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Soviets Allow Last 3 Kin to Join Armenians in U.S.

July 12, 1987|ASHLEY DUNN | Times Staff Writer

PASADENA — The struggle of 12 Soviet Armenian families to bring all of their family members to this country came to an end last week when the final three members of the group unexpectedly got permission to leave the Soviet Union.

The 12 families had banded together in Soviet Armenia five years ago in their efforts to leave the country, and since last August, all but Karo Gasparyan's wife, Lusik, and two children, Srbuhi, 4, and Hovannes, 2, have come to the United States.

Gasparyan, who had been forced to depart last August without his immediate family, said Thursday that he was overjoyed by a phone call from his wife July 3 saying Soviet officials had granted them permission to come to the United States, probably later this summer.

"She asked what souvenirs I wanted her to bring with her from Armenia," Gasparyan said with a smile. "I told her: 'Just bring the children, nothing more.' "

He said his wife had not been told why she was kept in the Soviet Union or why she finally got permission to leave.

But Gasparyan believes that a letter-writing campaign to agencies around the world by members of the 12 families and reports in the media on his wife's plight eventually won the release of his family.

"All the time and effort we spent trying to bring her here will now be directed to adapting to our new country," he said through an interpreter.

Efforts to reach Soviet consular officials in San Francisco for comment Thursday were unsuccessful.

Gasparyan said his wife still has to complete a mountain of paper work in the Soviet Union before she can leave. But he expects that she will arrive here sometime in mid-August.

Gasparyan, who lives in Pasadena with his parents and two brothers, told The Times last month that he thought his family was being detained because of the trouble the 12 families caused before they left their homeland.

The families had come together in 1982 after Gasparyan's younger brother, Samvel, noticed the same people lined up day after day applying to leave the Soviet Union.

The families vowed to work together to leave the country and, if necessary, bear the risks of actively pressing their case to authorities.

Together, they wrote letters to authorities around the world, petitioned the government and once, on an airport tarmac, faced a squad of Soviet policemen who blocked several family members from going to Moscow to press their case.

Samvel Gasparyan was one of the leaders of the group, and Gasparyan said he thought his wife and children were kept behind because his brother is single and had no family to retaliate against.

Sergei Aivazian, Soviet vice consul in San Francisco, said last month that he was unfamiliar with the Gasparyan situation but that joining separated families is a routine procedure and the Soviet government would not normally stand in the way.

After members of the 12 families arrived in the United States and began settling, most of them in Hollywood, North Hollywood and Pasadena, they continued to work together to bring the others and finally Lusik and her two children to the United States.

Gasparyan said he and the others are hoping to get together for a celebration as soon as Lusik, Srbuhi and Hovannes arrive.

"We are all looking forward to getting together now," he said.

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