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Three U.S.-Soviet Couples Reunited After Years of Separation

January 21, 1986

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ The reunions of three Soviet men with their American wives after years of Kremlin-imposed separation could be ″part of a huge step to real friendship between Russia and America,″ one of the husbands said.

Two of the Soviets joyously joined their spouses Monday night at Newark International Airport after arriving on the same flight with the third couple, who reunited a day earlier in West Germany.

The three couples are among the 10 the Kremlin promised before the Geneva summit to allow to reunite in the West.

Robin Rubendunst, 25, of Brookline, Mass., hadn’t seen her 38-year-old husband, Leonid Ablavsky of Leningrad, since they were married in 1983. She embraced him at the airport and they disappeared without talking to reporters. Sandra Gubin, 38, of Kalamazoo, Mich., gave spouse Alexei Lodisev, 33, a red rose as they hugged. Lodisev, who last saw his wife when she visited the Soviet Union on a tourist visa in September, would not stop kissing her.

″This is the most important day of my life,″ he said. ″My heart goes out to those couples who still are kept apart. No one knows better how very painful their lives are and no one wishes more than I that someday they will be as fortunate as I and be reunited with their wives.″

″I’m just feeling terrifically relieved,″ Ms. Gubin said from within her husband’s embrace. ″Everybody should have this moment. This is the best moment of my life.″

″Today is the birthday of our family,″ a tearful Edith Luthi, 31, of Holliston, Mass., told reporters.

Her meeting in Frankfurt, West Germany, on Sunday with husband, Mikhail Iossel, 38, of Leningrad, was their first in more than three years. Iossel had never seen his 21/2 -year-old son, Gregory, and was to meet him today at their home outside Boston.

″Let’s try to hope that this small moment, in itself insignificant, is part of a huge step to real friendship between Russia and America,″ Iossel said.

During an interview on NBC’s ″Today″ show this morning, Iossel said he was ″just looking forward to everything″ and would perhaps seek a job translating.

″I was pretty active in Leningrad and Moscow translating American poetry,″ he said.

Iossel said he is frightened by the prospect of never seeing his native land again.

″All my friends are there, my parents are there, my brother is there, so the very idea of never seeing them again would be unbearable,″ he said.

Ms. Luthi said on the show that beginning a life with her husband would not be easy.

″We’ll both have to be very patient and just work through things,″ she said. ″... There’s a lot to explain, there’s a lot to learn about each other.″

Ms. Luthi and Iossel and Ms. Gubin and Lodisev toasted their new lives together with champagne.

″I just want to say that this long separation can be forgiven, that finally being together does a lot to dissolve the bitterness that I have been feeling over the last two years,″ said Ms. Luthi, who met Iossel while studying Russian in Leningrad.

Ms. Gubin, who had fought for 41/2 years to be with her husband, said before the reunion that there are at least 20 other Soviet-American couples kept apart by the Kremlin.

″I’m hoping that over the next couple weeks people will be called in and and the Soviets will gradually move on the other cases,″ she said.

Ms. Gubin, a social scientist, was a Fulbright scholar at Kiev University when she met her husband in Kiev in 1980.

After leaving the Soviet Union in 1981 when her visa expired, Ms. Gubin formed the Divided Spouses Coalition, which has flooded U.S. and Soviet officials with pleas to allow divided Soviet-American couples a life together.

She returned to the Soviet Union twice on a tourist visa.

Ms. Rubendunst, a voice student at the New England Conservatory of Music, said before her husband arrived that she met him in a Leningrad art museum in 1983 while on a two-week tour of the Soviet Union. They fell in love and married three months later.

All three men were trained as computer programmers, but Iossel, who writes, said ″I just changed from a technical background to a totally humanitarian one.″

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