West moves to help Soviet dissidents
Washington — American and other Western diplomats have intensified their efforts to secure freedom for members of divided families in the Soviet Union whose spouses live in the West.
Exactly one month ago, on May 10, eight of those family members went on a hunger strike in the Soviet Union.
The diplomatic effort, most of it conducted away from the glare of publicity, has so far produced mixed results. Two of the eight hunger strikers have been told that they will be granted visas to join their families in the West. But the situation of some of the others appears to be growing desperate.
Two of the hunger strikers, Yuri Balovlenkov and Tatyana Lozansky, were reported by friends in Moscow to have lost consciousness several times in recent days. Both were said to be emaciated from the lengthy hunger strike.
Friends said that Yuri Balovlenkov, whose wife is an American nurse, was found unconscious in a park on June 5 and taken to a Moscow hospital but was turned away from the hospital because he refused to be fed. According to another report reaching here, the 10-year-old daughter of Mrs. Lozansky was taken away from her mother by family members in Moscow who opposed her effort to emigrate to the West. Mrs. Lozansky is the wife of a former Soviet physicist who now teaches at American University in Washington, D.C.
Another report from Moscow indicated that Mrs. Lozansky and other strikers were prevented by the members of the KGB, the Soviet secret police organization, from holding a press conference at Mrs. Lozansky's Moscow apartment on June 9, the one-month anniversary of the strike. A witness said that KGB agents surrounded the apartment building and that they removed her from the apartment.
It was not immediately clear whether Mrs. Lozansky was under arrest. But friends had reported that the Soviet authorities had earlier warned her that they were preparing criminal charges against her. It appeared the main charge was that she had allowed another hunger striker to stay at her apartment for two weeks without registering with the local authorities. Such registration is required under Soviet law.
The hunger strikers had wanted to hold a demonstration on June 1 but were prevented from doing so. They were warned that such a demonstration would be considered an ''anti-Soviet act.''
In Baltimore, Elena Balovlenkov, wife of Yuri Balovlenkov, said the Soviets seemed to be pursuing a ''divide and conquer'' - or hard and soft - strategy with the hunger strikers. They told two hunger strikers they would get visas. They got two others to return to their homes far from Moscow with promises that their cases were being considered. At the same time, they cut off all telephone lines linking the hunger strikers with each other and with the outside world. KGB surveillance was intensified and the strikers were, in effect, placed under house arrest.
Elena Balovlenkov said she had been unable to reach her husband by telephone for the past ten days. The couple's daughter, Katrina, two years old, has never seen her father before but has heard his voice over the telephone. Yuri Balovlenkov is a computer specialist who lost his job in 1978 following his marriage to Elena, an American citizen.
In Washington, D.C., high-ranking officials, including Vice-President George Bush, have taken an interest in the case of the divided families.