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Repatriated Soviet Emigres Return to United States

June 24, 1987

NEW YORK (AP) _ When a large group of Soviet emigres left the United States last year, they were welcomed home to Moscow as the first wave of hundreds of disillusioned expatriates.

Since November 1986, however, only 146 people have returned to the Soviet Union, and at least five families have changed their minds and come back to the United States, according to U.S. and Soviet authorities.

″Approximately every month, some have been leaving and some have been returning,″ said Aleksei Zhvakin, vice consul for the Soviet Embassy in Washington.

The largest single group to return to the Soviet Union was 50 emigres who left New York on Dec. 28. In other group departures, 17 emigres returned in October and November, and a group of 12 returned in January 1986.

At least five families, or 10 to 12 people, have returned to the United States, said Ruth van Heuven, a spokeswoman for the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. Others may have returned, she added, but the State Department knows only of those who contacted it for assistance.

Zhvakin said six to eight people returned to the United States, although he said his figures may not be up to date.

The returnees left the Soviet Union again because ″they have relatives here in this country and problems with children who grew up in this country,″ he said.

The children had ″problems with friends, differences in languages, differences in education,″ he said, adding that some of the youths had to go to school at a level four grades lower than in the United States.

″The reasons are more or less understandable,″ Zhvakin said. ″They decided it was better for their children to come back.″

Some of the returning emigres ″did not think completely about the whole thing″ when they decided to go back to the Soviet Union, Zhvakin said.

Abstract painters Valery and Lidia Klever, their teen-age daughter, Irina, and 2-year-old son, Nikita, returned to the United States in May. They had left in the December group, which Soviet officials called the largest repatriation from the United States.

Klever, who initially left Leningrad with his family in 1977 after the government closed exhibits of their paintings, said Monday he came back to the United States ″because it is the greatest country in the world.″

″I made a mistake″ in returning to the Soviet Union, Klever said in a telephone interview from the Los Angeles area. He said his family had to wait two months for a two-room apartment in Leningrad. They shared the apartment with another family of returnees, Yuri and Irina Galetsky.

When they left the United States in December, Mrs. Klever had complained about money problems.

″You have to worry about your life, your apartment, your monthly bills, everything. Every month, every day, I was waiting for the next dollar to pay bills,″ she said at the time.

Her husband had said that in the United States, ″a man has to become a wolf to survive.″

Zhvakin said that in general, some of the returning emigres ″have had problems, especially with apartments″ in cities where housing is in short supply. Others have moved in with relatives, he said.

″Some have already received apartments, some have not,″ he said. ″It depends on the condition of that particular city.″

In November, Faina and David Gonta, their mother and two teen-age sons returned to Jersey City, N.J. They decided to return to this country after six days in Moscow. Mrs. Gonta had said they realized immediately they had made a ″serious mistake″ because they had become ″too Americanized.′ ′

All of the double emigres, who held American passports, apparently encountered no difficulties from the Soviet authorities when they decided to come back, or else the U.S. Embassy in Moscow would known about it, a spokesman for the embassy said.

Zhvakin had said in December that if any of the returnees changed their minds, they would be free to come back to the United States.

″Practically all of them are satisfied,″ he said.

The publicity that surrounded the December returnees coincided with articles in the Soviet press on the difficulties faced by Soviet emigres here.

At one time, emigres were considered by the Soviets to be traitors. Western diplomats have said the decision of the Gorbachev administration to let emigres return was part of a larger effort to depict emigration as no panacea for the discontents of Soviet life.

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