WASHINGTON — The Soviet Union will allow Tatyana Bogomolny, a well-known refusenik with relatives in California, to emigrate to the United States for medical treatment, Sen. Pete Wilson (D-Calif.) said Monday.
Bogomolny, 47, who suffers from breast cancer, will be accompanied by her husband Benjamin, 40, who has been trying to leave the Soviet Union since 1966. The couple will leave "in a couple of weeks," said Bill Livingston, Wilson's press secretary.
Wilson believes that the timing of the Bogomolnys' release may be linked to Monday's release of American journalist Nicholas Daniloff, who had been detained for a month in Moscow on espionage charges. "It can't be a coincidence. The Soviets don't let someone who for 20 years hasn't been allowed to leave suddenly get a visa," Livingston said.
"We believe there probably was an effort by the Soviet Union to gain public support in the United States through the release," he added.
The plight of the refuseniks has inspired a bipartisan congressional effort to obtain their release, including a dramatic press conference earlier this month at which Tatyana Bogomolny spoke to relatives by telephone.
Leonid Charney, a relative of the Bogomolnys, called Wilson's office Monday with news of the couple's release. Charney, who lives in a suburb of Boston, said that Soviet immigration officials had summoned the Bogomolnys on Friday and informed them that they would be allowed to emigrate. On Monday, they were issued documents necessary to leave the country.
The Bogomolnys will fly initially to Vienna, Livingston said, but he does not know where they will settle permanently. The couple have relatives in Canada and Israel, as well as in California.
Tatyana Bogomolny's sister, Natasha Sverbobiva, and father, Ilya Heifets, live in San Francisco. Livingston said that Sverbobiva "was just ecstatic when she learned that her sister would be able to come to the United States."
Wilson plans to help the Bogomolnys in "making sure there are no problems in their gaining visas into the United States and to expedite the process," Livingston said.
U.S. Treatment Sought
Bogomolny was one of six Soviet cancer patients, all Jewish refuseniks, who had asked for and been denied permission to leave the Soviet Union before their illnesses occurred. They are seeking alternative, sometimes experimental, cancer treatment in the United States.
Bogomolny underwent a radical mastectomy in December, 1985, and has been undergoing chemotherapy since then. She is seeking a form of treatment not available in the Soviet Union.
Livingston said he did not know why Bogomolny was singled out from the other refuseniks but speculated that her husband's widely known persistence in trying to leave the Soviet Union may have been a factor. "Benjamin has a special significance, in that he has been trying to leave for 20 years," Livingston said.
Livingston said that Wilson will continue to lobby for the release of the remaining refuseniks seeking U.S. medical treatment, one of whom is a 7-year-old Odessa boy who suffers from leukemia. "This is an ongoing effort to encourage the Soviets to treat these people humanely," he said.