya Zhulei sent a telegram to Brezhnev and Kosygin, that read:

“For many years we have been trying to obtain permission to emigrate to Israel. Our appeals to you personally and to various Soviet organizations which deal with questions of the emigration of Jews have not produced any results. From 10 to 12 May we tried to gain admittance to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and to the Council of Ministers. As a result, some of us were beaten up in the reception-room of the Supreme Soviet Presidium.

“Seeing no other means of expressing our protest, we have decided to hold a demonstration demanding an immediate and objective examination of our petitions to emigrate to Israel and insisting that visas be issued to us without delay, as there are no legitimate reasons for refusing us permission to emigrate.”

That afternoon they stood for seven minutes by the Kremlin wall, near the Borovitsky Gates, with placards that read; “Visas for Israel!” and “Let us go to Israel!”

[2]

On 25 May, 24 women refuseniks sent a statement to the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet and to the Moscow Soviet, saying that on 1 June, International Day for the Defence of Children, as a protest against their being forced to remain in the USSR, they intended to hold a demonstration, together with their children, at 4 pm by the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet. As their children would be with them, they requested that their safety be assured.

On 30 May, the women who had signed the statement were warned through their district Soviet Executive Committees (some of them were visited at home) not to hold the demonstration.

[3]

On 31 May the women began to assemble in the flats of Natalya Rozenshtein and Galina Tsyrlina (see [4] below).

Towards the evening of 31 May Gyuzel Khait and her daughter Dina (3 years old), Irina Gildengorn and her daughter Marina (12), Rosa Joffe and her daughter Anya (5), Galina Kremen and her son Sasha (13), Olga Serova and her son Anatoly (6), Galina Nizhnikova, Lydia Likhterova, Khana Elinson and Lyudmila Cherkasskaya assembled in Natalya Rozenshtein’s home.

Immediately police sentries and men in plain clothes came and stood by the door of the flat and on the street.

On the morning of 1 June Maia Rebkina and her daughter Alla (13) managed to push their way into the flat.

From 1 pm Butlerova Street was closed to traffic, except for scheduled buses and police cars. Nobody was allowed to leave the 16- storey hostels across the street from No. 2. The documents of passers- by were checked. Everybody was driven away.

Seeing that the flat was blockaded, the people gathered inside decided to hold the demonstration without leaving the flat. They opened the windows and displayed placards that read: “Visas to Israel!” “Let my people go!” “Give our children their homeland!” “We’ve had enough insults!“ The children waved cut-out paper Stars of David and poplar branches. At that very moment sticks with hooks rained blows through the windows, tearing down the placards, Stars and poplar branches. Then the women began to shout rhythmically: “Visas to Israel!” and “Give our children their homeland!” The “flat demonstration” continued for 20 minutes. During all this time people kept ringing the doorbell and knocking on the door of the flat.

At 7 pm the women opened the door to go to their homes. Immediately a crowd of policemen and men in plain clothes burst into the flat without letting anybody out. At 8.40 pm Natalya Rozenshtein stated that if her guests were not permitted to leave, they would put the children to bed and declare a hunger-strike. At 9 pm the chief of the local police station gave the order to allow the people gathered there to leave. He added that “the public were infuriated” and therefore they must “go quietly”. The women and children were escorted to the Metro station by policemen and men in plain clothes — about a hundred of them altogether.

On the evening of 2 June Natalya Rozenshtein was visited by correspondents of four foreign newspapers. Some of the women who had taken part in the events of the previous day also came. An hour later, when the group wished to disperse, the police allowed only the correspondents to leave. The others were kept in the flat for another hour and a half.

On the morning of 3 June an inscription appeared on the pavement in front of the windows of the flat, that read in black half-metre letters: “Death to the Jews!” Natalya Rozenshtein and her husband Grigory Rozenshtein went out, stood on either side of the inscription and began to recite Psalms and the Torah. Other refuseniks who lived nearby joined them. Five minutes later cars drove up, containing men in plain clothes and policemen, but they did not interfere. When the Jews had dispersed, the policemen painted over the inscription.

The next day the inscription showed through the paint. Natalya Rozenshtein sent a telegram to the chief of the police station, demanding that the section of pavement with the inscription be broken up and removed immediately. On 6 June she sent simitar telegrams to the UVD and the Moscow Soviet, stating that otherwise the Jews would organize self-defence in expectation of a pogrom, On the same morning the inscription was broken up.

[4]

Towards the evening of 31 May Yelena Chernobylskaya, Batsheva Yelistratova and Vinya Belkina gathered in Galina Tsyrlina’s home.

The building was surrounded by men in plain clothes and several cars. The next day the building was blockaded. Then the women hung a Star of David in one window and a placard that read “Visas to Israel“ in another. Men in plain clothes, who had prepared themselves beforehand on the neighbouring balcony, immediately tore down the Star and the placard. The women made new placards and displayed them behind the window-panes.

The men in plain clothes first attempted to break down the door of the flat, then poured whitewash over the window-pane from the floor above. After about two and a half hours, when it was already getting dark, the women removed the placards and were allowed to leave.

[5]

On the afternoon of 31 May a car containing four plain-clothes men began to guard the entrance of the building where Mikhail Kremen lives. That day Mikhail’s wife Galina and their eldest son Sasha went to N. Rozenshtein’s flat (see [3] above). Mikhail stayed at home with their youngest son Zhenya (seven years old).

On the morning of 1 June, Mikhail Kremen tried to go out with his son for their morning exercise, but a policeman and two other men prevented them. Later the boy was not even permitted to go out to buy food. At 12.50 M. Kremen hung out a placard that read “Long live Israel” on his balcony and switched on a tape-recorder playing recordings of the songs “Pharaoh, Let My People Go” and “Israel, Israel”. After the songs, M. Kremen recorded his own appeal on tape:

“Citizens! Today, 1 June, International Day for the Defence of Children, my family is undergoing preventive house arrest without any order or decision of a judge. My children are also under house arrest: they are forbidden to go out to play in the yard. They’re hungry. There is no food in the house, and we are not permitted to go out to the shops. My children are being starved.

“And this is happening in the USSR, which has the most democratic constitution in the world, and in peace time. Look the KG B officials in the face again and ask them the reason for this oppression of my family, which has been going on now for four years. Long live Soviet Law and Freedom!”

At 3 pm the electricity was cut off in the flat (the telephone had been cut off since 8 am). Then Mikhail recorded the same appeal on a battery-powered tape-recorder and played it again from the balcony. At 4 pm the placard was knocked down with a five-metre pole from the balcony above. The “concert” from the balcony continued until 7 pm. The blockade of the flat continued until late that evening.

On 5 June, the acting head of the police station No. 139, Kudinov, summoned M. Kremen and read him a statement by neighbours expressing their indignation at his behaviour. Then Kremen was taken to the people’s court in the Perovsky district of Moscow; there he was examined by four judges in succession, but not one of them wished to pronounce judgment on his case.

On 8 June Kudinov summoned Kremen again. Kudinov announced to Kremen’s wife and friends who had come with him that M. Kremen would be taken to the district office of the UVD, where “the authorities would have a talk with him”. Instead, Kremen was taken to the Perovsky district people’s court, where some Judge sentenced him in 30 seconds to 15 days’ arrest “for petty hooliganism”.

[6]

On 23 May Ida Nudel took part in the demonstration by the Kremlin Wall (see [1] above). From that day the KGB had her followed constantly. From 30 May she was followed quite openly: a car containing four KGB officials was constantly parked by the entrance of the building where she lived and followed her everywhere.

From the morning of 1 June Ida Nudel was blockaded in her flat. From 11 am a tractor was placed under her windows and the engine kept running continually until 10 pm. At 6 pm Ida displayed a placard on her balcony that read “KGB! Give me a visa!” Some people who had posted themselves on the next balcony knocked down the placard with a metal rod and started throwing stones at Ida. In return she began to sprinkle them with water she had got ready beforehand, and they left. Ida made new placards and set them up on the balcony and in the kitchen window. The placard on the balcony was torn down by means of a long stick with a nail on it, wielded from the window of the adjacent flat. A rope with a spanner tied to it was lowered from a window above. The rope was swung back and forth until the window was broken, and the placard fell down. Ida filled the broken window with a piece of cardboard with a yellow Star of David drawn on it and hung another placard on the balcony. At 7.30 pm the ‘battle’ ended; the attackers left, and the placards were left hanging. When it was dark, Ida removed them herself.

[7]

On the morning of 1 June, the Slepaks’ flat was also blockaded. At 4 pm Maria and Vladimir Slepak hung placards on the balcony of their flat, which faces Gorky Street, that read “Let us go to our son in Israel!” and “Give our son a visa!” (their eldest son had been allowed to leave the USSR, CCE 47; the youngest — CCE 47 — has not been allowed to leave). Two minutes later the placards were torn down with boat-hooks from a seventh-floor balcony; the Slepaks’ flat is on the eighth floor.

The Slepaks made some more of the same placards and took them out on to the balcony. Ten minutes later some men in plain clothes on the next balcony began to beat the Slepaks with poles. At the same time, from a ninth-floor window, technical supervisor Maximova began to pour boiling water on them. V, Slepak was badly scalded. At about 3 pm men in plain clothes broke down the door of the flat and the door of the room and burst out onto the balcony. The Slepaks were allowed to change into dry clothes, then they were taken to a police station.

[8]

On the evening of 2 June Ida Nudel, Josif Begun’s wife Alla Drugova (see below), Leonid Shcharansky, Natalya Khasina, Vinya Belkina, Elena Dubyanskaya, Victor Yelistratov, Oscar Mendeleyev, Yakov RakhIenko, Yevgeny Tsyrlin, Boris Chernobylsky (CCE 43) and Yakov Shmayevich gathered on Pushkin Square to go to the police station and find out where Maria and Vladimir Slepak were. The square turned out to be surrounded by men in plain clothes who seized the people gathered there and pushed them into a bus. The Jews were driven to the nearest auxiliary police office, where they were held for several hours, after which all of them except Ida Nudel were allowed to leave one by one.

Ida Nudel was taken to a police station. There the deputy chief of the investigation department of the Volgograd district UVD, First Lieutenant V. P. Ivanov, announced to her that criminal proceedings were being instituted against her under Article 206, part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (“malicious hooliganism”). Ida Nudel was taken home, where a search was made in her presence. Some placards, a paintbrush and a paper loudspeaker were taken, as well as some books in Hebrew, literature about Israel, photographs, visiting cards of friends and other papers.

After the search, First Lieutenant Ivanov wrote a report, that read:

“… During the search, I. Ya, Nudel’s accomplices threw bricks and stones through the windows of her flat with the intention of obstructing the search of citizen Nudel’s home. As a result of the acts of hooliganism by citizen Nudel’s accomplices, the windows of the kitchen of her flat were broken.

“The group of hooligans was driven away by action on the part of officers of the 72nd police station; during the search, the building was surrounded by a police detail.”

[9]

On the evening of 4 June a demonstration was held on Trubnaya Square by Ida Nudel, Natalya Khasina, Elena Chernobylskaya, Galina Nizhnikova, Natalya Rozenshtein, Gyuzel Khait, Galina Kremen, Galina Tsyrlina and Boris Katz and his wife Natalya Zhulei with their eight-month-old daughter Jessica (the Katz family have been trying for half a year to obtain permission to go to the USA, where Boris’s mother lives, to get treatment for their daughter, who is seriously ill; see also the Literary Gazette of 24 May 1978). The demonstrators put up placards that read “Visas to Israel! “ “Let us go to Israel or send us to our graves!” “Let our children go!” “The Jews will survive!” Five minutes later KGB officials and policemen tore down the placards and took the demonstrators to the 18th police station. There they were told to give a written explanation of their actions; they refused. After three hours they were all released.

[10]

On 9 June, at 2 pm, Ida Nudel, Natalya Khasina, Elena Chernobylskaya, Galina Nizhnikova, Natalya Rozenshtein, Galina Kremen and her 13-year-old son Sasha, and the Katz couple with their daughter, stood on Dzerzhinsky Square with placards that read “Let us go to Israel! “ and “Let our children go!” Sasha Kremen held a placard that read “Let my father out of prison!” (see [5] above).

The demonstrators barely had time to hold up their placards, when men in plain clothes came running, took away the placards and surrounded the demonstrators in a tight circle, shouting “You’ve had it too good eating Soviet bread!” “Traitors!” “Zionists!” “Stinking Yids!” “Hitler didn’t kill enough of you!” “Stalin didn’t slaughter enough of you!” A police microbus drove up. Policemen threw the demonstrators into it (including Boris Katz, holding his baby in his arms) and again drove them to the 18th police station. There the demonstrators refused to sign a record about their having “beaten up ten men”. Ida Nudel was told that the demonstrators had caused a crowd of 150 people to gather, which “could have blocked the pavement and caused an accident in the street”. That evening policemen took her home. During the evening everybody was allowed to leave the police station.