Ida Nudel, valiant refusnik activist who devoted her energies to helping Jews emigrate from the Soviet Union – obituary


Her activities attracted the attention of the KGB and she was frequently harassed. In her diary, she recounted one of these episodes.

“October 25: I leave the house in the morning. A few minutes later, I hear footsteps behind me. Two men hit me on the back. I fall. They grab me and drag me into the gutter. A car arrives. I am pushed inside and we leave. They ignore me when I ask them to identify themselves.

“They physically attack my body. Dirty hands touch my breasts, my whole body, lift my skirt and crawl into my pants. They can’t find atomic bombs or cannons. They put me in a cell and left me. I am cold in body and soul.

On June 1, 1978, Ida Nudel and other Jewish refusniks – women and children – staged a peaceful protest to mark International Children’s Day and request exit visas. The KGB surrounded his building, preventing him from leaving. In response, she hung a banner on her balcony that read: “KGB, give me my visa”. The KGB men on the neighboring balcony destroyed the banner, so Ida Nudel placed a large Star of David in her window which was quickly smashed by the Secret Service.

She was arrested and tried for “malicious hooliganism”. She was not allowed to be represented by a lawyer or to testify on her behalf. She was convicted of “malicious hooliganism” and sentenced to four years of exile in Siberia.

Ida Nudel was taken to the swampy hamlet of Krivosheino in the Tomsk region and placed in a men’s home with around 60 prisoners. The men were armed with knives and almost constantly drunk. The temperature in her tiny room was freezing cold. She had to travel long distances to get water; the inn’s toilets were covered in drunken vomit, while rats roamed freely all over the place. The only food she could get was stale bread, canned food and milk once a week at the village store.

In September 1978, a former prisoner, Sender Levinson, managed to catch up with her.

“There are mostly former criminals here,” she told him, “murderers and bandits. They have lost their human face. They tried several times to break into my room. When I go to bed I always have a knife under my pillow. Of course, I won’t be able to kill them, but at least I can kill myself.

Later, transferred to a one-room hut, Ida Nudel raised chickens and grew vegetables. In a cassette smuggled into the West, she said: “I am all alone in my small room… Even Kafka could not have imagined such a situation. The villagers nearby are afraid to talk to me. They are afraid of any contact with me. Even the children who touched and stroked my dog ​​were then questioned by the police. “

On March 20, 1982, she was released, but was refused permission to return to Moscow and was prevented from living in another major Soviet city. She therefore settled in Soviet Moldova, where she remained for the next five years.

Her fate sparked an international campaign and on October 2, 1987, at the time of glasnost, Ida Nudel obtained an exit visa. Two weeks later, she arrived in Israel, greeted at the airport by prominent politicians and thousands of admirers. When asked what she had brought with her from the Soviet Union, she replied: “My faithful dog, Pizer, who has been my constant companion since she was brought to me in Siberia as a five week old puppy, my books and the very warm blanket that I can’t do without ”.

She was born Ida Yakovlevna Nudel on April 27, 1931, near Moscow, one of the two children of members of the Jewish Communist Party. His mother Haya was a kindergarten teacher, his father, Yaacov, a Red Army officer. His early years were spent with his grandparents, who had been members of Hashomer Hatzair, the socialist Zionist pioneer movement, and dreamed of settling in what was then Palestine. When she was three, she and her grandparents moved to live with her parents. Jewish traditions were maintained and Yiddish was the language of the family. She studied economics at Moscow University.

Ida’s father was killed in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942, although his body was never found; his grandparents, as well as the family’s aunts, uncles and cousins, were all murdered by the Nazis.

In Israel in 1991, Nudel created Mother to Mother, a charity seeking to take the children of Russian immigrants off the streets and involve them in extracurricular activities.

She has established herself as a right-wing human rights activist. In 2007, she filed a petition demanding that the Israeli Minister of Homeland Security deny visitation rights to Palestinian Hamas prisoners held in Israel as long as the Red Cross is prevented from seeing kidnapped Israeli soldiers held by Hamas. She criticized the Israeli government for not doing enough to absorb Jews from the former Soviet Union, and in 2005 she expressed concern that the West was not proactive enough to counter this. which she saw as the threat of Islam.

His 1990 autobiography A Hand in the Darkness was adapted into an award-winning Italian film, Mosca Addio (Farewell Moscow), starring Liv Ullmann as Ida.

Ida Nudel never married.

Ida Nudel, born April 27, 1931, died September 14, 2021


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