How we survived the Soviet system and moved to America: We did it our way, and legally


Lev NavrozovLev Navrozov

Lev Navrozov emigrated from the Soviet Union with his family in 1972. He so cherished the freedom of press he found here that he dedicated his remaining years to alerting otherwise-oblivious Americans to the global context of news. The following column was published July 20, 2012.

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The year was 1969. To an outsider, it would seem that the occupants of that white stone house on the hill with acres of birch trees, a cherry orchard, and surrounded by a high fence are happily enjoying their life.

We worked at home. Rarely, my wife, chief editor of the Soviet branch of the international “Nuclear Physics” magazine, published in Copenhagen, and headed by Academician Skobeltsyn of the Lebedev Nuclear Physics Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences, had to drive to Moscow to take care of the scientific papers submitted for publication.

Ellis Island.

Our son did not attend school, studying at home on his own. We saw him poring over chemistry books, old Russian literature, Latin textbooks, and Greek Anabasis of Xenophon. He also displayed interest in mineralogy and theater. At the age of 10, he won the first prize in chemistry at the Moscow University student competition.

At the time I am describing, nobody could leave the country. That privilege was reserved for Communist Party functionaries, which we were not.

We created the world of our own, away from the outside Soviet regime. We didn’t even fit into the world of our neighbors — Soviet writers, Communist Party members, and politicians. Our isolationist way of life was raising brows.

We knew that our artificially created independence wouldn’t last long. And we were right. Local bureaucrats started making sudden incursions into our privacy. They were trying to find out why our son did not attend local school. Once during such incident, a local school bureaucrat forced herself into our house to see our son. Our housekeeper showed her to his room, and she saw him painting the symbols of chemical elements all over the wall. She was pleasantly impressed and then told us that “I see your son is not doing dishes in the kitchen.” She never bothered us again.

Despite our seemingly tranquil life, away from Soviet realities, we became more and more despondent and dissatisfied with our senseless existence. Something desperate was brewing in our minds. We were thinking about finding a way to escape.

Obsessed with this idea, we were spending days and nights, developing a workable plan. We were wealthy. We had money. We had property. We enjoyed good reputation. We thought we would be above suspicion. We would buy a pick-up truck, will have it made into an armored vehicle, and would travel to the south of the country, the usual destination of vacationing Soviet bureaucrats, and break through border controls and into Turkey, which we knew was a NATO member and would never send us back.

So everything was thought-out to the minor detail. That is until one day a close friend of ours, a human-rights activist, a close friend of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn (and his distant relative) came to see us. We shared with him our secret plan.

“Are you out of your mind, Lev? Have you seen a Russian border? I served in the army in the South, I know. A Soviet border is a metal barbed-wire fortification — two rows of fence running parallel to each other, forming a corridor, with dogs and armed military patrols pacing back and forth. Bright lights at night. Sirens go up the minute someone comes close. There are multiple checkpoints before you even get close to the border. You’ll all be apprehended and arrested, if you don’t get shot dead first. Trust me, Lev, and be patient. We are working on it. Things will change. Two families already got permission to go to Israel. There will be more.”

Fortified Soviet border, against whom? Nobody seems to be willing to get into this Soviet paradise! Those pitiful victims of Soviet propaganda who are willing to come don’t have to cross the border — they come on their own only to get trapped later by the regime and spend their lives there until they die.

We sold our house to a prominent Soviet academician and moved into our Moscow apartment. Our friend was right. Shortly after, we applied for the permission to emigrate, and it was granted to us sooner than we expected.

We spent almost 6 months in Rome, Italy, waiting for our U.S. visa to be processed. There we were interviewed by an American CIA person, who wanted to become familiar with each of us. Why am I writing all this now?

The problem of illegal immigration to this country is actually a hot topic being discussed in American congress and media.

As I said above, we were investigated for 6 months before we were admitted to the United States. So why break the existing immigration laws, which have worked so well? Why then observe laws for legal immigrants while giving free entry to the country by the illegals?

Do they still remember those first immigrants of old who were checked at the port of entry? Is not this great nation built by immigrants who legally entered it? And why is there so much opposition on the part of Obama administration against the states which are affected most by the illegal immigration and which want to enforce the laws?

I think I know why: Obama is a menace and a traitor to this country. All he cares about is his own welfare and his desperate desire to win the next four years of presidency, during which he will implement his Marxist-socialist ideals and will turn this country into the Soviet-style dictatorial paradise, the familiar signs of which already cannot escape me. Vladimir Putin and the Chinese slave-owners will help him, and the illegal immigrants, who place their trust in him, will come in handy.

Lev Navrozov can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].