For Vladimir Pimonov, the summit in Geneva is a "last possibility" to leave the Soviet Union and join his Danish wife and 5-month-old baby in Copenhagen.
So Pimonov, a 30-year-old chess journalist whose requests for an exit visa have been denied, wrote a letter to President Reagan.
"I apply to you, Mr. President, for help," he wrote. "Could you please put forward our case in November."
As the summit meeting between Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev approaches, other Soviet citizens are getting their letters ready, looking to an improvement in U.S.-Soviet relations as an answer to their problems.
For Pimonov and others in similar situations, the importance of Reagan's meeting with Gorbachev is not arms control or other distant issues: It is a forum to make a personal appeal, a chance to have one's case heard at the highest level.
U.S.-Soviet summits have special significance for various groups here -- Jews awaiting permission to emigrate to Israel; ethnic Germans and Armenians, seeking to join families abroad, and other Soviet citizens, like Pimonov, who have not been allowed to join their foreign spouses abroad.
These are the cases that make up most of the list of human rights grievances presented to Soviet officials at practically every meeting with western leaders. Usually, the list is headed by such famous human rights cases as Nobel laureate Andrei Sakharov, exiled in Gorki, or imprisoned Jewish dissident Anatoly Scharansky. But there are hundreds of others.
The United States has said human rights will be one of the four subjects discussed in Geneva, even though the Soviet side never has agreed to put that item on the agenda.
In anticipation of the discussion, people here have come forward, hoping to be among the names that may be brought up by Reagan.
A young man from Novosibirsk came to Moscow recently with a letter for Nancy Reagan, asking her help in getting permission to leave the Soviet Union. Naum Meiman, one of two members of the Helsinki Watch group still in Moscow, has prepared an open letter pressing for consideration of his wife's need to seek medical treatment abroad. The group was formed to monitor Soviet compliance with the accords signed at the Helsinki meeting on European security and cooperation in 1975.
"This is the right time," said Meiman, whose wife, Ina, has been told that she cannot receive adequate treatment for her illness in the Soviet Union.
While some people hope for personal consideration at Geneva, others simply hope that the meeting will lead to a higher rate of emigration and end the waiting.
"We are so tired," said one man who has been refused permission to leave for the past 12 years. "Twelve years is a big part of one's life."
On the whole, the mood among the "refusedniks" -- people repeatedly denied exit visas -- is not optimistic.
"A month ago, there was hope, but then when nothing happened to those hopes we became pessimistic," said a housewife whose family has waited seven years for exit visas to Israel. But, she added, "people still confuse desire with hope."
It is part of the peculiar nature of the U.S.-Soviet relationship that individuals here see their fate as teetering in the balance of superpower diplomacy.
The link between Jewish emigration and U.S.-Soviet relations was first made in 1974 when the Jackson-Vanik amendment tied trade benefits to emigration numbers. Jewish emigration rose in the years of detente, peaking at 51,000 in 1979, and plummeted after the invasion of Afghanistan that year and subsequent U.S. sanctions against Moscow. So far this year, about 800 emigrants have left.
There have been some previous cases where individuals have been allowed to leave after quiet approaches by high-level U.S. visitors.
Many of the would-be emigrants see the United States as playing a key role in their fate, largely because it is the only nation big enough to bargain successfully with the Soviet Union.
"On small questions, maybe the Soviets will deal with, say, the French," said a teacher in her forties who has been waiting seven years to leave for Israel. "For the big questions, it has to be the United States."
For people waiting to emigrate, there are two periods of hope -- before the summit, when the Soviet Union might grant exit visas as a gesture to defuse human rights as an issue, or after the summit, as the result of a trade-off that would exchange relaxed emigration for something the Soviets want.
So far this fall, there has been no evidence of any large concessions by the Soviets on human rights. Before Gorbachev went to Paris, a Frenchman who had come here after the war and ended up working as a gardener at the French Embassy was allowed to leave.
Recently, Soviet officials have confirmed that Yelena Bonner, Sakharov's wife, has been given permission to travel abroad for medical treatment. Another well-known activist, Irina Grivnina, was allowed to emigrate to the Netherlands, and a Soviet citizen married to a Finn was given a visa.
Many of the "refusedniks" feel caught in the middle of the U.S.-Soviet contest, like human bargaining chips counted against missiles and launchers.
"Why should my joining my husband and son have anything to do with political leaders, with U.S.-Soviet relations?" asked Tamara Tretyakova, who has been refused permission to join her husband in Illinois. "It's inhuman."
Some "refusedniks" harbor hope that the new Kremlin leadership will decide at some point that it is more costly to the Soviet Union to leave the issue of Jewish emigration and divided families to fester.
"From the state point of view, we are a very small problem, a minority within a minority," said one Jewish scientist who has waited seven years to leave. "This is a very important moment in our life. If this chance is lost, it will be very tragic."