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The Soviet boy who refused to go

By Stephen Humphries / January 20, 2000



Young boy, caught in a political tug of war between two countries, one communist and one free. Sound familiar? Before six-year-old Cuban Elian Gonzalez, there was 13-year-old Soviet Walter Polovchak. Controversy erupted in the media when young Walter ran away from the Chicago home of his Ukrainian parents in 1980 to avoid having to return to the Soviet Union with them.

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Polovchak fought a four-year legal battle to remain in the United States after he had been granted political asylum. The American Civil Liberties Union argued for the parents, who later abruptly returned to Lvov, Ukraine. The case dragged on until Walter turned 18 and could legally decide for himself.

Mr. Polovchak became an American citizen in 1985. He's now married to an American and has a five-year-old son. They live in a Chicago suburb, where Polovchak works as an office manager. He has visited Lvov several times in an effort to rebuild ties to his parents and siblings.

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