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Girl Writes To Reagan, Gorbachev

December 20, 1985

CONCORD, Mass. (AP) _ All 8-year-old Sonia Kowal wants for Christmas is a visit from her uncle in Siberia.

So instead of writing to Santa Claus, she sent holiday letters to President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. She still awaiting results.

″They might get mad,″ she said.

Orest Yosipovich-Salecky, 43, an industrial engineer, lives with his wife and two children in Uchta, 2,000 miles northeast of Moscow, where he has spent most of his life.

Why won’t the Soviets allow him to visit the West?

″I don’t know,″ said Sonia. ″Maybe they don’t want him to come because they’re afraid he might stay here.″

″It’s not as if he is a political dissident or in any way against the state,″ Igor Kowal, Sonia’s father, told the Wellesley Townsman. ″As far as we know, he is just a normal oil engineer.″

While Joseph and Maria Salecky and their other children fled after World War II to a displaced persons camp in Germany, Orest and his grandmother were among thousands of Ukrainians relocated to Siberia, where Orest grew up.

″He leads a very normal life,″ his sister, Irene Kowal, Sonia’s mother, said in a telephone interview. ″He was left with his grandmother in the Ukraine in World War II because he was too small to travel.″

The family first asked the Soviets to allow a visit by Yosipovich-Salecky in 1968 when his father was dying of cancer, but relatives received no answer.

Maria Salecky tried again in 1983 and 1984, adding letters to Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Lowell Weicker, R-Conn. Weicker sent a letter to the Soviet ambassador, Anatoly Dobrynin. But the family still received no response.

After that, Mrs. Salecky gave up. She had seen her son twice, in 1967 and 1970, in the Ukraine.

″My mother is getting old,″ said Irene Kowal. ″If Orest came alone, his whole family would be back there in Siberia. Of course, he’d go back to them.

″I think he just wants to come, to see us, to see how we live. And yet he can’t come. All we’re asking is one month. Is that too much to ask?″

She said the family noted that Reagan and Gorbachev spoke at the summit meeting last month about allowing relatives in the countries to be reunited.

″If he (Gorbachev) is sincere about reuniting families and about stronger cross-cultural ties, let’s see it,″ she said.

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