David Markish stood across the street from the Soviet Embassy yesterday and read a statement commemorating the execution in a Moscow prison 25 years ago today of a group of Jewish intellectuals, including his father, Peretz Markish.
"The tragedy of Aug. 12 and today is a tragedy not only of family sacrifice, not only of Jews, but of all people with memory and responsibility," read Markish.
Markish, 39, has followed in his father's footsteps and become a writer. Five years ago, he moved from the Soviet Union to Israel, where he counts among his friends some of the country's most prominent citizens.
When his son was born three years ago, the then prime minister, Golda Meir, sent him a telegram congratulating him on the birth of a "free Peretz Markish." Prime Minister Menachem Begin is the child's godfather.
"My father and the other Russian Jewish writers that were killed in 1952 were the tongue of the Jewish people in Russia. A people without a tongue can't speak," Markish said in an interview.
He said that his two-week trip to the United States, sponsored by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, was to call the attention of the "free world" to his view that while the tactics of the Soviet leadership with regrad to dissidents may have changed, their goals have not.
"The effort in the Soviet Union is to strangle all but the Russian culture. The effort continues not only with Jews but with all minority cultures, the (Soviet) Georgians and others," he said. "The difference is that the Georgians have some kinds of rights as do other minorities. The Jews have no recourse but to leave."
Markish currently is working on the final volume of a trilogy that traces the life of a Jewish family in the Soviet Union. The first volume entitled "The New World of Simon Ashkenazi," records his impressions as a child when his family was exiled in Kazakhstan in Soviet Central Asia.
In the second volume, not yet published, the author traces the hero's life in Moscow in the mid-1960s. The final volume is about the protagonist's emigration to Israel.
"Every hero has to be in Israel finally," Markish said with a smile.
Markish said he was allowed to emigrate for Israel in 1972 after having waited two years for a visa. His wife, Irena, had been permitted to leave a year earlier.
Markish, who spoke with the aid of an interpreter, recalled that when he was finally told he was free to leave the Soviet Union he was given three days to do so.
His reply, "If we could win a war in six days, we can leave in three."
In Israel, he has become active with groups helping to relocate newly arrived Russian Jews and has joined the Israeli army, serving with the artillery.