BOSTON — Two months after winning the right to immigrate to Israel, Soviet dissident dentist Dr. Mark Nashpits came to Boston on Thursday to claim the chair his colleagues have reserved for him at six annual conventions.
Alpha Omega International Fraternity, a predominantly Jewish dental organization of 18,000 members, began a letter-writing campaign seven years ago to persuade the Soviets to let Nashpits take his family to Israel, where his parents live.
"Let me thank you for everything you have done to end 15 years of struggle," he told about 1,000 fellow dentists in broken English. "My dream has come true."
Exiled to Siberia
Nashpits, 37, said he had been arrested twice and exiled to Siberia for five years before he was permitted to leave the Soviet Union.
In a brief ceremony, he stood before the seat that has remained empty at the group's annual conventions and tore up a sign that read: "Reserved for Dr. Mark Nashpits."
Nashpits, who brought his wife, Ludmilla, with him to Boston, said in an interview that he will study at Israeli universities to bring his dental skills up to Western standards.
"They have not this modern materials" in the Soviet Union, he said. "There are no orthodontics; prosthetics is at very low level."
He said he worked as a dentist and a woodcutter for five years in a Siberian village near the Chinese border. But, when he returned to a town near Moscow in 1979, he was allowed to work only as an embalmer in a mortuary.
Refused to Serve in Military
Nashpits said he was exiled for demonstrating at the Lenin Library for permission to go to Israel, as his mother had the year before. He said he served a one-year prison term in 1972 for refusing to be drafted into military service.
"In 1956, my father was a tourist in Denmark, and he did not come back. He went on to Israel," Nashpits said. "They said I can emigrate only if my father dies."
He said he did not know whether the summit meeting between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev had anything to do with his unexpected permission to depart, but there was one clue.
"My mother wrote a letter to Raisa Gorbachev," he said, referring to the wife of the Soviet leader. "She is a mother and grandmother. (For the) first time, my parents received a post card that (said) Raisa Gorbachev received their letter."
Permission to emigrate followed, and, on Oct. 21, Nashpits took his wife and 5-year-old son to Israel.