Ex-Russians aided by Dole and Kemp go campaigning

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There is a photograph Bob Dole surely will want to circulate in the Jewish community.

It shows him and Jack Kemp in May 1982, standing side-by-side wearing yarmulkes, presiding over a long-distance Jewish wedding between a Soviet dissident in Washington, D.C., and a woman fighting to escape from communist Russia.

Dole and Kemp, the 1996 GOP ticket, have clashed politically in the past. But on that day 14 years ago, they shared a cause.

Participating in an emotional marriage-by-telephone in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, Kemp was best man for Edward Lozansky, a Ukrainian Jew pressured to leave Russia in 1976 for speaking out against totalitarian rule. Dole stood in as proxy for Tatiana Kozlava, daughter of one of Russia's highest-ranking generals, who had just begun a hunger strike.

The couple, whose previous marriage was annulled by Soviet officials, were reunited in matrimony by Rabbi Joshua Haberman, then senior rabbi at Washington Hebrew Congregation. Dole and Kemp signed the wedding certificate.

As board members of the Andrei Sakharov Institute, a group founded by Lozansky in 1980 to promote human rights in the then-Soviet Union, Dole and Kemp also used the marriage to criticize the communist regime and to warn Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to ease restrictions on Soviet emigration.

Political pressure mounted on Brezhnev, and nearly one month later Tatiana Lozansky was permitted to depart for the United States, along with the couple's daughter, Tania.

"This was the culmination of a whole battle," said Edward Lozansky, who fought six years for his wife's freedom, lobbying in Congress and organizing public demonstrations, petition drives and vigils outside the Soviet embassy.

"When [Dole and Kemp] came, things happened."

The photograph of Dole and Kemp hangs in Lozansky's Washington office in Dupont Circle, where he heads Russia House, a consulting company that links American and Russian businesses. Lozansky, a Republican, is retelling this story during the presidential campaign.

Two months ago, he and his wife formed Russian Americans for Dole, a group that plans to promote the candidate in speeches, newspaper ads and at an upcoming Washington conference. Estimating that there are nearly three million eligible voters of Russian background in the United States, Lozansky said, "Tatiana and I made a pledge to deliver those votes to the Dole campaign."

Noting that he plans to speak at synagogues as well, he added, "We also maybe can convert some Jews to vote Republican."

Regardless of partisan politics, Lozansky's story is worth retelling. In 1971, he married Tatiana Kozlava, daughter of Ivan Yershov, a three-star general and loyal communist. Lozansky, a vocal critic of the establishment, says he became a major embarrassment to his father-in-law and Soviet officials.

As a nuclear physicist, Lozansky had special security clearance and therefore was prevented at first from leaving Russia with his wife and daughter. However, Yershov used his government connections to arrange Lozansky's departure.

"I was given a choice either to leave or go to the gulag [Russian prison camps]," said Lozansky. Meanwhile Communist Party officials, he claimed, ordered his marriage terminated.

Lozansky says he left Russia with Yershov's assurance that Tatiana and Tania would be allowed to follow quietly.

But Tatiana was forced to remain in Russia under a deception he says was orchestrated by KGB officials and Yershov. Having gotten rid of Lozansky, Yershov was promoted to four-star general.

Lozansky became an activist on behalf of his wife and other Soviet political prisoners. He fought for Jews' emigration rights and also was a professor of physics at the University of Rochester in New York, and later of mathematics at American University in Washington, D.C.

He joined the Young Republicans, who took up his cause. In the Soviet Union, Tatiana formed an informal "Young Republicans" chapter in 1981, unable to register it with the government.

The couple kept in touch through letters and telephone calls, though they knew the KGB had tapped the phone line.

"I wanted them to listen, to know our campaign was gaining momentum," Lozansky said.

A major break came on May 10, 1982, the day of the couple's remarriage by telephone, a high-profile event featuring Dole and Kemp. After Rabbi Haberman pronounced the couple husband and wife, Lozansky celebrated by shattering a glass in Jewish tradition.

That same day, Tatiana and six other refuseniks began a water-only hunger strike. Their plight became the focus of several newspaper articles and was the subject of three shows on ABC's "Nightline." Congress passed a resolution, introduced by Dole and Kemp, demanding their release.

Lozansky described this struggle two years later in a book entitled "For Tatiana," published by Henry Holt: "Twenty-five days without food. Twenty-six," he wrote. "Twenty-seven…I was on the verge of sending a desperate note to Tatiana, via diplomatic pouch, pleading with her to stop."

After four weeks, Tatiana's health was failing. In a desperate phone call, Lozansky says he begged Yershov to clear the way for her departure. After meeting personally with his daughter, the general did just that. After a 33-day strike, "he realized this had gone too far," Lozansky said.

Soon after, she was reunited with Lozansky in the United States. The general, who made the arrangements, was forced to resign from the army.

Lozansky said he is indebted to Dole and Kemp.

"They didn't gain any political points for helping me. They believed what they were doing was right," he said.