Refuseniks in Novosibirsk

At the beginning of April, Yuri and Anna Berkovsky were arrested in the Siberian town of Novosibirsk. Since then no word has been heard from them. A few hours after their arrest, the police handed their five year old daughter to her grandmother. the charge against the Berkovskys appears to be one of speculation.

they had taken some of their belongings down to the open market in Novosibirsk to obtain ready cash in order to buy food. (Both husband and wife have been unemployed for some time). all deals are conducted at a fixed rate and such markets are a normal feature of Soviet life.

On this occasion, however, the Berkovskys were watched closely and even photographed. Shortly afterwards a search took place of their apartment and they were detained.

in order to create the impression that the arrest was a purely ‘criminal case’ and not repressive action against leading activists in Novosibirsk, the protocol of the search stated that the possession of Hebrew literature, found in their flat, was ‘within the framework of Soviet law’.

A few days before the incident occurred, Yuri Berkovsky had been warned by the KGB that he should cease his activities against ‘the interests of the state’ otherwise measures would be taken against him.

Ever since applying in June 1972, Berkovsky has been extremely active in the Jewish emigration movement in Siberia. he had been one of the foremost Hebrew teachers in Novosibirsk; and he had helped many Jews to leave for Israel from that city, from Tomsk and from many other places in Siberia. professionally he had lectured for a considerable time at the Novosibirsk Institute of Radio Technology.

Last week a long appeal on behalf of the Berkovskys came from 30 Jews in Moscow and Odessa. they warned that Jewish communities that were slow to help the Berkovskys were opening the way to further repressions under the guise of ‘criminal offences’ Two cases they cited were those of Alexander Feldman and Nikolai Yavor.

Feldman was charged with malicious hooliganism in Kiev for allegedly attacking a woman carrying a cake. the court proceedings showed clearly that this was a frame-up, but he got three and a half years in jail for it.

Yavor got one year in Leningrad, also on a hooliganism charge. he had been accused of urinating in a children’s playground. Again the prosecutor’s case was torn to shreds. It was pointed out that if this incident had occurred, Yavor would have had a bladder of gigantic proportions. One person in the courtroom was thrown out for indicating the size by spreading his arms wide.

Feldman and Yavor have one thing in common, the appeal states – they were both activists in the struggle to emigrate. they were convicted for non-existent crimes by courts that were deliberately blind to the truth.

Jerusalem Post 24 May 1974


Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.