Hunger Striker Delivers Petitions For Parents’ Release To Soviet Embassy
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Alexander Slepak, feeling light-headed, wobbly and weak in the 15th day of a fast seeking permission for his parents to emigrate from Moscow, delivered petitions Friday to the Soviet Embassy.
Slepak, a 35-year-old medical student at Temple University in Philadelphia, collected about 2,000 signatures on the steps of the Capitol. He was initially rebuffed, but a receptionist accepted the petitions at the gate, along with a letter to Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev demanding freedom for his parents, Vladimir and Maria Slepak.
The elder Slepak, 60, is also fasting. Both men will end their hunger strikes on Monday, the 17th anniversary of the Slepaks’ application to leave the Soviet Union and the first day of the Jewish holiday of Passover.
″I feel weak. I can think straight, but my body’s giving a little,″ said the younger Slepak, who emigrated 10 years ago. He said his father is ″weak, but determined.″
His parents, to whom he spoke on Thursday, have been demonstrating on the steps of the Supreme Soviet in Moscow, carrying signs saying, ″Let us go to our children and grandchildren.″
He said they have not been harassed by authorities, but neither have they received any encouragement that their case was being given favorable attention.
″You never know what will make good with the Soviets,″ he said.
Slepak said he was encouraged by recent reports that more Jews will be permitted to leave the Soviet Union, but added, ″Until I see people released across the Iron Curtain, I will not believe ... I learned to trust the Soviets only when the deed is done, not before.″
The elder Slepak, an electronics engineer, worked at the Scientific Institute for Television Research from 1957 until 1969. According to his son, he was told he could emigrate if he resigned, but his requests have repeatedly been denied.
Soviet authorities have cited his work with classified information, but Alexander Slepak said any work his father did is now out of date.
″Obviously the excuse is nothing else but an excuse. ... The real reason is they just have a vengance against my parents, especially my father for starting the ... emigration movement in the Soviet Union ... in the late ’60s. The Soviets cannot forgive him for making it possible for thousands of people to reach freedom,″ the son said.
Slepak said Secretary of State George P. Shultz has promised to raise his father’s case in meetings next week with Gorbachev and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze.
The elder Slepak, now a Hebrew teacher, is among the dissidents invited to a Passover Seder at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on Monday. In 1978, the Slepaks were charged with hooliganism and were exiled in Siberia until 1983.