By Michael Strugach
"I was born in year 1939 in Leningrad, USSR (now Saint Petersburg). My mother was a history teacher and worked in the Leningrad Institute of Northern Peoples. Father was an accountant for the Leningrad Movie Studio. He was drafted to Finish War, then to WWII and soon was killed at the Leningrad front in 1941. So I was grown up fatherless. In winter of 1942 mom got permit to evacuate from blockaded Leningrad through the "Road of Life" - Ladoga Lake's ice to Volga region. And in 1944 we returned to the city after a blockade was broken I was graduated from a high school and after that from Leningrad VOENMECH (Military Mechanical Institute, currently Baltic University, St. Petersburg Division). After graduating I worked for the Central Scientific Research Institute named after Academic Krylov, where I wrote my dissertation titled "Fluidic Inertial Instrumentation". It would be cliché to describe numerous acts of antisemitisms that is familiar to every Jewish person living in USSR, starting with elementary school when you suddenly realize that you are not the same as other students who see your nationality in the teacher's note book with the list of class's names. And then when you're looking for a scientific job in many Leningrad Research Institutes (closed P.O. "Yashchiks") and first hear "oh, yes we need such graduates" and after looking at your passport "call us in a month"... In 1972, when we heard the rumors of number of people including my far relatives that received exit visa to Israel, we decided to emigrate. We applied in 1973 and had been refused. More than six months passed without the OVIR's answer, when with couple of applicants, who were in same situation, we decided to demonstrate in OVIR. This "adventure" is described in my Diary that I called "Fifteen Days for a Pity Hooliganism". During years of refusnik's life, an American relatives helped us to fight for visa, by contacting their politicians/authorities to press USSR government when atmosphere of detente between West and East was in the air. At the same time, I found many US companies working in the same area of technology that was topic of my dissertation. These facts changed our decision to emigrate in the US. In 1977 our second son was born. Finally, in 1978 we got a permission for exit visa and arrived in US, Detroit, Michigan, in December of that year. In the conditions of huge demands for engineers at that time of military buildup, it was relatively easy to find a job. So, the California Company that manufactured Inertial Navigation equipment invited me for interview, made me an offer, moved us to California, where we settled in Los Angeles area and still live there. After about 37 years of employment in aerospace industry, I retired.
This true story is a history by now.
The country, where described events had been taken place about fifty years ago, doesn't exist anymore. But culture is still there. People, although fifty years older, are still there. Their children are ruling. Institutions, functioneers, apparatchiks changed denominations, titles, faces, pretend now to be great believers in God, after many years preaching the Lenin's thesis that "religion is the opium for the masses", replaced one kind of mask with another, but characters are carried away. We all know - history repeats itself twice: first as tragedy, second as farce.
That place was the Soviet Union and the time of the diary was a détente. The Helsinki Human Rights Accord was signed by the Superpowers. Soviets wanted the Western credits, goods, trade agreements. In 1973, thanks to Jackson-Vanic amendment, conditionally linking the Trade Favorite Nation status with the Human Rights violations, about 30,000 exit visas were granted. The Jews became a currency.
After few trials against Jews (airplane hijacking in Leningrad, other processes) new opportunities suddenly being created for Jews. Always being in disadvantages, even oppressed under previous years, especially in Stalin's time, being Jewish become attractive. Rumors get circulated that Jews became "transportable abroad". Brave ones applied for emigration. Government seeing "emigration moods", tried to suppress the movement. At the same time a new class of citizens was created: refuseniks. These were the exit visa applicants whose request had been denied and most of the time they had been fired from work. Undoubtfully, they were selected by the government to be scarecrows for the others not to dare apply for an exit visa. Most often the motif was an "access to classified information". And because an entire country's economy was working on a military supply, this "access to... " could be attached to anybody. It was a closed society and the spy paranoia syndrome ran high. The Anatoly Shcharansky's (now the Member of Israel Government) trial and subsequent imprisonment for many years was the most eloquent example. He applied for an exit visa about at the described time, received his refusal, and was actively fighting it and his numerous contacts with the foreign citizens had been the main "spying evidence" in the trial. As KGB officers used to say, they selected him to be "a Hero".
Usually an applicant for the exit visa was fired after the humiliating meetings at their places of work- departments or shops - on the "request of the indignant coworkers". The applicant could not ignore these meetings, because its "resolution" had to be in among the other needed documents for application into OVIR (Department of Ministry for Internal Affairs dealing with exit visas). One of the required documents was the appeal to cancel the Soviet citizenship and together with "repayment of education" all priced an average worker's entire life saving.
And then, after "careful consideration", the application for an exit visa was denied, the new refusenik created and become an insect subject to 'supervised' study by KGB.
It would not be overstatement to say that the refusenik phenomenon was the next significant crack in the destruction of the USSR after Solzhenitsyn's 'Archipelago Gulag'. By applying for exit visa, thousands, mostly Jews, voted with their feet against 'the most progressive society in the world'. It was a sudden surprise for an ordinary population, which murmured 'rats run away only from a sinking ship'.
Recently, after almost forty years working in my new country here, mostly in the aerospace big and small companies in different positions ranging from a research engineer to a chief scientist, I per lustrated again my old archives and found this diary. It was smuggled out from Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) with the help of United Press International (UPI) accredited to the city where I was refusenik # 30 as the described events occurred. When I came to this country in 1978, UPI mailed to me this diary. I saw similar piece in the 'Atlantic Monthly' and thought this material might be of interest to the readers likewise of so deep and intellectually inclined magazine such as the 'Atlantic Monthly'.
My family (by that time of three): my wife Ellen, our son Greg (3) and I were among 30,000 applicants for exit visa in 1973. After numerous ordeals consumed about five months, my attempts to satisfy the necessary bureaucratic 'parcel' requirements finally were rewarded in May of that year. Papers had been accepted for 'consideration'. I say 'finally', because the ordeal was not simple. The Institute I worked for did not have any 'experience' (i.e. instructions) how to react upon my request for the 'resolution' to be prepared for OVIR. The 'resolution' was invented to be one of the obstacles and most threatening and humiliating ordeals for an applicant. It required a meeting of entire "comrade's collective" of workers: depending on line of work - an applicant's department, a guild, a machine shop or alike. Obviously, in my Institute I was the first there with so crazy desire. So, the reaction was simple: Administration just didn't respond at all.
On that case there was a 'tip' from the handwritten and undergroundly distributed leaflet entitled "Tips for departing to Israel": If company you are working for doesn't give the 'resolution', then you should complain to the Regional Communist Party Committee.
So I did, I complained. It worked perfectly: the meeting of an entire department was set up, speakers made speeches blaming me in treachery to the motherland, etc., but I received my 'resolution', in which I was recommended to be discharged and, of course, I was immediately fired.
Usually, the applicants for the exit visa were called by OVIR for an answer in three months. In my case I didn't have it in three, four, five, and six ... .
Two of my peers happened to be in the same situation. We decided to do something. We would make a demonstration in OVIR with posters and each of us would pledge to write the diary after the planned action would be over. We would combine them and smuggle abroad. It would attract international attention to the case of refuseniks, and in the atmosphere of détente it will help us, our peers and many others to get exit visas.
We knew we should expect "fifteen days for a petty hooliganism", a very popular by that time the lowest level of punishment, almost a social institution for masses. Millions passed through this "education": honest, dishonest, singles, family men. To slip "for fifteen" was extremely easy. Any two "witnesses" could put anyone for "fifteen": enraged wife could quickly revenge a drunken husband; likewise, the communal apartment inhabitants could plot their neighbor into "fifteen".
I'm not sure if my friends wrote their diaries but I meticulously kept my writing. Our actions have had some publicity, but this diary was never published.
October 31, 1973.
Place: OVIR (The FOREIGNER'S VISAS and REGISTRATION DEPARTMENT of the LENIGRAD REGION).
I'm at the appointment with the OVIR's chief Colonel Bokov. His deputy LtCol Suvorov is present.
"Why do you come here every Wednesday? Why do you take up our time and interfere with our work?" says Bokov, while I take a seat.
"The fact of the matter is that six months have passed since I submitted my family's papers to you. Meanwhile, I don't hear from you nor I have any meaningful response on my application. And speaking of 'interference' with your work I presume it is the very your work to issue visas," I'm trying to be humble to demonstrate an obedience in the undertone and seriousness in the believe that all this game is a true business.
They dressed in the internal ministry military uniform. Tall and aristocratic with gray hairs Bokov.
Short, plump and obliging Suvorov. Truly Don Quixote and Sancho Pansa.
"Six months? Are you familiar with the case?" Bokov addresses Suvorov.
"Yes. He has problems; the answer will take a long time yet," answers Suvorov, and addressing to me "You will get it right away."
A familiar, comforting phrase. For the last three months already I've heard that they "will inform me right away".
"A couple of months ago you assured my wife that a decision would be made
"Well, may be another month, may be two more ... ." In the presence of his boss he tries to constrain a sarcastiveness and doesn't add his usual "and may be tomorrow".
Last Wednesday he wasn't speaking so softly. He warned me against all kinds of actions and advised me "to behave myself or it will be very bad" and, while attempting to do it inconspicuously, he even turned on a tape recorder. I noticed it and he laughingly egged me on "well, say something."
Thinking I have nothing to lose, I said it all: that my waiting time for a decision doubles an average; that meanwhile authorities make my life miserable by first dismissing me from my work, and subsequently from two others manual works; and my family suffers being deprived the means to live on; that I took these dismissals to court and although all evidence was presented on the legal violations, the courts didn't reinstate me; that "mysteriously" all my files with the working drafts, copies, documents, other papers related to my dissertation had been stolen from my flat and "accidentally" were turned to KGB and they admitted it, but refused to return it to me; that I've had nothing to do with classified information in line of my work and my thesis, which was based on works and patents closely mimicking the foreign ones; therefore, there was no grounds whatsoever for dragging out the issuance of exit visa, etc., etc.
On my ending "can you tell me when?" Suvorov responded: "When you get it that is when."
Wednesdays were special days. At these days OVIR's was giving permissions for visas or refusals. On this day many refuseniks, the current and prospective, use to gather in the OVIR's building to exchange news. I stepped out of Suvorov's office and my fellow refuseniks Girsh Iosfin, Alexander Yampolsky, Grisha Ioffe with wife; Lev Zhigun surrounded me in the waiting room anxious to hear results. As usual, my "news" weren't new. The same words game.
Almost immediately, LtCol Suvorov followed me heading to our group barking, "What are they doing here" and ordered a militia officer on duty to push us out the door "to wait for the friends outside on the stairway".
November 1, 1973.
City is preparing to celebrate the coming anniversary of the October Revolution. All newspapers are preaching a détente. The new Communist party doctrine of "The Mutual Coexistence between Socialism and Capitalism" that was adopted since Khrushchev time is gaining speed. The Superpowers' leaders bow to each other.
Today I mailed two statements, one is to the Minister of Internal Affair, which is the entity supervising OVIR, another to the Prosecutor General.
Couple of month ago I and my wife Ellen returned to home about 2am after the wedding of refusenik Girsh Iosfin and were stunned seeing our flat intruded. A lot of my files and papers disappeared. I complained to the Regional Prosecutor office. Few days after that KGB officer appeared in my apartment around the lunchtime, showed his badge and demanded to follow him. I asked if I need to pack a bag.
"Not necessary" was the answer.
The black "Volga" was waiting next to my apartment building entrance. In twenty minutes' drive I recognized destination: "the Bolshoi Dom" (the KGB Headquarter). Later in the day Ellen was picked up from her work too.
The interrogations lasted 6 hours. I was not aware that Ellen was cross-examined also somewhere close at the same 15th floor. KGB officers were coming in and out with new questions alternating between two offices.
They put stack of blank papers in front of me and demanded that I would write everything I know about refuseniks, about "immigration agitations, moods and intentions" and the sources of that.
Thanks G-d, we were already prepared to that. Girsh Iosfin showed us the "Tips for Departing to Israel". There were instructions how to respond to situations like this one.
So, I didn't touch the pen, saying, "I sign only financial statements". Ellen did the same. Three KGB officers interrogated us. They introduced to us with names: Colonel Lebedev (the officer who escorted me from apartment), Captain Gubanov, and Lieutenant Romanov. The most frightening was a phrase dropped by Captain Gubanov:
"You will never get the exit visa, because you worked on secret projects, including the one with a nuclear submarine, where you worked four months".
One chapter of my dissertation contained secret information related to an application of the described R&D technology to the Inertial Navigational Systems. It was about ten pages to make entire thesis "secret". In my institute (named after Academician Krilov) it was a custom - everybody did the same in order to limit exposure and pass all formality with less effort.
However, the copies I kept at home didn't contain the "secret" chapter with these pages. KGB was looking for that a "secret" material kept in my flat to incriminate me. If they would have found something, my life would make a miserable turn. I knew it might happen; I heard stories of the refusnick's flats being searched, so I made per lustration of all my belongings and was prepared.
It is remarkable how détente changed their attitude to us. They were polite or have been instructed to be as such. And although they demonstrated their superiority, the soft threatening, like "you can see Siberia from this window" the tone was sometimes friendly. Ten years ago, in the Stalin time we would be thrown into Gulag without any "ceremonies" immediately.
I remember another response to the phrase I dropped to Colonel Lebedev:
"What the sheep have in common with the wolfs", to which he reacted: "It is questionable who the wolf is here and who is a sheep". And a little encouragement from a sentence he dropped later: "We are not going to make a Hero out of you". We learned after awhile that they selected Anatoly Shcharansky to be a Hero.
Around 6PM I started to insist that it is time to pick my son from the kindergarten and I can't be late. So they quit and let me go.
A few weeks later, the great idea has struck me: every time I write complaints to the Government authorities, I'll make copies and then mail them into the American Consulate located in Leningrad on P.Lavrov Street. And every letter would be a registered one and the return signature required. Of course, KGB will read them all before it'll be delivered, but because they have to keep face with USA, they would have no choice but to respond.
This technique, probably, worked to my favor in getting eventually exit visa. Relations with USA were sensitive matters to authorities. And formally, these "letters" to US embassy were sort of "updating" my situation, because my relatives in the USA were very active through their congressmen of state of Michigan, James J.Blanchard, to get me out. I had a chance to receive a feedback that it was good tactics, because a couple of years later, I was warned by authorities "Behave and stop writing if you want to get permission to leave".
Here are my two statements for today.
To: Minister of Internal Affairs, comrade Shchelokov, N. A.
Ministry of Internal affairs, Moscow.
From: Citizens Strugach M.G. and Strugach E.V.
Bolsheocktinsky prospect 6, apt. #176, Leningrad
Date: November 1, 1973.
Copy: USA Consulate,
P.Lavrov str., Leningrad
On the 15th of May 1973 we submitted applications and all the necessary paperwork to emigrate to our relatives in the State of Israel.
In spite of the fact that almost six months have passed since we submitted the paperwork, we have still not received an answer. We sent statements to many Government institutions, including the Leningrad regional Oblispolcom, but besides hypocritical evasions and intimidations, we've essentially not received any sort of answer.
Meanwhile, we are in unbearable straits since during this time Strugach M.G. was illegally dismissed from two companies (one after another) because of our desire to leave and, with a sick infant, we do not have the means to exist on.
And a second one.
To: Prosecutor General of the USSR
The General Prosecutor Office, Moscow.
From: Citizen Strugach M.G.
Bolsheokhtinsky prospect 6, apt. #176, Leningrad.
Date: November 1 , 1973.
Copy: USA Consulate, P.Lavrov str., Leningrad
The Leningrad Administration Of the Committee for State Security obtained material which was stolen from my apartment: several files with personal letters and documents, working drafts on my thesis (approximately 2000 pages), two bindings of dissertation and two bindings of a research abstract. A pocket flashlight was left at the scene.
We sent three complaints to the Committee.
As a "response", the KGB "arranged" six-hour interrogation of my wife, and me and I have not received any sort of justified explanation to the demand that all material be returned. It was stated orally that this material would be sent to the institute whose "interests" it touches upon.
Actually, this material contains research on the gyroscopic fluidics systems and devices specified in unclassified publications: the USSR Patents issued on my name numbers 263905, 274939 289019, 305789, 365567, 373623, and the USA Patents numbers 296385, 3051884, 3058359, 3098393, 3131565, 3147391, 3205715, 3261213, 3267747, 3320815, 33394420, 3340740, 3403563, 3500690, 3500691, 3516280, etc. and also in unclassified publications.
This material is of important intrinsic value for me, not considering monetary value about 60 rubles.
I ask your intervention and help for a return of all abovementioned.
November 2, 1973.
The plan was simple.
Grisha Ioffe, Lev Zhigun and I agreed to meet at the OVIR office at 2PM and hand over a statement signed by three of us. After that, each of us would take a seat and raise the posters. "Independent observer" (another refusenik) would witness entire play and report to the outside world what happened.
I arrived fifteen minutes before the designated time. I was afraid that Suvorov would show me the door if he saw me again after the yesterday's 'warm' reception.
I waited outside and soon Leva Zhigun and Grisha Iofee appeared. We entered the reception room, gave our statement to the receptionist-secretary, split up to the back row of seats and began to wait. I felt my heart-pumping rate reached 140 per minute.
The statement cited the law(Ukase) passed by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet on April 12, 1968 "On Considering Workers' Statements and Complaints within a Month". The time for considering our papers exceeded six folds required by law. The statement said that we would not leave the OVIR without an answer or decision.
There were a lot of visitors in the OVIR's waiting room that day, not less than forty. The usual stillness of work reigned in the room. Some people were expecting to be called inside, some studying 'Visa application procedure'. Remarks were quietly and with great respect exchanged. Several military officers with their families were among the crowd. A small queue lined up by the secretary desk.
The reader should understand a Significance of OVIR, its entire entity, everything and everybody associated with it. In the country where any contact with the foreigner was a suspicious one, where people could lose the job just for receiving a letter from abroad the very entering into OVIR for a common citizen was a relatively brave step. Only certain class 'entrusted' persons, nomenclature, party functionaries etc. were allowed to travel abroad. It was one of the perks the system beneficially granted to those who belonged. By the appearance and by the nature we didn't belong to be there.
I recall my Uncle Alex, who returned from the WWII as a decorated Navy officer, serving as a surgeon's assistant at the fronts. At his early twentieth, he applied and was immediately accepted into prestigious The Military Medical Academy of Leningrad. In the application paper he answered the question "DO YOU HAVE ANY RELATIVES ABROAD" with "NO". It was time of the warm victorious Allies' relationship between West and East. In line with that trumpeting propaganda trust he made a reckless mistake to write the letter to our family relatives in the USA. After two years of his study at the Academy a discrepancy was discovered and he was expelled from the Academy. He had to finish his medical education in the provincial medical institute in city of Petrozavodsk.
Ten minutes have passed. No reaction on our statement. We nodded to each other and quietly pull out our posters. Then unrolled them and raised in front of each of us.
Grisha Ioffe held a poster with the inscription "STOP DELAY IN VISA ISSUING". Leva's was "OUR ACTION IS LEGAL YOUR'S NOT". My poster was on a string around my neck and it said "SIX MONTH WITHOUT AN ANSWER".
Nobody noticed a demonstration. The stillness continued as before. Everyone was doing whatever was doing earlier. The militiamen-guard was busy with a newspaper.
Another ten minutes have passed. Gradually, one after another people started staring at us. At first, sitting next to us, then more and more. They red the posters. The guard stood up to stretch his legs, glanced around, noticed our posters red them and indifferently returned to his cage. Evidently, he didn't have instructions yet for such a scenario: on his view the order in the room was uninterrupted, no noise, no drunks, and no fistfights.
The line in front of the secretary desk dispersed. She noticed us and immediately went into the inner chambers to report.
An elderly woman from among those waiting was heading toward us focusing her glasses at our posters. I thought she wanted to take a sit and moved over to let her, but instead, not saying a word, she took my hand and shook it. I mumbled thanks. Then she shook hands with Grisha and Leva.
Things began moving from the inner chambers. The door of the inspector's offices opened, one after another lady-inspectors in the militia uniform looked out, curiously read posters and disappeared. Suvorov took a turn slowly moving from one door to another studying the situation. Then another deputy observed the scenery.
I would not say that it was precisely these minutes were the most frightening. We had already adapted to the situation. Perhaps, the most sensitive was taking out the posters, rustling the paper, unfolding, taking up the expressive and at the same time nonchalant pose under surprised glances of neighbors at the sitting room, blending into a sedate atmosphere of loyal people soliciting the favor to travel abroad. If this is a proven fact that the nerve cells are destroyed in stress conditions, then during the entire fifteen days described here, the greatest number of these cells was destroyed at these moments.
It took them about fifteen minutes to inquire instructions from the authorities to make decision. Colonel Bokov with his immediate retinue came out of the Chief's Office with a firm step. They headed to us. With the words "What's this, what kind of demonstration is this," he grabbed Zhigun's and Ioffe's posters one at a time and tore them up. He pulled my poster and succeeded after several jerks. I suppressed a temptation to drop a joke that his act of maiming and cutting my neck with a string alleges hooliganism from his part.
"Well, guys, your exit career finished, especially your, Strugach," said Suvorov. This "especial" end of my career was a bad sign. Did he know about decision? And if it's rejections, then how "special" my rejection is?
(We found out the answer a lot later: Grisha and Leva received their permissions at the end 1974, or beginning 1975, and my permission came only in 1978).
"Fifteen days for all of you, call a militia station to pick these hooligans up," ordered Colonel Bokov as though not a court but he personally categorizes our actions. According the Law (Ukase), however, the actions treated as petty hooliganism are such as "appearance in intoxicated state in public", obscene language, annoying other citizens and alike.
He pointed to the posters: "Don't throw this away, keep it for evidence", and entire retinue moved away leaving us guarded by the militiamen. Ioffe and Zhigun pull out and unrolled another copies of the posters. This time the guard knew what to do: he grabbed the posters and tore them up.
An energetic middle-aged lady jumped from the chair and in a thin little voice "We raised you, we taught you, we clothed you and you ... it would be pity to drown you in the Neva it would dirty the water ... "
Further events unfolded like a well-tuned piece of machinery. Suvorov got several of the servicewomen's wives together to witness the "Statement" and called the militia detail. We were in the throes of suspense. The most critical part was behind us; we were facing our transportation.
An "Israelite" appeared at the secretary desk. He noticed Zhigun and sat down next to him. The secretary interrupted her conversation: "Leave these young men alone, get away from them."
We remained alone for about forty minutes until the militia detail arrived and collected us as an appendix to the paperwork prepared by OVIR. Visas for a fifteen days sojourn behind bars were issued to us in a flash compared to the exit visas for the state of Israel that we had unsuccessfully tried for several months. We were taken to the militia department where the reports on petty hooliganism had been drawn up. The fact that we refused to sign up the papers didn't bother anybody. The sentence was printed at the bottom required our signatures:
"A repeat offense of petty hooliganism within one year will entail criminal action in accordance with article 206 with a period of confinement up to one year."
This sentence, as will be described below, would carry important ramification on my further efforts in the struggle to emigrate.
"I wouldn't keep you guys for a minute," said the duty militiamen while searching us. "Why they are keeping you! You should be kicked out of sights." How often we heard this phrase from internal affairs' officials, strangers, etc., but unfortunately not from OVIR.
We were stripped of all belongings, even the shoestrings and taken to the People's Court of Kuybyshevsky Region where a judge was fond for each of us. It was surprisingly quick and identically precise word by word judges framed us with the judicial decree on our arrests.
I objected to judge named Kotovich that I didn't commit an act of hooliganism, that I didn't say a word, let alone anything obscene, didn't resist the authorities. She very clearly cited the western countries where a permit from the police department is required for any demonstration, even around your own house. The judge's citation on western jurisprudence took me by surprise and I couldn't object. She hurried on and refused to show me the judicial decree. All three judges were the same on this respect.
We were taken to the Fifth militia Department where, as from the regular criminals, they took our fingerprints. When some of us tried to refuse, the duty militiaman's assistant, a man of imposing size and build, began moving toward us, with blazing, drilling eyes and with his paunchy chin shaking. He soon shoved us into the cell and clanged the bars shut.
The three of us were left alone and from that minute the word freedom became sweet to us.
Shortly after, they took us to the special detention center at #6 Kalyaeva street (KGB building), where, one at a time, we were presented to the Deputy Chief for Internal Security. In a threatening voice he explained a prisoner's rights and duties. I'm afraid that except for physiological functions, a prisoner has no rights, only duties. Thus, for instance, each of us demanded a meeting with a Prosecutor, or, at least, pencil and paper to write a statement. We were denied and promised "may be on November 5". To make up for this, he obligingly read us the trial decree, which we weren't aware of. The OVIR statement, it turned out, only mentioned the fact that "we disturbed the peace" of the citizens present with our posters. They didn't attribute obscene language or appearing in an intoxicated state. At the same time it complicated the task of the court agencies to certify our action under the petty hooliganism. It is noticeable, that in the description of the poster "OUR ACTIONS ARE LEGAL" the part of quote "YOURS ARE NOT" was omitted.
Next, our long curls and beards fell on the jail floor. Leva tried to protect his moustache by citing the posted instructions mentioning only haircut and beard cut, but to no avail. Along with hairs everything else was stripped from us, watches, pocket contains.
Then we were each handed an aluminum bowl, a spoon and a mug. We were split to different cells and given our work team numbers.
November 3, 1973.
Double-decker wood plank beds for six, a cast iron toilet bowl, darkened by age and rust, and water faucet with a rusty iron basin are all in the cell.
This jail is from ancient pre-Revolutionary time. Evidently, build in XIX century. They say, Lenin was in it too. Its cells were intended for one person. The collapsible iron table and seat and the bed hinge are still well preserved today. Ventilation is accomplished through the narrow cracks in the windows and also through the opening over the door leading to the corridor. As a result, it is awfully stuffy and there is a constant smell from the last serving of food and from the bread and something musty. You make your bed with whatever clothes you have.
In the morning, after receiving gruel with the unboiled "shingles" and tea with purely symbolic piece of sugar, you gather all your belongings and the remnants of bread together to take with you (otherwise it will be stolen) and head downstairs through the long corridors of the iron stairways to the assembly area for working teams, looking for your number written on the wall.
The three of us were assigned into different teams. A "ment" as they call the militiamen here with a packet of records set up on each "con" (prisoner) approaches the team and after roll call, during which he calls last name and you answer with your first, he leads the team through the gates to the bus.
During this time there is a din in the corridor from the dense crowd of cons. Friends meet and slap each other on the shoulder, with their freshly shaven heads, unshaven faces and coats pretty rumpled during the night sleep.
I must admit that setting out for work is the happiest part of serving your term. To a certain extent, people forget they are prisoners; they are taken in buses to their place of work: to factories, construction sites, plants, where they work together with free employees. And although the "ment" periodically makes his rounds, cons have a chance to bend the rules: smokers steal the smoke and stock up on matches and butts to sneak out into their cell for the evening pleasure; the famished ones try to get food (the prison rules forbid taking any food besides that issued at the detention center); others call relatives or friends (this is also forbidden); everyone is looking for newspapers - some for reading, some to roll cigarettes (reading newspapers is permitted).
In relatively free atmosphere, the temptation to escape arises frequently. Those who are looking for booze also are tempted. Both are serious violations and are grounds for another quick trial to add up additional fifteen days. Also, petty violations of the rules elicit a stamp on your record and when three stamps accumulated, one can be put in SOC (solitary confinement).
On that day, my team worked at the tannery. At first, I was sorting. My work consisted of tying up rolls of leather with strings. There was a telephone behind my place. I dialed home three times - didn't get through. Obviously, KGB made my phone disconnected.
I was transferred to a busier shop to work as an appendage to some sort of French equipment through which another appendage just like me was passing the animal skins one at a time from the pile heaped on a cart. I was capturing them on the other side and heaping in a pile again. All the equipment in the shop was imported, but, for some reasons, there wasn't any kind of transporting mechanisms from one machine to another for a spatial coordination, conveyer or some sort for a production line. And although evidently the skins come through by millions, each of them had to be removed and stacked many times by workers and transported on carts.
I found a scrap of paper, asked for a pencil and wrote a note to my wife with address on it (the prison's rules prohibited that also, and I knew it). To find a compassionate soul to mail the note wasn't easy, but finally I succeeded. It turned out the kind-heartedness was inversely proportional to a shop duty position of employee.
At 4PM all cons are taken back to Kalyaeva str. and each goes through a search team. A trio of "ments" feels everyone from head to toe; forces to take off shoes and inspects their pockets, all of this is pretty degrading. Since their productivity is not high, a crowd forms in the corridor in front of the search team. The three of us met again and we agreed to demand a Prosecutor. And if we don't get him, we'll go a hunger strike.
A pleasant surprise: Gera Sokiryansky is among the crowd. We were peers in the elementary school. He also has applied for Israel and being waiting for an answer for a few months. A "stranger" on the street entered in some kind of provoked arguments with Gera and it all ended for Gera here, at the Kalyaeva Street. He already served half of his time.
I show the guys a pencil to discuss how to get it through. Suddenly, a man in civilian clothes snatches me out of the crowd and drags to the "ments":
"Search this one thoroughly."
They searched me not less than ten minutes. I don't know what they were looking for, because they found the pencil immediately and threw it in the garbage. They forced me to take off my shoes and socks. They felt my trousers, cap, coat, towel, piece of soap and toothbrush. All of these were distributed through my pockets at home when I gather myself to visit OVIR, and I couldn't leave it in the cell this morning.
Despite of these daily searches, the cons, nevertheless, with great inventiveness sneak through matches, cigarettes, needles and I even saw a shaving set.
The man in civilian clothes, who was an "inspector for the Special Detention Center", escorted me to the cell. I told him that three of us demand a meeting with the Prosecutor, also we need paper and pencil for a statement and that the deputy chief for the internal security already had promised us that.
"It is not authorized," was the answer. "When you get out, then you can make a complaint." He slammed shut and locked the cell door.
At 7PM they distribute half a loaf of bread through the "feeder", a rectangular window in the door, and dish out soup from a large kettle, which they drag around. Then in a few minutes, during which you must gulp down the contents of your bowl, they put a second "course" in it. As a rule, this is "khryapa", a watery mixture of chunks of cabbage and carrots, either broiled or stewed, and pieces of potatoes, most of the time not boiled enough, almost raw. You need of amount of courage to eat this. On desert, the symbolic piece of sugar is served, no tea in the evening, wait till next morning. So everyone drinks the tap water for an entire evening: "khryapa" requires a lot of dilution to be digested.
November 4, 1973.
Today they transferred me to another team and took to a factory where our task was to file the lady's plastic nails and sort them. Although it was Sunday, the most of the employees have been working. They let us go early. The mood was cheerful; city was preparing for the Holiday.
You could feel the Holiday air even in the Detention Center. Guards were joyful. Hoping for today kindness three of us again asked deputy the paper for a statement.
"Wait until Monday." He replied.
"May I call my relatives to bring some work clothes," I humbly spilled.
"It's not authorized," was the answer, Holiday, no Holiday, all the same.
My cellmates were very surprised to learn that I was not put here by a wife, or a mother-in-law, or the neighbors. According to them, everybody around here is a victim of the dearest and closest people. And indeed, none of them looked like hooligans, or criminals. Rather, they were fathers, family men, even grandfathers, some of them honorable, perhaps, hard workers (and what hard worker doesn't like to drink after the hard work is over!). They wound up here based on a statement with two signatures, and that's all required to put anybody behind bars for fifteen days.
As the Prosecutor for a supervision of the special Detention Center later addressed us: "This is an administrative punishment and there is no right to a defense".
The slogan "Proletarians of the World, Unite!" was at full pace here: everybody was 'united' by the shaved heads, the bristles on their faces, the rumpled clothing which serves as pajamas, mattress and the work uniforms too.
November 5, 1973.
They shipped us to the tannery again. This time I wound up in the stock room. My functions included wiping skins with a rag, which I had to dip in the bucket of kerosene. This operation is called "the fat removal".
So, I stood and dipped, dipped and wiped each piece of skin. There were women worked alongside me. They had to clean each piece of skin, (and these pieces come through in millions), with the bare hands and an emery wheel, by pressing it to the wheel with all their might, using their stomachs and arms.
Having begged permission, from a small office I called home again. The telephone was still disconnected. I dialed the Girsh Iosfin's number. He agreed to meet me at the factory's control post. I was unlucky: a factory foreman was passing by and saw me phoning. He informed the "ment", who warned me a "serious reprimand".
There was a rumor about this "ment" that he also was put behind bars for fifteen days. He had a habit to grab the factory women. When their patience exhausted, they'd got together and composed a statement against him. Never mind, he is full of energy, spouts proverbs and jokes in front of the formation of the shaved heads.
He led us to the bus. Just as soon as bus started driving off, I see Girsh running down the street waving his arms. I opened glass in the window and threw the piece of paper to him. "Ment" noticed and ordered to stop the bus. He approached Girsh, who without any hesitation gave my note to him adding that "he brought some sausage to a relative".
Girsh always suggested a respectful behavior to militia. "Our goal is to emigrate and to unite with our families in Israel, nothing more. We are not to violate or to change existing laws or politics. We're obedient citizens exercising our rights according to the Helsinki Agreement".
"I'll arrange Solitary for you today, don't worry," "ment" addressed to me taking his seat and ordering bus to take off.
Now the authorities know our plans. In the note I asked my wife Lena to pay a visit to the Prosecutor with the complaints about my arrest and the previous complaints. I also mentioned our intention to go a hunger strike.
The ride back didn't cheer me at all. We were driving through the city beautified towards coming Holidays. Embankments of the river Neva that we were passing by had especial pretty attire: a display of powerful might of the Battleships, Cruisers, Destroyers, and Submarines lined up in honor of the next anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. At the corridor new announcement was posted by administration invited to make an appointment between 4 and 6PM for personal matters. Three of us again tried to use this chance, but to no avail!
My cellmates laughed at me.
"Don't worry, they won't punish you for a piece of paper! Big f-----g deal! If you would drink a vodka, or smuggle a bottle of spirits...that would be a different story..."
But they were wrong. When I fell asleep, the guard entered the cell.
"Get your staff together, let's go."
He led me along the wrought-iron balconies forming the jail's enclosed polygon somewhere upstairs through a number of the locked gates and turned to another guard, who opened the gate with sign "BOX".
"Is this a Solitary?" I asked the guard.
"No, this is a kartonazhka".
November 6, 1973.
A transfer to the Box is a light punishment intended to isolate inmates from external world. The majorities were the "escapees" and those with extended terms. Unlike the other cons, these are not taken to the outside to work. Their shop is right here in the center floor of kartonazhka at the large tables full of the piles of spools with the remnants of thread brought from the city factories. The work consisted of removal the thread remnants from the spool with knife.
"Bah, what a luck", Gera Sokiryansky waves his knife from across the table.
"What brought you here, Gera?" my gloomy mood warms up seeing a familiar face.
"After our meetings downstairs in the corridor they sent me here, a strategic move" his reddish beard and the nearsighted glasses make him a colorful addition to the gray background of other inhabitants.
In the evening inmates from the Box are taken out to the prison internal yard for a half-hour walk. On the way, I ran over to the Ioffe's cell and we agreed: if they don't give us paper for a statement today, tomorrow morning three of us will declare a hunger strike.
The Holiday surprise: an offer to take a shower I couldn't refuse. Those who wanted were given a clean towel and a small piece of soap. It is a "cleanest" moment in my memory through an entire ordeal.
November 7, 1973.
"Tell them I declare a hunger strike", I told the "soupnik" (that is how cons call a person, usually another con, distributing the meal) refusing my morning portion of a gruel. My statement cheered up the cellmates: "Hey, give me his portion" a number of aluminum tureens ejected to the meal window. "You should stuff yourself before going hunger strike", theorized someone.
"They'll beat you but feed you", predicted another. Then a discussion proliferated about my case, politics, Middle East.
A "ment" came and wrote down my first and last name, year of birth and all that needed for the funeral.
In about hour another "ment" came to take me.
"Get your stuff together".
They never say where they are taking you and this might be a good reason to call your shrink, a profession, never existed in Russia.
He led me through entire jail, downstairs to the basement, close to the entrance and locked me in "the punishment cell". Unlike the usual cell, it is partitioned in the middle by iron bars up to the ceiling leaving the prisoner with half the space from the darkened window, on which additional bars are hung. There is a dull electrical bulb over the door. As in all the cells, there is a peephole for observation above the feeder. A slop tank is bricked-up on a concrete pedestal and above it, in the wall, an opening for a water faucet is visible. All the taps for turning water on are removed from the cell and piped outside in the corridor to be controlled by the guard, who periodically refill the inside tank. A wooden shelf serving as a bed is fastened to the wall and locked up. It is folded down from 10PM to 6AM. Two iron plates are cemented into the wall and serve as a tiny table and a seat.
I have to save energy through the hunger strike, so I spread out my coat on the dirty concrete floor and laid on it. From the left wall, as though from the distance, I hear voice singing "let my people go". I recognize, this is Leva, of course. Obviously, my friends declared, as we agreed, the hunger strike and are placed somewhere close to me. My spirits rise, I try to support singing.
The clanging of keys, the noise of an opening the door.
"Get up, let's go." They take me to the jail's doctor.
"Why do you refuse the food?" asks a woman in white.
"We asked for visas and they put us in jail."
"You'll ruin your health and still have a lot of hardships ahead. Israel needs healthy people. When you get out, go on a hunger strike at home, and not in the Special Detention Center. What do you have against us, against me and against him?" she points to the sergeant escorting me.
"I don't have anything against you."
"How many days do you plan to go hungry?"
"Until we receive visas."
"When you get out, apply as prescribed and you'll get your visas."
"I did that six month ago."
"And how did they answer you?"
"There wasn't any answer at all."
"But may be you already have your visas."
"Let them inform us officially."
"None of them will come here." She counts days on the calendar. "So you're going to reject the food till the end of your term, which is November 16? Ten days."
"We'll feed you anyway, by force."
"What do you mean?"
"We'll dress you in a straight jacket or give you a shot to put you asleep and feed you through a hose which will be placed down through your nose."
"Your care of my health is very impressive."
"Give him some hot food, "she address to sergeant. It sounds like a privilege, because the hot food is not authorized in a solitary confinement.
Sergeant escorts me away. He orders me to dress in a linen shirt and trousers without any buttons. All my belongings are taken away. Only a couple of my socks are left. Now I can't even lie down on cement floor for my coat is taken. The only thing to do is to sit on the iron "seat", put my head on the ""table" with my arms in between and use my imagination for virtual reality.
Again, the sound of the lock opening. The same sergeant takes me upstairs to a deputy for political affairs with the rank of major. He offers a seat to the "ment". I ask permission to seat too trying to save energy.
"Never mind, you stand," and continued with reading a statement, saying that for a poor behavior and poor work and for attempts to send a note and a telephone call I am punished by placing in a solitary confinement for three days.
Later, I learned that the stated grounds of misdemeanors of mine were completely negligible: lot of cons call up and meet their relative; besides the administration already reacted by transferring me to a Box. The real reason is that they always put a con in a confinement during a hunger strike: it is more convenient to watch a person there.
The "reason" for sending Ioffe to the solitary was the fact that he supposedly disturbed his cellmates when he steadfastly demanded the duty officer in the morning in order to declare his hunger strike.
An evening dinner was put in front of me. A little better of quality than usual to seduce me to eat. I saw someone watching me through the peephole. I didn't touch the meal and it was taken away shortly.
November 8, 1973.
This is a second day of our hunger strike. I'm sitting at the "table", listening noises and trying to doze. The walls are thick but voices are audible through the door. I hear a call for the teams gathering, conversations, hum of leaving groups, then a silence through which single footsteps echoed amid reverberating corridors. Leva's voice singing "Hatikva", "Tum-balalaika" periodically penetrates the cell, but it impossible to determine where it comes from. I remember at the history classes teachers always romanticized the revolutionaries who were imprisoned in this ancient jail or similar ones, and how they communicated by tapping onto the walls. I try to do it to the right and to the left hoping Leva or Grisha would respond, but to no avail! I guess those revolutionaries possessed the iron feasts.
To tell you frankly, not surprisingly, you feel really hungry when at the hunger strike. Time drags on awfully slow in the Solitary confinement. As in that poetry:
"You reluctantly recollect the times past,
And you illuminate faces long forgotten..."
Faces of loved ones that wait and worry, and those Goya's deformed faces that hate or bureaucratically indifferent. I've no regrets! I feel strength and determination to start new life. There should be light in this long, long tunnel!
November 9, 1973.
Third day of the hunger strike. Shortly after the teams have left, a sergeant appeared:
"I need to know why you refuse food."
"Tell them, we asked for visas but received jail."
At mid-day he ordered to follow him upstairs. Two Majors in the uniform of Ministry of Internal Affairs are in the office, one from the prison administration, another from Ministry. One of them invited me to sit.
After usual warnings and political excursions something new:
"Confess and you'll be pardoned."
I bet, this guy twenty years later during the "perestroika" was the first to claim to be a dedicated Christian.
"I don't feel I committed any sin to confess or crime to beg a pardon..."
"Think about your family, your son ... "
"What threatens him?"
A pause. He stares at me. I feel drilled.
"He'll be deprived "rodina" (the motherland)."
I didn't want to be sucked into a discussion about "the motherland". No doubt my and his would differ significantly.
"Are you giving him hot food?" He asks the local major.
"To your information, after all, the hot food is not authorized in the Solitary."
He waits for my reaction to such a privilege. I keep silent.
"Are you hungry?"
"Here, bring some food." He made a gesture to the sergeant. He left.
"Will you eat?"
In a few minutes a tempting aroma of hot mash potato with cutlets and vegetables filled the office. It was placed in front of me. I was a subject of "Pavlov's experiment". I had enough saliva after three days of hunger to swallow all at once and my stomach sucked.
Of course, it was cheap move from their side. If I would touch the meal, my friends would've been informed in a minute that Strugach broke the hunger strike and later all refuseniks community knew it. It was not difficult to pass this test; it was not a torture of Gulag or Inquisition. I disappointed these Majors and they ordered sergeant to escort me back to the Solitary.
What looked strange to me was that in this long Holiday weekend two militia Majors came to work to talk to me, and, probably, I thought, to Leva and Grisha. It means, we're important and these guys received some kind of instruction from their superior. Because in this Big Brother System every move of authorities is controlled by the Center and there is no chance for a spontaneity.
Indeed, after a while, the same local Major appeared in the cell with a retinue:
"Right after the Holidays, on the November 11th, you'll have your meeting with the Prosecutor."
"Will you take food now?"
"No, what we really need is visas, not a Prosecutor."
The door is closed.
It is good news. And, what is especially interesting, this guy wants me to eat. Oh, he loves me so much that I wouldn't lose weight! What it really means is, that the authorities definitely are afraid of the media noise in case that one of these three Jews lose the health during their visa struggle, while Government trumpets that all Jews wanting to leave are getting a permission and they don't hold anybody.
Suddenly, the door is opened again and I see Grisha Ioffe in the doorway accompanied by the same entourage. What a sight! His unshaved face is noticeably crumpled in the absence of the night pillow, and he looks skinnier than usual. I, certainly, look not better, because he stares at me and laughs.
"Let's stop the hunger strike until the Prosecutor arrives," he says.
"But, Grisha, we want visas, Prosecutor won't give us anything... "
"Then we'll begin the hunger strike again."
"Well, if that's what you want, I go along." And as soon as I pronounced that, the "soupnik" brought lunch: first, second, third courses and bread, lots of it, even though it was a long time after lunch.
An hour later I was transferred from the Solitary to the cell with the plank bed from wall to wall.
"You'll live here like a king," said sergeant locking the door.
I laid down feeling a relief that a hunger strike is over and was ready to say to myself "it is nice to be a king" if I hadn't noticed an enormous rat who almost touched me with his long tail as he ran down the sewer through the toilet bowl. I immediately began to knock to the bars and yelled:
"Officer, someone, open the door!"
An hour passed before "ment" arrived. I complained describing the rat features and he promised:
"We'll call a sanitary inspection."
He left the door opened slightly, which made it colder in the cell.
I didn't sleep like a king that night.
November 10, 1973.
My official three-day stay "punishment" in Solitary is over. They brought back my clothes and, after I change, took me to the third tier, to a cell with the guard sitting just next to the cell's door.
Since it is not a Solitary, any cell must be filled at least with two cons. At the evening tall big man was put in to make me company. A truck driver by profession, he confidentially informed me on the local rumor that "a trio of some educated fellows declared a hunger strike because they were not allowed to go to Israel".
"Didn't you hear anything what happen to them?"
I told him everything I knew about these fellows. He was very sympathetic:
"How come Government doesn't let them go, who needs them so much?" I agreed.
Before I went to sleep, a "ment" came for me and took for a personal walk to the prison's internal yard. It is a closed polygon about thirty feet with all the cell windows facing into it. The architecture of six floor brick's walls with the mesh of iron window bars creates a strange sensation of scenery from the classics descriptions like "Count of De Monte Cristo", Alcatraz, etc. You hear a din, conversations, and a toilet bowls clanging through this black honeycomb.
November 11, 1973.
It was Monday, first day after the Holidays. Today we were promised to meet the Prosecutor. As a sign of a preparation to it, I was escorted to wait in the Solitary. I protested that I have already spent three and a half days there, so "ment" called on the phone and received instruction to lead me back upstairs and guard me.
At about 3PM a Lieutenant came for me and took me down to the jail's Chief office with the sign "Lt Col Parlov" on the door. This bright spacious office would easy enclose area equal to six cells. LtCol was at the desk, a deputy for Internal Security was at present too, sitting at the middle of another long table which together with LtCol's desk shaped letter T. A large man in civilian clothes sat in the across him.
LtCol made a gesture in my direction showing the prepared chair standing in two meters from the T-tables. I pulled the ski hat off my bare head, greeted everybody, put down on floor a plastic bag with my belongings, unbuttoned the coat and sat.
"I'm a Prosecutor Dudarev, at your service," said the large man, opening the folder with my case. Underneath there were two other folders, Ioffe's and Zhigun's. Evidently, I was the first.
I stated my complaints regarding the long consideration of the application for the exit visas in the OVIR, my dismissals from work that KGB doesn't return the stolen from my apartment dissertation together with other works and papers, and, finally, on this arrest, which was without any grounds.
Prosecutor turned his big eagle-shaped nose in my direction:
"I'm the prosecutor for supervision of the Special Detention Center. Everything else is out of my jurisdiction. What sort of complaints do you have against the Special Detention Center's Administration?"
"Besides the fact that they refused to give me the paper to write a statement, I don't have any other complaints."
"You'll receive a paper."
And I spilled out:
"In that case, obviously, there was intentional or unintentional misunderstanding: we asked a Prosecutor with jurisdiction in OVIR's affairs and/or in legality of our arrest."
"And you think they would immediately let you?" Parlov squints his eyes.
"Tell me your opinion as a lawyer, was our arrest legal?"
"I don't give my opinions right and left." His nose targets the chief. "Further, in accordance with the Roman law, you must be familiar with the case before expressing an opinion."
"We put him in Solitary confinement for violating the rules ... " The deputy for Internal Security interrupts.
"You made a telephone call and tried to throw a note. Is it right?"
Prosecutor reads my file.
"Not quite well ... " I want stretch time guessing what else they prepared for me.
"What do you mean not quite well?" LtCol Parlov almost jumped in the chair. "And didn't a relative of yours smuggle you a message? I have the report here in my safe. Everything is stated in it. And the note is also there. We could've easily added another fifteen days, but we felt sorry for you ... Don't forget, your term is still not up!"
"Are you familiar with the regulations for internal security?" The nose is directed at me.
"As I remember, only drinking and escapes lead to an increase the term."
"Here is the Regulation. Read it right here." He puts a file of impressive volume at my edge of T-shaped table. I read: forbidden, forbidden, forbidden...
"Lower, look lower," yelped LtCol Parlov. He jumped from his seat ran up to me and, breathing in my ear poked his thick finger: "here and here the term is increased for violating the rules."
"It says for malicious violations of the rules," I try to extricate, "which means a serious one and if more than one ... "
"Yours was malicious," LtCol argues.
"Do you have anything else for me?" asks the Prosecutor.
They take me away.
In the evening, as promised, I was given piece of paper and pencil.
To: Prosecutor of the Kuibyshevsky Region, Leningrad.
From: Citizen M. Strugach,
Bolsheokhtensky prospect, app.#176, Leningrad.
On May 15, 1973, my wife and I submitted applications and all prescribed paperwork together with payments to the OVIR, for an exit visas to reunite with my relatives. On November 2, not being answered about six-month, I came to OVIR and demanded the answer on my application. Instead, I was arrested and imprisoned for fifteen days, which is illegal, on my opinion. Judge Kotovich refused to show me the Court Decree. I'm asking your interruption.
November 12, 1973.
Today is tenth day in jail. Only four and a half days are left.
Our hunger strike didn't succeed. It doesn't make sense to start another one now. They would say: "Oh, never mind, in four days these guys will be well fed at their homes." Besides, all three of us are firmly isolated from each other and from the outside world - here is "ment" right in my cell is taking a nap.
He brought the sack of spools to work in the cell. And two more "workers" from the "Box" to complete the team. He didn't bring the knives, as the working tools in the Box, (probably, no trust) and showed how to wind the threads from the spools without knives.
So, we sit and wind and time winds on. One of the cons from the Box, named Kolia, is interesting conversationalist. He talks about his Gulag's universities that he "attended" from age 17. Just three months ago he returned from eight-year confinement and describes the procedures and life in the "zone".
In the evening, we were taken for a walk. A surprising transformation, the "ments" around me suddenly become so polite, so civil. Isn't it a result of the Prosecutor's visit? After all, the order in the jail was his only jurisdiction.
So, it is good life, like in a sanatorium.
November 13, 1973.
In broad day light while "our team" is busy with winding and unwinding, the door opens and LtCol Parlov again with the retinue. My cellmates jump to show respect to the upper command.
"Well, well, how are we doing, how is work," he is in elated mood. He glances through my appearance and exhibits a satisfaction seeing me in good health. No more hustles with the hunger strikes, no more calls from the KGB, enough politics for him:
"I sent your statement to the Prosecutor office. Also, I requested, that the Prosecutor himself take your case under his personal tutelage."
"Thank you, comrade Parlov."
"If you behave, then on the release day we'll let you go before 10AM."
"Thank you, thank you, comrade Colonel ... " my cellmates take it as it's addressed to them as well.
November 14, 1973.
Today is the time to leave for my "roommate", the truck driver. He knocked the door and said to "ment":
"Hey, nachalnik (the boss), the General Parlov promised to let me go at 10."
"Let me find out. You stay right there."
The truck driver was released at 1PM.
While saying goodbye, he confessed:
"Guys, my brains hurt after your intelligent conversations. But anyway, thanks, it's better for my development than swearing all the way ... "
November 15, 1973.
Tomorrow is my last day! I'm in great mood.
The smokers are never bored. Being a nonsmoker, I envied their solidarity and for they have always something to do: in the empty cell they start searching right away for matches, stubs, cigarette-butts, tobacco paper-rolls leftovers, etc. And to my astonishment, they always succeed. They find a smoking stuff in the most inconceivable places - in the wooden bed holes and bores, in the ventilation bars and, practically, in every substance formed the cell. They manage to slit a match into two or with special skill even four parts and hide them for future successors.
The same applies to butts, paper-rolls...
My cellmate Kolia has another ten days to serve. It's punishment for an escape. He promised his sister to celebrate her birthday and kept his promise. Now he has to pay for it:
"Parlov told me, if I'd come to him and asked permission, he would let me go for a couple of hours. But I don't believe in their fairy tales, heard a lot of them."
Good night comrades! Tomorrow I'm a free man.
November 16, 1973.
I didn't touch the usual gruel. What is the reason, in a few hours I'll eat a nice home food! I beat the door:
"Parlov promised to let me out by 10AM, please, remind authorities."
Time flies rapidly: 10AM has passed, then 12PM, 14PM. Impatience was always my weakest feature. I knock the door again and again.
"One more a knock and I'll get you in the Solitary." Sergeant's pink face flashes by the door.
"Parlov bragged about 'the word of an officer' ... " I mumbled.
At 3PM Sergeant opened the door:
"Strugach, now is your time."
I shook Kolia's hand goodbye and followed Sergeant. But instead of leading me downstairs, he brought me to the office of the Deputy for Internal security.
"Write a promise," Deputy puts pen and paper in front of me.
"What kind of promise?"
"That you'll be at the Prosecutor's office by 5PM."
"For what reason?"
"Regarding your statement."
I don't ask him what statement, for I wrote so many statements. He wouldn't know anyway. Besides, he just follows instruction he received from the Prosecutor's office or KGB, or whatever… That is why they hold me so long today.
There is less than two hours left. I have to go home and make myself more presentable. I'm thinking, if I'll show up in the Prosecutor office in this wrinkled dusty dress with my red two week's unshaved beard I can get back here for another fifteen days ...
"Give me more time, at least one hour. I'll stop by home for a shower and a change. Can you call him?"
"I don't have his number." Deputy looks straight in my eyes with no blinking.
"Oh, never mind."
I write the promise.
"Do you have any complaints about your treatment in the Special Detention Center," he asks. He wants to be sure I wouldn't complain to the Prosecutor.
"No the service was marvelous."
"I'm warning you that if you repeat your actions, then you'll be tried under article 206 and won't wind up here, but much farther." This is another instruction coming to me from KGB.
At last, Sergeant takes me to the checkout room where I was given my wallet, watch, etc. together with the piece of paper.
Issued to Citizen Strugach, M. G., that during the period from November 2 until 3PM on November 16, 1973 he served "15" days in the Special Detention Center of the Leningrad Oblispolkom's Ministry of Internal Affairs in accordance with the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet" Ukase of July 26, 1966 on Reinforcing Responsibility for Hooliganism.
Chief, Special Detention Center (signed)
Chief Inspector, Special detention Center (signed)
On the back of the Certificate there was a stamp:
"After your release you are obligated to pay for your upkeep in the Special Detention center 25 rubles within three days at the room 2, Kalyaeva street 6.
In the event this is not paid, the case will be taken to court."
To reader's information, an average salary in the country was 100 rubles a month.
I managed to be in time at the Prosecutor's office. The sign at the prosecutor office said:
FOR SUPERVISION OVER THE ACTIONS OF STATE SECURITY AGENCIES"
In the reception area I see familiar face - KGB Lieutenant Romanov.
Secretary invited both of us inside.
Prosecutor, a petit middle aged woman behind a huge desk, invited me and him to take seats. She says:
"I sent for you in response to your statement to the Prosecutor General. We can't add anything to what you have already been told regarding your dissertation. All the material is delivered to the Institute where you worked and whose problems it touches upon."
"But there were other files related to different subjects, and other personal papers," I insist.
"Is it true?" The question is addressed to Lieutenant Romanov.
"Yes, there are other papers too."
"You must return all unrelated material."
"Yes, we intended to do this after his time at the Detention Center".
They indeed finally returned me almost everything, but it took another seven months, written complains and many calls.
November 28, 1973
Ellen told me that after we were arrested, three of our significant others went to the Prosecutor office with the statement protesting our imprisonment.
So, today, i.e. three weeks later the answer from the Prosecutor office on their statement has arrived.
To: Citizens Ioffe N. N., Rusakova M.R., Strugach E.V.
I am informing you that your complaint about the decrees of the People's Court of Kuybyshevsky Region of the city of Leningrad on the administrative proceedings against Ioffe G.L., Zhigun L.M., and Strugach M.G. were considered.
From the material of the administrative cases, it was discovered that signs not of petty hooliganism, but of criminally punishable activity as specified in art. 206 of the RSFSR Criminal Code were present in the actions of Ioffe G.L., Zhigun L.M., and Strugach M.G.
Considering the fact that Ioffe G.L., Zhigun L.M. and Strugach M.G. have already served their designated administrative punishment, I do not consider it advisable to institute criminal proceedings against them.
I find no grounds for appealing the November 2, 1973 decrees of the People's Court of Kuybyshevsky Region of the city of Leningrad regarding Ioffe G.L., Zhigun L.M. and Strugach M.G.
Civil Legal Counselor third Class Solov'yev (signed)
Again, this ubiquitous art.206! I have to familiarize myself with it. I went to the library and found it.
ARTICLE 206. HOOLIGANISM.
"Hooliganism, i.e. intentional actions which grossly violate public order and which express obvious disrespect toward society, as well as petty hooliganism perpetrated by a person against whom measures of administrative authority for petty hooliganism were employed within a year
ARE PUNISHABLE BY DEPRIVATION OF FREEDOM FOR A PERIOD OF FROM SIX MONTHS TO ONE YEAR OR BY CORRECTIONAL WORK FOR THE SAME PERIOD OR BY A FINE FROM THIRTY TO SIXTY RUBLES."
"Malicious hooliganism, i.e. same actions which are substantively
distinguishable by extreme cynicism or by unusual insolence, or are
connected with resistance to representatives of the authorities or
representatives of society who are carrying out duties in protecting
public order or to other citizens suppressing acts of hooliganism, as
well as those perpetrated by a person previously tried for hooliganism
ARE PUNISHABLE BY DEPRIVATION OF FREEDOM FOR A PERIOD UP TO FIVE YEARS."
"Actions specified in parts one and two of the present articles, if they
are perpetrated with the use of, or an attempt to use, a firearms, knife, brass knuckles or other weapon, as well as other objects specifically adapted for inflicting bodily injury
ARE PUNISHABLE BY DEPRIVATION OF FREEDOM FOR A PERIOD OF FROM THREE TO SEVEN YEARS."
I would say the definition of hooliganism in article 206 is very similar and, rather more elaborative comparing with the Webster's definition:
Hooliganism, n. the behavior or character of a hooligan; rowdiness; vandalism.
Hooligan, n. (from Hooligan, name of an Irish family in Southwark, London.) a young ruffian, especially a member of a street gang; hoodlum.
It reminds Nabokov. Paraphrasing him my lawer would declare:
"Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen Jurors! Comrade Prosecutor equated the quiet and peaceful sitting of three nice Jewish boys in the OVIR's reception area, holding the enlarged statements of theirs demands for an answer, posters if you will, with the ruffian Irish family of The Hooligan! Moreover, he categorized it not just as a petty hooliganism, but a malicious one, i.e. distinguishable by extreme cynicism toward society. Don't you agree that it an extraordinary misconception ... "
The worst part of all is that during the next year, for any of actions "perpetrated" by me and "classified" as hooliganism I'll be imprisoned for a year or more.
December 7, 1973.
My first visit to OVIR after jail. Although I expected the same "cat and mouse" wordy game, it was different this time.
Secretary directed me to office no.3. At present were Deputy chief of Ministry on Internal Affairs of the Leningrad region Smirnov and the Chief of OVIR Bokov
In front of Smirnov were two pieces of paper, blank side up. Evidently, the long awaited decision on my case.
"Where is your wife? Why isn't she here? asks Smirnov.
"I did not receive any summons. I just scheduled a regular appointment. We weren't informed that a decision might be announced".
Smirnov exchanged glances with Bokov.
"Okay, we'll proceed without her, sit down".
Bokov switched on a tape recorder. Smirnov turns one of the sheets over and looking at it announces:
"A competent Commission of scientists has denied your departure for reasons of security at your last place of employment. According to the statute, the security restriction will be effective for up to five years or more. We will not consider your exit paperwork for a period of a year. Do not write anywhere, it is useless."
"Who is the Commission Chairman?" I asked.
"That is not for you to know. And I warn you: behave yourself. You already served fifteen days under the law". Smirnov signals to Bokov to turn the tape recorder off. I make a gesture in protest:
"Let me say something to be recorded. The basic law, the USSR Constitution, guarantees a freedom of speech, freedom of press, assembly, demonstration, right?"
"That's enough of your twaddle", roars Smirnov and turns off the tape recorder, "Goodbye".
"Don't I have to sign anything?"
Smirnov looks at me in surprise, probably knowing my habit to not sign anything, and offers me the sheet with the decision. It looks to be a form printed on a rotary Xerox. All it takes is to put a name on it and new refusenik is made. It reasons the Statute on Departure at the top and at the bottom. It says that above mentioned person is obligated not to petition for a departure nor for a review of the decision and also not to violate the public order.
I read the name being put on this document- Strugach Elena V. He gave me the wrong paper. And it says, of course, that her exit visa was denied based on the same "security reasons". But she is a watchmaker, works in the watchmaker's shop and has nothing to do with a classified information. And a couple of years earlier she did not work, just babysitting our son Greg.
"What is the Statute of Departure and where was it published? Can I read it?"
Smirnov turns to Bokov.
"Do you have the Statute?"
"Yes, but the officers have already left by now." And addressing to me "Look in the Register of the Supreme Soviet".
"In what issue?" I ask although I know that it has never been published anywhere. Otherwise entire refuseniks' community would know about it.
"I don't remember, you will find it".
"I'm sorry but in that case I can't sign it".
"I knew that you would not sign it." Smirnov writes something on the form.
" Do you have any other questions?".
"That is it. Goodbye".
Later at home listening my news Ellen exploded:
"How come they denied my application on the reason of classified information? I never dealt with such.
And I'm not an appendage to my husband. Where are so advertised their equal women's rights! I submitted my application and all paperwork independently and my forty rubles as well."
She made an appointment to Smirnov. Alas, the response was the same: her exit visa was denied due to her husband's restriction and their policy " to not wreck the families". She argued mentioning the case in which mother and daughter had been granted permission in similar situation. But all was in vain.
December 11, 1973.
Sent a statement for review of the decision to Minister of Internal Affairs Shchelokov N.A.
December 12, 1973.
Not a day without a statement! Sent request for reconsideration to Member of the Communist Party Politburo and KGB curator comrade Andropov Y.I.
December 19, 1973.
Statement to the main Law issuing body, Chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet comrade Podgorny, Member of the Communist Party Politburo. Inserted a sentence seemed to be pretty much relevant to an activity to that Bode:
"Please, instruct a review of the decision on my family case in light of the International Treaty on Civil and Political Rights which was ratified by the USSR Supreme Soviet on September 18, 1973".
January 31, 1974.
Last week of January was a productive one: sent a few statements including to Chief of the USSR All-Union OVIR's comrade Verein, to Member of Communist Party Politburo comrade Ivanov A.I., also a curator of the Ministry of Internal affairs, to to the Prosecutor General with a complaint against Ministry of Internal Affairs, to the Foreign Minister comrade Gromyco, Member of the Communist Party Politburo. In the latter, by the way, I quoted his statement where he declared that all those desiring to leave country receive a permission to do so.
February 8, 1974.
A summon to come to OVIR has arrived.
Inspector Khramchenkova was assigned to meet me. She explained that there would be no review of my case within a year from the date the official refusal was announced to me. She also advised me that I should try to get the restriction on my departure be removed at the place of my employment.
February 13, 1974.
Heard the rumors that a visit to the Central OVIR might help.
So with my friend Alexander Yampolsky we decided to take a chance and try it.
We took the night train to Moscow for a meeting with the Chief of the All-USSR OVIR. The chief has an open policy once a month. Why not to try our luck!
Alex and his brother Arcady submitted their papers for exit visas two weeks before my family and also were stuck with refusal one week after us for "reasons of security".
Alex is looking for every opportunity to meet officials, no matter of what branch of the Government they are, from OVIR to KGB and instill in them that that he did not have any direct or indirect contact with classified materials; that he worked on the development and improvement of the computer block diagrams applied to formal math operations and by no means to diagrams of Military General Staff operations, as he puts it; that he worked with soldering iron and an oscilloscopes rather than radars and the missiles launch pads; that at this time he is forced to work with sanitation equipment supervising a bunch of a half drunken crew of plumbers.
The night train from Leningrad to Moscow arrives at 5AM in the center of city. We unboarded the train and immediately headed by subway to Ogareva Street, where the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs is located.
The building is dark enormous hulk, lifeless and wanly lit from the outside at this morning hour. The guard in sheepskin coat and felt boots orders us to cross the street and join a line formed there, we are the sixth. Everybody is from a different city. A middle age couple in front of us from Ukraine. Their refusal based on grounds of nationality: she is Jewish, he is Ukrainian.
At 9 AM we are admitted to the reception room. The line swelled to fifty people, a list is made up.
At 9:30AM they began calling one at a time to the secretary for paperwork. The punch cards were made carrying all necessary information.
Alex was called first. A few minutes after he appeared disappointed. As usually, he was dragged into discussion with the Chief on the subject of historical places of Origin of the Chosen people. Otherwise, no promises.
My turn. Chief in plain clothes, suit, tie, a tall man with aristocratic manners shows me to sit. I silently hand him my statement indicated two names of my coworkers who received permission for exit visas. He examined the holes in the punch card for about half minute , read my statement, put red question marks above the coworkers names and said:
"We will look into it ".
So much hassle for so little!
March 11, 1974.
I received the letter from Dorothy Harwood living in Bloomfield, Michigan. She red my story in newspaper and thought we could be relatives, because her maiden name was Strugach. She described her family roots, history, place where she was born, when the family emigrated, etc. It looked like my family from both mother's and father's side also lived in the same area.
We started active correspondence and became good friends after arrival into this country.
Dorothy was very active in helping to resolve my case. She contacted US Government, Michigan electives and many senators asking for help. Congressman Blanchard made a speech in the US Congress in 1977 using my case as an example of violation of the Helsinki Agreement by the USSR for Congressional Records).
April 20, 1974.
A telegram from USA should be delivered to my appartment:
"MIK WILL CALL AT CENTRAL TELEGRAPH OFFICE APRIL 27 8;00AM LENINGRAD TIME 250PEOPLE TO LISTEN PLEASE HAVE STATEMENT PREPARED RECEIVED YOUR NAME FROM FRIENDS IN NEW YORK ROBERT ROOS'
Later I learned that the Temple Emanuel of Tucson, Arizona have adopted my family through the national program of the American Hebrew Congregations. The aim of the program was to write the letters, corresponds, to morally support, to advocate on behalf of the adopted families by means of appealing to authorities, whether American or Soviet, toward permission for exit visa.
They organized the Task Force headed by the 15 years old Robert Roos and Brian Rosman.
The original of that telegram was sent to me after I arrived in this country, years after the described events had taken place.
What shall I say to them in the statement they asked me to prepare? Of course, KGB will listen. Will it improve my situation or get it worse? Colonel Lebedev dropped that I'll never get a permission. So what to lose! There will be another "warning" to "behave". .. On the other hand, Government is flirting with detent, they don't want a publicity... May be they will kick me out rather expeditiously... No choice, I have to do it.
I do not do anything against the law. I'm not against the Soviet System. I just want to join my relatives abroad that is all. And it is supported by the Soviet law and by the Helsinki Accord, which they signed.
Only the facts. No speculations. No slogans. No criticism. Only what happened to me and my family. Nothing else. How I applied for visa, how collected all necessary papers, humiliating meetings at work, dismissals, interrogations, arrest, etc., etc.
April 27, 1974.
7AM, nice sunny weather. Saturday. I'm on my way on the bus #85 to the Central Telegraph of Leningrad to read my statement to 250 people in Arizona. The paper with the statement is in my pocket together with the telegram. About 8:30 AM I get off the bus at the Moscow Train Station. I have not gone five steps when feel someone tenaciously grabs me by the elbow. I turned around - the porous snout of a muscular debauchee in Mafiosi cheap leather. Just for the face alone he deserves a fifteen days in jail. He breathes in my ear:
"Okay, let's go".
At the next instant my other arm is squeezed. A tiny figure with a flat nose shines his iron teeth at me hanging the body mass on my shoulder. Passengers on the bus watch surprisingly through the windows, pedestrians stop, forming a small crowd around. I'm under the shock and completely silent.
Another brisk silhouette, with his hat pulled down over his eyes and his collar turned up, is energetically approaching from the front. He loudly screams at me intentionally playing to the public:
"Why are you cursing, why are you swearing!"
His face is familiar. Where did I see him? Oh, yes he is our appartment' block police commissar in plain clothes, named Mukhin. A couple of months ago he knocked at my door to warn me not to go to Moscow to participate in the forthcoming demonstration of refuseniks.
I realize, they're not a gang to rob me, they're an arm of the Government or the KGB. Any resistance is useless.
They pulled me to the Jeep waiting behind the bus. Evidently, they were following me on my way from home and, obviously, watched me on prior days to block me from having conversation with Arizona.
The vehicle is driven back to my region, Okhta. My thoughts are with those two hundred and fifty people that are gathered and are expecting me right now at the phone with my speech... By this time the call from Arizona might go through, probably. I might be called to the booth to talk. But here I am in the Jeep between "comrades" holding my arms.
They stopped at the local police station of my region and escorted me to the office with sign "Commissioner" on the door. Mukhin ordered comrades" to stay outside. He opened the file laying in the middle of the desk, pulled the sheet of paper and put it in front of me:
COUNCIL FOR RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS
LENINGRAD CHORAL SINAGOGUE
It became known, that a certain Strugach M.G. is a visitor to the synagogue, intends to assassinate of our political leaders. It is also known that he submitted exit paperwork for the state of Israel and that at present time he has been refused for security reasons. As revenge he borrowed a firearm to carry out his intention. It is also known that he served a 15-days sentence in October for demonstrating with posters at the OVIR>
Synagogue representative . . . . . .(signed)
Reader should understand an absurdity of statement "borrowing a firearm". Nowhere in this vast country you can "borrow" or even buy any kind of "firearm", except a hunting rifle with a hunting permit.
"What do you think about this?"
He lightened his a cigarette.
I'm speechless. What they decided to do with me? How serious is this. Colonel Lebedev said they didn't intend to make a Hero out of me. Do they change their mind?
"Take everything from your briefcase and from your pockets! Let's see what kind of weapons you carry."
Again, reader, this sounds as a joke for the soviet ears. It is not Texas where you can buy gun at every corner. It is impossible to obtain a gun in the Soviet Union.
As in dream, I laid out my notebooks, Robert Roos' telegram, letters, the prepared statement and all sort of papers, books and content from my briefcase, my overcoat pockets, and my jackets and pants pockets. As ill luck, the draft of refusenik's letter to the United Nations also was there. Shall I ask for a search warrant?.. in a professional manner he searched through my pockets and as he reads my mind says:
"I am not searching you. You're showing it on your own."
He called the "comrade" waiting outside and handed him the Ross's telegram to go get it translated.
"Comrade" returned in about ten minutes. Mukhin reads the translation and says:
"I must call the Committee." It is the way militia names KGB.
He reported a result of his search and status of his "operation". He listens to further instructions and demonstrates obedience.
The state of shock gradually leaves me. My mood returns to normal. Does this guy have any sense of humor:
"May I use your phone? You know, I expect the telephone call from a long distance at the Central Telegraph station just this minute, so it may be transferred here ... if you don't mind."
Commissioner doesn't share my black humor letting my request slip from his ears unattended and starts to fill up a provisional arrest report. Asks me tons of questions: if I have a weapon, where it is hidden, do I attend synagogue, and why (a "normal" soviet citizen doesn't attend any religious institutions), where do I work, and how I make a living, etc., etc.
Then, as usual, he asks me to sign. As usual, I refuse to do so, much to his surprise.
He call the "comrade" to witness and to sign the paper. Another paper is being prepared regarding confiscation of my "found" material and content of my briefcase and pockets.
When all this this bureaucratic procedure is finished, he escorts me downstairs to sit on the bench next to the cells.
Apparently, they are waiting for instructions what to do with me.
Couple of hours passed. The Chief with the retinue are coming down to the cells:
"Are there any prisoners?"
The cell doors are opened for him and voices ring out from within.
I try to attract his attention:
"I'm a prisoner".
"You are not a prisoner". Chief is in good mood.
"But I'm under arrest."
"You are not under arrest".
"Then I can go home?"
"Not right now".
Still they do not know what to do with me and are waiting for instructions from KGB.
I'm not under arrest, I'm not locked in the cell, yet, I'm not free to go. I would call this status "limited degree of freedom". Like Orwell put it: under socialism "everybody is equal, but some people more equal than others".
I ask to make a phone call. Refused. There is no reason for pessimism.
As one refusenik used to say: Pessimist is well informed Optimist and an Optimist is well instructed Pessimist. So by now, I'm not well informed, so I'm not a Pessimist and not well instructed, so I'm not an Optimist. Something in between.
Finally, after couple of hours instructions have arrived. Again, I was ordered to take everything from my pockets.
Together with my briefcase all my belongings were put in the bag, even my shoelaces.. In this society, if you get inside these walls, you've only one way to go.
I'm given to read and sign a typed report. It says that two militiamen on guard testify, they approached me at 7:30AM near the Moscow Train Station, showed their ID's and asked me to show my passport, to which I maliciously resisted using the foul language. My action forced them to take me to militia department where I continued to use the foul language and resist.
As an attachment, two handwritten semiilliteral statements of "comrades" with numerous grammar and punctuation errors were stapled.
"Do you agree with this report?" asks the sergeant.
"You can write your explanation right here. And signature right here."
I write "outrageous lie" and sign it.
Shortly, they inform me that the trial will be on Monday.
I'm locked in a small stuffy cell. About twenty men are crowded inside, that there is no room to sit down.
Fortunately, by nighttime only six men are left in the cell, the rest are taken away.
Around 10:30PM the sound of loud protesting voice mixed with cry reaches me. It is my wife, Ellen. I hear she demands an explanation, demands to see me, but they chase her out. Later she told me that she searched for me the entire day and whichever the police department she inquired, they did not have information. And only at 10PM her search was answered.
It was very long day and I could close my diary writing for so many events has happened. But I can't forget one character that impressed me. He was intelligently looking middle age man with spectacles and bright light summer coat. He was brought at late evening hour and didn't stop repeating "How can this be, how this can be". And to escorted sergeant: "Comrade militiamen, this is a mistake ... Let me make a phone call. Let me go. Let me talk to authorities. I have decoration, ordines. Here is my party card. I'm a respected person. I discovered a mineral deposits" ... He could not understand in any way that he had fallen on the conveyer and will get off it in "X" number of days (where X=15).
Later I saw him frequently. In jail, on walks, at prisoner's work. Unshaven, calm, in working clothes and small beret he didn't stand out from the rest of the cons. The system unifies everybody to the common denominator no matter who you were. The publicity at his workplace saddened him most of all. "I must quit, how I can look people in the eye. I should go off sight, back to expedition".
Unlike him, I was not bothered with my current "coworkers" opinion. For last four months I had been working as an elevator operator, occupation that doesn't require any skills, and a fifteen days sentence was not such a rarity among that profession.
How he got in jail? This man was at home when his unfriendly brother in law visited. There was a bottle of wine, arguments, quarrel, . Brother in law threaten him to put him behind bars, to which he replied with laughs "oh, yea, you really can put me behind the bars ..." And eventually brother in law actually did it: he call to militia, and as you can see, soon this man found himself behind the bars.
April 28, 1974.
The first night passed well.
Six prisoners had settled down side by side on the wide wooden construction stretched from the wall to wall in the cell. The small trifle's not worth counting that the abundance of bedbugs attacking us from inside the honeycombed walls would interrupt otherwise a sweet dream. The cons call this type of walls - a hardened layer of freely thrown plaster - "fur coat". You can't write on it, you can't knock on it.
We were fed once with a huge bowl of pea soup served with bread.
Toward evening, for some higher reasons, we were transferred to another militia station in the suburbs. It was small old wooden house with tiny cells, without windows and frightfully cold. During the night, I got up few times to make exercise to warm up, in spite the fact that I was sleeping in my coat and all garments.
April 29, 1974.
It was announced that the court would come here.
In anticipation of the visiting judges, all belonging have been given back to everybody. We should look like free citizens before the just trial, in front of the judges. And our empty stomachs anyway are invisible to the court, so we were not fed at all:
"You will eat either at your home for the "lucky ones" or at the jail on Kalyaeva street."
Another group of "free citizens" has been brought, so about thirty people were subjected to the trial.
The waiting crowd in the reception room was too big for these tiny old farmers' house. The hum was loud and air was getting stuffy. Those near window opened it and the snowflakes were blown inside.
What a surprise, I see Ellen and friends outside the window. I push through the crowd closer to the window.
"We were at the regional court and they directed us here." She rushes to the window, the snowflakes cover her hair."
'Do you believe, I saw Gubanov here? All refuseniks are talking about you. American tourist group paid us a visit. Zev Jaroslavsky from the Los Angeles city government was among them. Lots of inquires ... We'll see what they are going to do, but in light of such interest to your arrest, I don't think they dare to commit something serious ... we all love you ...'
Militiaman approached and closed the window.
KGB captain Gubanov interrogated Ellen and me back in the summer of 1973. So he is still "on my case". Whatever will happen, it is designed by KGB.
Court begins in the small office, with no public admitted. One by one people are called. Everyone gets his fifteen days apiece, precisely covering all holiday season: from the May 1st to the May 2nd, then the May 9th till the May 15th. Only one lucky old man will eat at home today: got away only with fine.
It is my turn. The judge-happen to be the Chairman of the regional Court, with worn brown suit, surrounded by mountain of file-cases, two militiamen are next to him. I moved to the chair, but they stopped me. The judge cursorily read through my file-case. I see already familiar report with 'foul language', 'resists', 'passport', etc.
"What do you say?" he asks me.
I'm thinking: I'm given a chance to show him that I'm polite, inteligencia class person, with good behavior, obedience, with good citizenship, and all that should appeal to his senses.
"Comrade Judge, I never use foul language, I don't drink, never smoke. I'm a good family man and taking good care of my four years old sick child. Those people that grabbed me did not ask me to show anything, I was on my way to the Central Telephone station. They seized me and threw me into vehicle and I did not put up the slightest resistance ..."
"So, they are all lying and you are the only one telling the truth?"
"In this case that is correct".
"Why should I believe you and not them?" He writes something for a long time and then reads:
In accordance with the statements, the Court finds petty hooliganism and resistance to authorities in the action of Strugach M.G. and sentences him to fifteen days detention in accordance with the February 15, 1962 Ukase of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Court "On Reinforcing Responsibility for Infringing Upon the Life, Health and Dignity of Militia Officials and the People's Volunteer Guards" and the Ukase of July 26, 1966 "On Reinforcing Responsibility for Hooliganism".
He closes the file and makes a gesture to the door indicating the case is over. He is in a hurry: others are waiting for his "service". He is not interested in my response or comments.
Outside, militiaman shows me the way, as by some mysterious telecommunication means he reads the verdict, like it is written on my forehead, to "play piano" as they call a procedure of taking fingerprints.
Another fifteen days. Do I deserve it? Someone famous said that everybody gets what he deserves. Did I make wrong decision? No. I had to go to answer the Arizona call. I anyway, probably, they followed me for a few days before the call day, and no matter what way to the Central Telegraph Station I would choose, they would caught me.
At 5PM a "limousine" arrived to take new cohort of inhabitants to Kalyaeva prison. At the exit door Sergeant reads a list and one by one a crowd fills the vehicle smoothly. When my turn comes, all of a sudden an impediment arises. Two militiamen argue something evidently related to my case. I hear:
"This is not their business ... " And:
"They are not conducting it ... "
They put my file aside and send me back to the cell.
A "limousine" left.
Again, I'm in a middle of uncertainty. Jail doesn't want to take me! What does that mean? May be I'll be freed?
The answer was foolishly simple. In a fit of zeal the judge indicated two Ukases as grounds for the detention: first- " ... Infringing upon the Life, Health ... of Militia Officials"... and another on" ... Hooliganism ... ".In other words, the same "action" was characterized under two different articles of law. No, it was not this legal subtlety that was important to the jail bureaucracy, which they, of course, would not have been squeamish about, but, rather the ordinary fact, that in compliance with the 1966 Ukase, I'm supposed to be charged 15 rubles for the stay in jail, whereas not under the 1962 Ukase.. Also, under the former one, you can get fifteen days every month, but under the latter, only once a year, whereas a repeated "Hooliganism" within a year of offence is treated as a criminal action under article 206. Considering that within last few months I was already sentenced for a petty hooliganism, they can incriminate a criminal case against me.
What is my fate? I'm at their mercy. More precisely, at the KGB mercy. Under an escort, I'm taken by a public trolley, back to my "alma mater", the regional 22nd Militia Department. I say "alma mater" because it "takes care" of the local inhabitants' all personal affairs through their entire life: issuing birth certificates, internal passports, resident permit, marital status stamp, etc., etc. It watches if someone doesn't work and ready to prosecute for "parasitism" in the country with "universal employment".
I'm locked up again behind the bars and hear the captain calls for instructions on my fate:
"If we keep him under the 1966 Ukase, then we have to proceed in accordance with the article 206, as you aware, he served already fifteen days in October ... "
What is my fate? A year or days, a year or days ... A prisoner from Gulag, probably, would smile ironically "big deal, a year, fifteen days ... " But here I am, never seriously dealt with militia, never was arrested, except that, in October, but that was just a collective protest to get a decision on visa application; I was a nerd all my life, meticulously and diligently doing my homework, wrote a dissertation as any good mama's boy, always punctually followed a schedule; never was separated from a family, only for a month or so being sent to a farm work with entire class in college years every summer or fall. In 1958 it was four months working in Kazakhstan under the Khrushchev's policy of developing virgin new lands for farming. Even military rank of lieutenant was granted to me not after serving in the army, but, as to every other student of my college, after six years of mandatory classes on every kinds of weaponry, navy strategy, tactics, etc., although it was civil, not a military institution. Essentially, I never was in danger. I don't count a mountain climbing in Caucasus and Pamir's mountains, which I joined to test my strength. And, lately, a family man, with usual family life's every day's problems, getting child into a nursery school in the morning and home after, and so on and so on.
Incidentally, someone else appeared in the cell with similar problem. His name was Morev. A small man with a worn winter coat and wrinkled kepi. His wife, whose tolerance to Morev's drunkenness came to the end, put him in jail. She, obviously, regrets it now, because comes running to Morev with food few times a day. He served already 15 days a month ago. He likes to be a center of attention and describes proudly his situation.
In the evening another character was shoved in the cell. It was hard to say if he pretended or really was excessively wild and drunk. He yelled, swore, banged on the iron cell's door. In the middle of night he all of a sudden slipped down off the wooden shelf-bed then jumped up with awful scream:
"There he is, there he is ... " pointing and waving his arms in direction of his huge shadow on the wall as at someone invisible.
Three police officers burst in, pushed him to the floor and enforced him into a straight jacket while he was pounding on the floor. Then they drugged him out, doctor appeared with a first aid case and he was taken away.
Was it an act or a fit? Still a mystery, but the guy sleeping close to him assured that he heard him saying "now I will go mad ... "
The next day he was brought back and later I saw him in a crowd and he seemed to be an average.
April 30, 1974.
This morning Morev is freed. He is happy to inform us that his case is subjected to 206. His happiness is beyond of my understanding, but seeing all kinds of people during these ordeals I learned not to judge by my logic or standards.
When door opened to release Morev, I asked sergeant what about my case.
"You are incredibly lucky, you stay under 1962 Ukase. We sent your papers back to court for correction."
This is good news. I'll get through another fifteen and not a year. Ellen was right. KGB doesn't want to make a big Hero-case around me.
Waiting, waiting ... By and large, the waiting is the worst part of fifteen days sentence. You count hours, days, number of breakfasts, lunches and dinners; you try to speed up time, but it drugs on tirelessly slow ... The best confirmation of time's relativity under different systems of measurement. It is one thing, a truism, to say that a confinement and imprisonment eat up your lifetime, but it another thing when you actually realize it living through. Reading and writing, if it would be permitted, could make time flow much easier.
So, I was waiting to be transported to Kalyaeva. At least, there is "work" time schedule, social contacts, no vagueness ...
Finally, by evening they take me to Kalyaeva. I have spent almost four days in the PDS (preliminary detention cell), although by law it can not be more than three, but who cares.
And, of course, here at Kalyaeva, my hair, which was beginning to grow out after previous imprisoning, again, fell on the concrete prison floor.
May 9, 1974.
During the last eight days there were five holidays. So we were taken to work only three times. Pretty boring! A couple of times we worked in jail yard axing the old cables into small chunks of scrap. The rest of the time - distressful confinement listening conversations, "true stories", obscenities, rumors ...
Someone heard from militiaman that BBC and "German Shortwave" supposedly reported my arrest.
May 10, 1974.
Today is my last day, tomorrow - freedom. One more night, one more khryapa with bread.
They took us to work. It was cleaning trash and dust at a building construction site. I managed to make a phone call to Alexander Yampolsky. Soon he appeared at the opposite side of street with Girsh Iosfin.
Risking an added sentence, I run crossing the street and embraced friends inside the building stairway. I was rewarded with a bundle of sandwiches.
Yes, they listened BBC and "German Short waves" report about my arrest. Also, the Jackson amendment would be passed to bring us more hopes for exit visas.
In the evening, militiaman came for me clanging bunch of keys and escorted to the Box. My joyful anticipation of tomorrow's liberation is evaporated. Another surprise was in the store. Everybody knew that if they moved you to the Box to spend the last night, then the next day you would be transferred to Kresty prison, meaning a bigger case is prepared for you. For instance, if the fingerprints just taken from you have been matched with ones of unresolved cases, etc.
Anyway, it was enough to ruin my fortnight sleep.
May 11, 1974
From early morning I'm trying to find out my fate asking every guard, but without success. Everybody from my cell was taken to work to the "mine", except me. I was left alone and begged the new guard to call authorities:
"My fifteen days expire today, be so kind, what time I'll be free to go ... "
He was in good mood and made a call to the office for me.
"You will go home today."
"Supervisor" (one of the Box inhabitant) brought rags and bucket and ordered me to clean the area. By the time cleaning reached the toilet, fortunately, I was relieved by an AIA officer who took me to the prison's chief office.
Two men, familiar faces from KGB, Captain Gubanov and Lieutenant Romanov are in the office. Only now I understand why they transferred me to the Box overnight - to prepare me for this "appointment", since all cells are empty and being cleaned while inhabitances are taken to work.
I pull the ski cap off my bold head and sit down.
"You know why we are meeting with you, of course," Gubanov, more senior with streaks of gray in his hairs, emanating his superiority.
They always start with this sentence. Very convenient move for them. When a victim is frightened, he or she might burst into confession of his or her sins making it much easier for them.
"I have no idea", I say.
"Who is Robert Roos and how do you know him?"
What a question. They have a full time good paying job to observe my every move and my every breath and perfectly know all my correspondence and all my contacts. Any question like that sounds to me not deserving the answers.
"When you are going to let me go and give permission for an exit visa?"
"The better you behave, the sooner you will leave".
"So, if I behave well, when I can leave?"
"We can't say; we do not handle emigration cases." When it suits them, they say that it is precisely them who decide on exit visas.
"Nevertheless, give me your best estimate."
"Well, in about two or three years. Meanwhile, sign this."
Lieutenant Romanov carefully takes a sheet of paper from a glossy, black-streaked leather case and places it in front of me on a table. It is preprinted blank with names typed in:
"Officials of the Committee for State Security, Capt. Gubanov and Sr.Lt. Romanov, informed Strugach M. of his responsibility under article 190 of the Criminal Code in meeting foreign citizens for slanderous purposes."
They sat quietly while I read. I'm not in a hurry to return to my cell. This office with big window is much more pleasant. Capt. Gubanov, the one with gray hair, pulls a huge volume from his case. It is "The Criminal Code of the USSR".
"We know, Strugach, your inquisitive inclinations, so I brought this book just in case.
"May I look what the article 190 stands for?" I point on the book.
"Go ahead, look."
I opened the book. Its thousands of pages with a small print required hours of study. I glanced trough few pages and feel these gentlemen patience begins exhausted.
"When you'll get out of here, go to the library and read. Now you must sign this document." Says Sr.Lt. Romanov.
"I'll not sign it".
"I'm not engaged in slander, nor am I meeting foreigners for slanderous purposes."
"And is this not a slander?" Capt. Gubanov pulls from his case my notebook, the draft statements that were confiscated from me fifteen days ago. The frayed scrap of the draft letter-appeal to the US Jewish community from refuseniks has been neatly retyped by KGB.
"Where do you see any slander here?"
"These your propaganda sentences with "unjustified exit visa rejections", "human rights violations", "illegal dismissals from work, interrogations", "Helsinki Agreement Family Reunion noncompliance", etc, etc. You are perfectly aware, Strugach, that you've had admission to classified information and even your dissertation was classified. Also, we offered you a job, close to home, but you didn't bother to accept it."
"That small shipbuilding plant was classified".
"It has lowest level of clearance".
"I don't need any clearance, because I want to leave".
"We're wasting time, will you sign it?"
"We expected this kind of behavior, this is your way. But we'll manage without your signature. So, we'll just write here: refused to sign". He writes remarks on the form. Romanov gets up:
"Give your wife a warning from us on her bad behavior".
"What did she do?"
"Here, please," Gubanov neatly takes a sheet of paper from his folder with a typewritten text.
"Radio of Liberty transmitted a report about your arrest. Where do these contacts of your wife come from?"
"This is the first time I'm hearing that my wife have any contacts with Radio Liberty. I know all her friends. What did Radio of Liberty transmit?" I asked this being sure I won't get any answer. But, to my surprise, he reads it, and even with openly demonstrated interest.
It followed from the text he reads of the report that the Jewish congregation of the city of Tucson, Arizona, adopted my family and invited for a conversation. And that on the way to the Central Telephone Station I was arrested under suspicion of keeping a weapon.
"It makes no difference since Radio Liberty is jammed throughout the city and can't be heard anyway. So, besides you and my wife nobody will find out about my arrest, don't worry".
"You have bad receiver," laughs Romanov, raising and showing end of conversation.
"Are you going to return my papers that now are in your possession?"
"Don't get excited about this subject: you'll get everything at your local militia department, except, of course, this your statement to the congregation and the refusenick's letter".
At last, again I was freed. And another collection items was given to me:
Issued to Citizen Strugach, M. G., that during the period from April 27 until 4PM on May 11, 1974 he served a 15 days sentence in the Special Detention Center of the Leningrad Oblispolkom's Ministry of Internal Affairs in accordance with the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet Ukase of November 15, 1962 on "Reinforcing Responsibility for Infringing Upon the Life, Health and Dignity of Militia Officials and People's Volunteer Guards".
Chief, Special Detention Center (signed)
Chief Inspector, Special detention Center (signed)
May 15, 1974.
Upon being freed, I went to the library to study the Article 190. Here is what is stated in the "Commentary on the USSR Criminal Code", Legal Literature Publishing House, Moscow, 1971.
"Dissemination of statements known to be false which defame the Soviet governmental and social system, as well as making or dissemination works with said content in written, printed or other form - is punishable by deprivation of freedom for period up to 3 years or correctional work for a period up to 1 year or a fine up to 100 rubles".
The crimes specified by article 190 are distinguished from anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda (art. 70) by the absence of the purpose of undermining Soviet authority on the part of the guilty party or the absence of the accomplishment of any distinct, especially dangerous state crimes (see commentary to art. 70).
Statements known to be false which defame the Soviet governmental and social system are those statements about facts and circumstances which allegedly took place and which defame Soviet society and government and whose lack of correspondence with reality was known to the guilty party when he disseminated said statements. The dissemination of statements whose falsity is not known to the person disseminating them, as well as of expressions of mistaken evaluations, judgments or propositions, does not constitute a crime as specified by article 190.
Criminal responsibility for oral dissemination of statements known to be false only ensues if similar actions are systematically perpetrated, that is repeatedly.
Making or disseminating works with said content in written, printed or other form does not require a systematic nature and it entails responsibility even in the case when such actions are perpetrated once.
Works with said content are works in which statements known to be false which defame the Soviet governmental and social system are stated or expressed, that is they contain information which does not correspond to reality about facts that allegedly took place and which defame Soviet society and government. Making or disseminating works which express a negative attitude toward Soviet reality on the part of the person who prepared them, but which do not contain statement of the nature mentioned which are known to be false, does not entail responsibility under art.190.
The form and method of making the works named in article 190 are of no importance in assessing responsibility. These can be literary works, letters, any documents, pictures, photographs, sound recordings, etc.
Dissemination of works of this kind means their transfer to even one person or the intentional creation of conditions for such a transfer. The guilty person must be aware without a doubt that:
a) By his expression he is disseminating, that is informing other people of statements named in article 190, or by his action he is making or disseminating works with said content.
b) The information disseminated by him (expressed in works) is false, i.e. does not correspond to reality.
c) Based on their content, these statements defame the Soviet governmental and social system.
The article commented upon does not stipulate responsibility for keeping works which contain false statements defaming the Soviet governmental and social system; however, keeping such works for the purpose of their subsequent dissemination constitutes preparation for a crime specified by article 190 (see also commentary to art. 70).
So, this is what the comrades are charging me with: statements known to me to be false which defame both the Soviet government and society together with entire governmental and social systems! Again, paraphrasing Nabokov: "Respectful Ladies and Gentlemen! My only desire is to obtain permission for an exit visa, to unite with my relatives abroad. Nothing more. I don't have anything against the Soviet social and/or governmental system. As my collegue-refusenick Girsh Iosfin constantly remind us: "We're not fighting with Ukase on Alcoholism ... "
I'm not a lawyer, rather a physicist. But to me this article 190 with great smartness deeply generalize the substance of anti-Soviet entity to such a degree that any expression or action can be subjected to a prosecution. As a matter of fact many thousands had been exiled and prosecuted based on this instrumental article 190.
I'm sure this diary as well can be attributed to "defamatory activity" subjected in article 190. But Ladies and Gentlemen, all I wrote in this diary was pure truth; G-D forbids nothing was "intentional", it all describes facts happened, in reality, not in my dream ...
May 17, 1974.
We take freedom for granted. Only being deprived of it you realize how sweet freedom is. There are many degrees of freedom: freedom to travel, to own, to act upon others ... All these are degrees of freedom superimposing with power, money, and power of money. In my case it is the lowest level of freedom: to physically move to wherever and whenever you want; eat, sleep wherever and whenever you want, to call and talk on telephone. We are bored with our everyday routine, we are waiting vacations, and we feel constrained, and not free with responsibilities to be employees, parents and citizens. All of us need a little imprisonment once in a while to appreciate our liberty. Not much, but within fifteen days. After that we'll appreciate and enjoy simple life and happiness of just being healthy.
I made few calls regarding a return of my papers: to local militia, which referred me to Lieutenant Romanov, who assured me that "you'll receive them in few days". They indeed called me a couple of weeks later into "Bolshoi Dom" (KGB headquarter) and returned all "unrelated" materials. I had to meticulously sign a long list of "inventory" for every piece of my papers, folders and bindings.
Also, sent a several letters with statements and complaints just to keep "businesses" alive.
To my surprise the letter from the Prosecutor Office arrived. It was addressed to Ellen on her complaint on my arrest half a month ago.
USSR Prosecutor's Office
Prosecutor's Office of the City of Leningrad
Prosecutor of the Department for Supervision
Of Criminal Cases in the Courts Maslennikova L.I.
To: Citizen Strugach E.V.
I am informing you that the Prosecutor of the City of Leningrad appealed the Decree of the People's Judge of Krasnogvardeysky Region by which your husband, Strugach M.G. was found administratively responsible.
Signed: Maslennikova L.I.
I always was an optimist: I believe that the fairness exists and people in their hearts mostly are good. I was innocent and long live the truth!
May 29, 1974
Another letter arrived from the City Court.
RSFSR Supreme Court, Leningrad City Court, (No. K-19)
Isakova,N.S, Acting Chairman, Leningrad City Court.
To: Comrade Vlasov,V.G.,Chairman, Krasnogvardeysky Regional Court City of Leningrad, Comrade Solov'ev, S.E., Prosecutor , City of Leningrad, Comrade Solov'ev, S.E.
C.C: Special Detention Center of Leningrad Oblast, AIA, Liteiny prospect 4.
Citizen Strugach M.G.
I am sending the administrative material for case no. 7-539 on Strugach, M.G. under the Ukase of February 1962 " ON Reinforcing Responsibility for Infringing Upon the Life, Health, and Dignity of Militia officials and People's Volunteer Guards" for review.
Attachments: 1st addressee - administrative material;
2nd, 3rd, 4th addressees- information copies.
Signed: Isakova, N.S.
On May 27 1974, the Acting Chairman of Leningrad City Court, Isakova, N.S., after reviewing the administrative material in relation to Strugach M.G., based on an appeal by the Prosecutor of the city of Leningrad
On 29 April, 1974, based on the Decree of peoples judge, comrade Vlasov, of the Krasnogvardeysky Region People's Court, on the grounds of art 1 of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet's Ukase of 15 February 1962 "On Reinforcing Responsibility for Infringing Upon Life, Health and Dignity of Militia Officials and People's Volunteer Guards",
Strugach M.G. was found administratively responsible and was subjected to 15 days detention for the fact that on 27 April 1974 he was maliciously disobedient while being detained by militia officials and supernumerary militia assistants: he refused to show his identification and to accompany them and he escaped.
In his appeal, the Prosecutor of the city of Leningrad requests that the decree be reversed due to the fact that the facts of the case were not investigated and he requests that the administrative material be sent for a review.
Having examined the administrative case material I found the appeal warranted.
The Ukase of 15 February 1962 established responsibility for opposition to legal actions of militia officials and people's volunteer's guards, therefore, the court should have established the legality of Strugach detention by militia officials.
In violation of these requirements of the law, the judge did not examine the circumstances, which were grounds for Strugach detention, and he did not point out in the decree what specific violations on the part of Strugach necessitated his detention on 27 April 1974.
The people's judge did not examine district inspector's Mukhin's statement that Strugach was detained by him on suspicion of keeping a firearm.
Strugach's explanation of the circumstances, which were grounds for the detention and of the cause for his disobedience also, absents in the administrative case.
During the review, the people's judge must examine: the militia official's statement that they possessed material relating to Strugach, the necessity for calling him to give an explanation for 27 April 1974 and the need for detaining Strugach under the circumstances established in the case material. Evaluate the evidence obtained and resolve the question of the legality of the administrative proceedings brought against him.
On the grounds of the foregoing and guided by art 2 of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet's Decree of 4 April 1962 "On Using Authoritative Measures for Malicious Disobedience to a Lawful Order or Demand of Militia Official or People's Volunteer Guard",
It is decreed,
That the decree of the people's judge of the Krasnogvardesky Region People's Court relating to Strugach M.G. is reversed; remand the administrative material No 7-539 for review at the same people's court with different composition
Acting Chairman, Leningrad City Court:
Witness: Senior Consultant
I hate to receive any letters, summons, "notification" etc. from courts, police, and government. They all represent oppressive powers; they can ruin your entire day at best and your life at worst. You never get anything positive from them.
This letter looks suspiciously in my favor. They order "to reverse" he court decision?! What kind of "reverse" they keep in mind? Hard to believe, it will be better "reverse". Rather, probably, authorities changed their minds and want to give me something more severe. Read this sentence, for example, "he was maliciously disobedient while being detained by militia officials and supernumerary militia assistants: he refused to show his identification and to accompany them and he escaped."
In reality, these "militia officials and supernumerary militia assistants" were dressed in civil clothes; they grabbed me from behind and pushed into their car, without showing any their ID's, or asking me anything. And why should they had asked my ID if they were following me few days. With no any questioning, they enforce me "to accompany them" and there were no chance that "he escaped" or for any kind of "opposition to legal action" or " infringing Upon Life, Health and Dignity of Militia Officials and People's Volunteer Guards".
All chain of events is distorted here and presented as a fact. Prosecutor wants the judge to "examine the circumstances, which were grounds for Strugach detention, and he (judge) did not point out in the decree what specific violations on the part of Strugach necessitated his detention on 27 April 1974". You better ask KGB, they would tell you, the true reason: the telegram from Tucson, Arizona, and my intention to talk to American people.
And where this comes from: "The people's judge did not examine district inspector's Mukhin's statement that Strugach was detained by him on suspicion of keeping a firearm". This turn makes me worry. What if they want to imply me that. They can do any tricks they want, even drop "firearm" into my flat or briefcase. They searched my apartment last year, when confiscated my papers and perfectly knew I didn't have any firearm. Of course, they could implant any firearm then, but, fortunately, they didn't. So what this new story all about? I have to be very careful now and warn Ellen and Greg to watch out.
Next, Prosecutor wants the judge to include the "Strugach explanation of the circumstances, which were grounds for the detention and of the cause for his disobedience". I have already given to judge all "explanations", but, apparently, he ignored to include them into file.
And how do you like the words" the necessity for calling him to give an explanation for 27 April 1974". If you name this method of action "calling" you are no better then the Pinochet regime's tactic to your own people. I would call it a kidnapping amidst of city crowds in the daylight time.
Anyway, the show is going to be repeated, and the outcome is uncertain again.
June 5, 1974
A summon arrived to appear for new trial on 12 June.
I went to the regional Court office to get familiar with files on my case.
It was sunny warm day, one of rare gift from nature to this northern city of mostly cloudy and windy streets. The office was on the first floor of new building. In fact, during last decade this entire region was reconstructed with 5-7 floors' buildings of light gray colored standard architecture. First floors were given to stores or government offices, other floors to residential.
Secretary, small woman with dark hair and big brooch looked for my file:
"The Chairman of the Court has this case", she pointed to the man in familiar brown suit, walking through the corridor. It was the same judge "managing" my case on 29 April. He recognized me immediately.
"It is not authorized to familiarize you with the administrative cases". He vanishes behind his door's office. I turn back to the secretary:
"May I ask you the name of the judge handling my case now?"
"Judge Zilenchuk". She showed his door.
I knocked to the door.
"Come in". Very young men for a judge position, in his thirties.
I introduced myself and explained the reason for coming.
"Of course, of course, please, here is the file". I sit and started reading. At this moment the Chairman of the Court entered the office, as if he knew my moves. He approached Zilenchuk and whispers something to his ear. Zilenchuk says addressing to me:
"Please, wait outside, I will let you know". I stepped outside and waited.
After waiting about ten minutes I opened the door to remind about my existence. The Chairman was not in the office.
"I'm sorry, we don't acquaint people with administrative cases".
No luck. Laws are not applicable to refusenicks. We're outcasts.
June 12, 1974
Many refuseniks arrived at the trial. With so much publicity, including international media involvement, we expected a fair trial, condemning this kind of "calling" of citizens. I was prepared to present an "explanation of the circumstances, which were grounds for the detention and of the cause for his disobedience". We thought the government wants to show a windfall in the basket of a dètente.
The pair of "supernumerary militia assistants" also showed up. They were dressed in suits with white shirts, sticking out cuffs, collars and ties; faces are freshly shaved. Their tattoos and scars has been hidden.
But our expectations were premature, and exaggeratedly naïve. No difference to the first trial. Empty, formal questions, ignorance to my "explanation of the circumstances", accentuated agreeable attention to supernumerary militia assistant's testimony, which was a lie that they spitted out without any blinking. It resembled the courtroom scene in Bertold Brecht's "The Career of Arturo Wie".
Finally, the Judge announces that my detention was legal and justified. He reads the new decree which does not differ in any way from the previous one: after all, everything was correct I deserve to be sentenced to fifteen days again. But since I already served it, then that's enough.
As they say: Finite la comedie! You complained and asked the appeal, comrade Ellen Strugach. Here we are! We're very democratic, responsive to working class, and our legal system is progressive and the best in the World.
June 25, 1974
Propaganda machine is working in full pace fanfaring President Nixon's visit to the USSR. A detente is prospering. Few refuseniks were granted permission for exit visas.
Colonel Lebedev stopped by Ellen's work and warned her not to leave the city for the next ten days. At the evening Captain Gubanov ringed my flat's door and gave me the same warning.
"Behave properly, if you want to get permission".
Dorothy informed me that she managed to put my name in the list of refuseniks, which Nixon intends to give to the Soviet Government with request to reconsider their cases. It'll be part of negotiations for granting the USSR the Trade Favorite Nation status.
A little Hope warmed our hearts.
What this visit brings us?
We were granted exit visas by the summer of 1978. It took us five and half years to struggle. Significant efforts had been made by Dorothy, whose relentless letters, contacts, and calls finally materialized. It was evident, when the inspector of the Leningrad OVIR, after stating the positive decision on our case, said:
"And notify your American relatives right away".
We received numerous congratulations from the US authorities, including Senator Barry Goldwater. Also, there was a speech of Congressman Blanchard as well as some of the numerous publications regarding our ordeal.
And, finally, an article in the Detroit Free Press describing our arrival into the USA.
It was commemoration of new beginning.