Boris Gurshman and his family have a new "motherland" now. It is America, three weeks and counting in Silver Spring. They have figured out the Capital Beltway. They are learning English, trying to find jobs.
But the Gurshmans say it is too soon to feel happy about leaving Leningrad. They are haunted by letters from relatives and unsettling memories of everyday life in the Soviet Union for Jews like themselves.
"The situation in Russia now is getting worse," said Boris Gurshman's 23-year-old son, Grigory.
This week the Gurshmans and many others are hoping that rising Soviet antisemitism and lending permanence to reforms that have allowed more than 100,000 Jews to emigrate in the last 18 months will be high on the agenda when President Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev meet.
"If Bush cares about the Jewish people in Russia he will ask Gorbachev about it," said Grigory Gurshman, whose improving English has cast him in the role of family spokesman. "Now everything in Russia depends . . . on the relations between Russia and America."
When Gorbachev was in town in 1987, the subject of Jewish emigration drew about 200,000 demonstrators to Washington. This week, a few hundred protesters are expected. Outside the entrance of some synagogues here, posters of longtime refuseniks are now stamped "released."
Among the released are the Gurshmans, 12-year refuseniks. They are part of a dramatic surge of Soviet Jews who are moving into communities across the nation. In the Washington area, they are arriving at a rate of 50 a month this year, putting down roots in Prince William County, Silver Spring, Gaithersburg and elsewhere. Five-hundred more are anticipated next year. They will join about 1,500 Soviet Jews who already have settled here.
When they arrive, they are wrapped in the Jewish community's embrace. They are greeted at the airport by a Jewish community volunteer if no family is there. They are provided free English tutoring and job training. They are introduced to synagogues, bank accounts and a hospital where circumcisions will be performed for free.
The new arrivals have strained resources. The United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Washington, the main resettlement agency, is spending $1.3 million, about 20 percent more locally, to accommodate them.
"It's a significant increase in our local effort," said Robert Hyfler, director of budget and planning for the agency.
For the Gurshmans, coming here was not so much immigration but evacuation from the land they hold dear.
"It is a very big tragedy in our lives," said Grigory Gurshman. "A piece of our heart was left there, and we would never have done it if the situation was a little bit better."
For the first time in their lives, the Gurshmans said, they no longer fear the consequences of antisemitism, which is resurging in the Soviet Union with more free speech and driving many Soviet Jews out of the country.
Boris and his wife, Svetlana, who hold engineering degrees, said that in Leningrad, certain schools, jobs and promotions were off limits to Jews. Grigory Gurshman said soldiers beat and taunted him for being a Jew during his two years in an army construction unit. His 17-year-old sister, Nataliya, said she was terrified to walk alone to art school because she had to pass through a square where Russian nationalists drew crowds and threatened violence against Jews.
Last year, the teenager said, her Russian literature teacher told her that she would never understand the subject matter because she is a Jew.
Boris Gurshman said he first applied for permission to leave the Soviet Union in 1978 after he had to seek a lawyer's help to get a job as a government post office driver.
Gurshman said he had been fired without explanation from his job as chief of laboratory at a military research institute in Leningrad after a cousin of his wife's immigrated to America. Gurshman said his application to leave the country was repeatedly denied on the grounds that he was a state security risk. But Gurshman said he believes antisemitism played a role.
Gurshman's security risk status was lifted in 1988, setting in motion the procedure that led to the resettlement of the family -- which includes his 82-year-old mother -- in a two-bedroom apartment in Silver Spring.
The Gurshmans live in a high-rise apartment on Old Columbia Pike filled with donated furniture.
The rent and living expenses will be covered for three months by the United Jewish Appeal Federation. The Gurshmans bought a clunker of a car for $800.
One of the Gurshmans' few links to the Soviet Union is their daughter's paintings, which decorate the apartment walls.
They are oils of rainy scenes of Leningrad and gentle watercolors of Vienna, where the family spent five months waiting to be processed.
The family spends some nights reminiscing about the scenes in the paintings.
They spend their days learning about resumes and interviews, studying the nuances of English, trying to fill in the new palette of their lives.
The Gurshmans are finding that it is difficult to change motherlands.
"We are nervous," Boris Gurshman, a wiry 53-year-old, said with a shaky smile. "We have arrived but we don't see the horizon yet."
Boris and Svetlana are looking for jobs as engineers.
Their son wants to study physical education at the University of Maryland at College Park.
Nataliya dreams of attending the Corcoran School of Art.
The Gurshmans, who had little exposure to Jewish traditions, are still in a state of wonder.
They marvel at the number of synagogues and plan to visit their first one in America soon.
"For my generation, we lost everything," said Grigory Gurshman. "We lost our Jewish culture. We lost the Jewish language, but we know we are Jewish. We have this feeling in our heart and our soul."