SHCHARANSKY by Martin Gilbert
Kirkus Star


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A detailed recounting of the life of the Russian ""refusenik"" who, by his determination not to knuckle under to Soviet policies regarding Jewish emigration, enabled many of his fellow Jews to achieve their dreams of settling in Israel. When, after years of harassment and imprisonment, rigged trials and forced feedings, Shcharansky receives his own tumultuous reception at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport and is finally reunited with his wife in February of this year, the scene provides an immensely satisfying conclusion to this moving document of human bravery. Gilbert's efforts in researching the book over the past three years have been tireless. He interviewed dozens of eyewitnesses, combed through hundreds of previously unpublished documents, including letters Shcharansky sent to family members during his imprisonment. The final result is a compelling indictment of Soviet domestic ""justice"" previously only dimly perceived by Western observers. Gilbert has been able, for example, to re-create the prosecutorial charges against Shcharansky, the accused's conduct and his own defense, as well as the judge's final charges during the 1978 trial that ended with the ""Prisoner of Zion"" being sentenced to 13 years in prisons and labor camps. Gilbert is especially successful in describing the early days of Shcharansky's life from childhood through his emergence as a talented computer technologist. This background does much to establish the reasons for the young man's involvement in the Russian Jewish civil rights movement. As this involvement grows, the reader is impressed again and again with the courage and resourcefulness of the ""refuseniks."" Two women stand out especially--Shcharansky's mother, Ida Milgrom, and his wife, Avital. Their unswerving dedication to and their relentless campaigning on behalf of the man they both love illuminate some of the book's most emotionally charged pages. A true tale of Kafka-esque nightmarishness with, happily, a heart-lifting finale. Shalom, Shcharansky!

Pub Date: May 30th, 1986
Publisher: Viking