The score: 31 Pentecostals out, 30,000 to go.
Five years to the day after 5 of them dashed into the American embassy in Moscow, 15 members of the Vashchenko family flew from Moscow to Vienna. For 23 years the single-minded Pentecostal family had waged a determined campaign to emigrate.
Some combination of Western publicity of the case of the so-called Siberian Seven, the Vashchenkos’ and Chmykhalovs’ abandoning of sanctuary in the embassy, and an apparent decision by Soviet authorities to make a symbolic gesture were the ingredients that led to the June 27 breakthrough.
Last month 15 members of the Chmykhalov family flew from Moscow to Vienna enroute to the United States. They had been told earlier by the authorities to obtain invitations from friends in the West. Their permission to exit coincided with the formal agreement of the United States to sign a compromise document on security and human rights at the East-West conference in Madrid. Observers speculated that the Chmykhalovs may have been retained as a bargaining chip and to insure restraint by the outspoken Vashchenkos at the time of their exit.
Those who attempted to provide diplomatic help to the Seven recognized, in the words of Lynn Buzzard, executive director of the Christian Legal Society, “that the families in no way were going to be allowed to emigrate directly from the embassy.” Therefore, the most difficult task was to produce enough “good-faith signs” to convince the Seven to take the risk of leaving their embassy haven.
The rigid stand-off between the Seven and the Soviet authorities began to buckle after the Christmas of 1981 hunger strike led to Lidia Vashchenko’s hospitalization in January 1982. On her release, she returned to the family’s home village ...1
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