IRENE MANEKOFSKY calls it a mosaic of activities. They try a little of everything. They do mass mailings and try to get some members of Congress interested and they try a protest in front of the Soviet Embassy and, if the person is a writer or a scientist or a university professor, then they try to get the academic community interested. Sometimes the pressure works and the person is allowed to emigrate. Sometimes the Soviet government saytst he is a scientist or a technician and too valuable a resource to leave or he knows too many state secrets. Then he's refused permission.
Countries do, after all, have a right to protect themselves. Manekofsky understands that. She doesn't like it but she understands that if the person wanting to emigrate is a Jewish scientist or technician then it's going to be tough and maybe the Washington Committee for Soviet Jewry can't do a thing on his behalf. She understands that the Soviet government is holding all the high cards on this one and that it can arbitrarily refuse permission to a worker in a laboratory and then turn around and, unaccountably, allow his boss to emigrate.
Manekofsky says that 150,000 Russian Jews have been allowed to emigrate to the United States and to Israel since various western goups have been lobbying on their behalf, and, she acknowledges, the Soviet government's numbers are improving. But she knows a lot of Jews are not being allowed out, that once they ask permission to leave and are refused, they lose their chosen means of livelihood, their phones are cut off, they are watched and ostracized.
Manekofsky knows that it's convenient for westerners to think about the Soviet Jews as a movement, rather than as people. Westerners who aren't involved know that Jews have a problem leaving Russia and that others are imprisoned for dissident views and that there is a movement to allow Soviet Jews to emigrate. But she knows that to many of us it is just that: a movement, a political cause, something we read about in newspapers and hear about on television when some celebrity is denied permission to leave or is exiled to Siberia.
Manekofsky knows, too, that it is convenient for westerners to be able to amass thousands of tragic stories under the category of Soviet Jews and Soviet dissidents. We've given the problem a label, and we have developed a quick, shorthand method of thinking about it and now we don't have to puzzle it through anymore. It's been labeled and taken care of. On to other matters. But Manekofsky also knows that attention will be paid if she and others like her insist that those tragic stories have names and faces. Faces aren't labels. They aren't words. Faces won't go away.
And so she raises the name of Yanella Gudz-not a prominent name at all, but the name of a Russian Jewish airline stewardess who lived in Moscow, whose family emigrated here last year, and who finally was allowed to leave last April. Manekofsky says Yanella Gudz is married to a hockey player, a man named Igor, and that he and his wife had tried for a year to get out. His wife joined the all-women's demonstration in Moscow last March 8 and later she met with members of an American congressional delegation. Suddenly, Yanella Gudz was allowed to leave. She was one month pregnant. Her husband is still in Moscow. They won't let him out, says Manekofsky. "He's not a scientist or a technician or somebody famous. He's an athlete." She sayst it doesn't make sense. Come meet Yanella Gudz, she says.
Yanella Gudz has been living with her family in Miami, but she has been traveling to Washington, staying with the son of a woman active in the Moscow women's movement, a young man who had little trouble leaving and who is now living in Springfield. Yanella Gudz has been protesting at the Soviet Embassy and one day she went inside with a group of employes returning from lunch. She sat inside for four hours until the embassy closed for the day. She was here last week with the desperate idea that she would give birth to her child in front of the embassy. The baby is due Jan. 2.
Yanella Gudz is 27 years old, a very small woman with enormous brown eyes and straight, shortcropped black hair. Her English is hesitant and she frequently ends her sentences with question marks, wanting to know if you can understand her. But beneath the question marks there is a note of quiet, controlled determination and you get a sense of someone who is weakened right now, who is not in good health, but someone who is tenacious, who won't give up. This is, after all, a woman with the guts to engage in public, political protest at the Presidium, a protest that was forcibly broken up by police and KGB agents.
She says she and her husband both were refused permission to leave, initially. "We ask why and don't receive answer." They began asking every week, making the rounds of Soviet official offices asking why, and finally, she says, they were told the army doesn't want Igor to leave. He had been in the army six years ago, assigned to the hockey team. She says they wrote the army for an explanation and the army replied, "We don't give permission. We don't discuss the problem."
The Presidium demonstration followed and then the meeting with such Americans in Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.), and within two days at the end of April Yanella Gudz was out of the country. She claims the was assured by the emigration authorities that her husband would follow her in two or three months. "I waited three months and nothing. After four months and five months . . . Now it is eight months that I don't see my husband. My husband receives six refusals in that time." She says he met with the emigration official two weeks ago who had initially promised that he could follow her out of the country. Igo Gudz asked when he would see his wife and baby. He was told maybe never. He asked why and was told "it is a special case." No other explanation.
Igor Gudz is now the last member of his family in Moscow, and his wife, persuaded by her obstetrician to abandon her plan of giving birth at the embassy, has returned to Miami. The Soviet Embassy here says it knows nothing of the Gudz case. It does not concern itself with these matters.
There probably is nothing more Yanella Gudz can do on behalf of her husband. She has exhausted the mosaic of activities. She and her husband are not stars of the dissident movement. They are rather obscure and while their case is dramatic, it's not that dramatic. Public opinion won't be whipped easily into outrage over this one. No one has been exiled to Siberia. A man has been separated from his wife for a while. That's all.
But that's not all. Yanella Gudz's story is one of arbitrary and capricious bureaucrats who say no and don't have to give an explanation. It's the story of a government that may have changed its emigration statistics, but it's the story of a government that hasn't really changed at all when it comes down to human beings.