Leonid Shcharansky and his mother are still waiting.

A month ago, when they got their papers ready to emigrate to Israel, there was reason to hope for speedy results. Leonid's brother, Anatoly, a well-known Jewish activist who had spent nine years in Soviet prisons, had been released to the West in a swirl of publicity.

Diplomatic and other sources then hinted that permission for the rest of the family would follow soon. But, so far, Leonid and his mother, Ida Milgrom, have had no news.

"Maybe the political situation is again not good enough," said Leonid this week. "I am just not sure."

In the two months since Shcharansky left, U.S.-Soviet relations have deteriorated, worsening further with the U.S. bombing of Libya. Anti-American demonstrations are held almost daily across the street from the U.S. Embassy here, and the Soviet press has taken a sharper tone.

As the atmosphere worsens, whatever faint hopes may have existed for a more liberal Soviet attitude toward emigration are fading fast.

"You can see for yourself. Things have become bad again, and that cannot be good for us," said Vera Kats, a long-time refusenik, as those refused permission to emigrate are known.

"Refuseniks see their fate tied to U.S.-Soviet relations," noted one western diplomat. "When people ask you about Libya, what they mean is what does this mean to the relationship, what does it mean to me?"

In the last six months, predictions about Soviet policy toward emigration have ricocheted wildly.

The November summit between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev raised expectations, as did the release of Shcharansky.

These were taken as positive signs, but they soon were followed by improbable rumors, including one about massive airlifts of Soviet Jews to Israel.

The number of refuseniks is not known, although it is at least in the tens of thousands.

After the wave of emigration peaked in 1979 at 51,000, the numbers fell off sharply, to 1,139 in 1985.

Soviet authorities maintain that those who wanted to leave have left and that any others cannot be permitted to depart because they have had access to "state secrets."

In fact, even before the new chill brought on by the bombing of Libya, hopes had dimmed among refuseniks.

While a few well-known cases were let go, the total number never bore out the optimism.

In February this year, a total of 84 Soviet emigrants, virtually all Jews, arrived in Vienna; in February 1985, the number was 88.

In March 1985, the month that Gorbachev became Communist Party general secretary, 98 Soviet Jews arrived in Vienna; a year later, for the same month, the number was 47.

Few diplomats or refuseniks attach much significance to the dip in the March figures because it was too early to reflect the new harshness in East-West relations.

In general, they are also wary of tracking month-to-month fluctuations because, as one said, an increase of 10 visas could mean simply that someone in a visa office was clearing his desk.

They note that the important fact is not that the situation with emigration has again worsened, but that it never got better -- despite Geneva, the release of Shcharansky, and the 27th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, an event that some had hoped would spur Soviet authorities to sweeping humanitarian gestures.

One exception in an otherwise bleak picture has been the cases of Soviet citizens married to Americans.

Since last fall, 13 spouses who previously had been denied visas to join husbands or wives in the United States have received exit visas and left the Soviet Union. According to U.S. officials here, that leaves about 20 other cases unresolved.

"We have resolved about one-third of those cases," said a diplomat this week.

"Given the history on these things, that's real progress even though the overall picture may not be brighter."

Many refuseniks -- already worn out by a cycle of hope and disappointment -- had steeled themselves against false expectations.

But some, in spite of themselves, felt they were being encouraged to hope -- by being invited to reapply or to suggest a review of their case -- only to find their hopes dashed.

After Geneva, Reagan seemed to switch to an approach of "quiet diplomacy" on human rights violations in the Soviet Union. Instead of public declamations, private pressure has been applied in individual cases.

As in the past, visiting American dignitaries have submitted lists of cases to their Soviet hosts.

The cases of "divided spouses" have been on virtually everybody's list, and before Geneva, a number of cases were decided favorably.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) also had a list when he came last February.

His efforts are thought to have helped in the departure on April 16 of two well-known Jewish activists from Tbilisi, Isai and Grigori Goldstein.

But another family reportedly on Kennedy's list, Simeon and Vera Kats, have been waiting eight years and regularly have been refused.

"I wasn't an optimist before, and I am not one now," said Vera Kats.