After being repeatedly denied permission to emigrate to the United States, a 34-year-old Armenian woman made her way with her two children into the American Embassy here yesterday vowing she would not leave until she is allowed to join her mother and sister in Los Angeles.
The arrival of Eliza Hovsepiyan and her two boys raised the number of squatters in the consulate foyer to 10. Seven weeks ago, seven Russian Pentacostalists from Siberia rushed past the Soviet guards outside the embassy and settled in the foyer vowing to stay until they receive permission to emigrate to the United States.
The new arrivals yesterday were viewed by U.S. officials as presenting a potentially serious problem for the embassy. These officials fear that as the word about this new type of vigil gets around, the embassy compound could conceivably be deluged with other squatters seeking to emigrate.
A senior U.S. official said that the embassy has been trying to persuade the squatters to leave. Their applications cannot be considered by the U.S. consulate if they do not have Soviet exit visas.
But, the official said, the embassy would not use force to evict them nor it would deprive them of food.
"That simply is not the proper thing to do," he added.
The two new boys, aged 9 and 5, added an air of bustle and merriment inside the foyer as they played with their toy guns and jumped on sofas. The Pentacostalists, after seven weeks of vigil in the cramped room, have recently been resigned and subdued.
Hovsepiyan said she took this desperate step after her request to emigrate was repeatedly rejected by Soviet authorities. She said she told U.S. officials that "I'm going to stay here. I'm going to die here if need to be but I will not go out there," motioning toward the entrance to the building which is under heavy Soviet police guard.
Her husband, Yerdzanik Gabrielyan, had accompanied the family from Yerevan, the capital of Soviet Armenia, but he did not attempt to enter the embassy, she said.
She said her mother was allowed to join her sister, Azatouhie Moskofian, and her brother-in-law Hadjik Moskofian, in Los Angeles last year. She said the Moskofians had emigrated to the United States from Lebanon five years ago and that they are American citizens.
The fact that she has immediate relatives in the Unites States makes the Hovsepiyan case somewhat different from that of the Pentacostalists.
The Pentacostalists have a letter of invitation from a coreligionist in the United States, but this is not sufficient to entitle them to Soviet exist visas on the grounds of family reunion.
The Pentacostalists, who want to leave the Soviet Union because they say they are being denied the right of worship, involve two families from Chernogorsk, a town three days away from here by train.
Pyotr Vaschenko, 57, a miner, and his wife Avgusta have three of their 13 children with them - Lidiya, 27, Lyubov, 25, and Lilyia, 21. A 17-year-old son who tried to get into the embassy with them was caught by the guards.
The other Pentacostalist squatters are Maria Chmykalova, 56, and her son Timofey, 17.
The Pentacostalists wait unobstrusively all day, reading their Bibles and talking quietly with each other. In the evening they get down on their knees to pray.
The squatters are given food twice a day and they are locked in for the night. They have been escorted to the embassy snack bar inside the compound a few times. They have access to a washroom for keeping themselves and their clothes clean. At night they sleep on chairs using blankets that individual embassy staff members have loaned them.
Now the presence of Armenian children is bound to change the routine.
Vaschenko said yesterday, "We are prepared to stay here indefinitely."