Headlines of Yore

The Philadelphia ties of the Soviet refusenik once called a ‘modern-day Moses’

When Masha and Vladimir Slepak were released after 17 years, they had Philly friends to thank.

Vladmir Slepak's son attended Temple University's med school — and helped disentangle him from the USSR

Vladmir Slepak's son attended Temple University's med school — and helped disentangle him from the USSR

Wikimedia Commons

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In the leadup to the late 20th century fall of the USSR, it was difficult to leave the Soviet Union. Those who tried and were refused permission were called “refusniks” — and one of the most famous couples to champion this plight had connections to Philadelphia.

Though Vladimir and Masha Slepak were denied emigration (they wanted to go to Israel), their sons were allowed out. One of them landed in med school at Temple University.

Once established in 1980s Philly, he began using his connections to fight for his parents’ release. At different points over the decade, officials ranging from then-Mayor Ed Rendell to then-Senator Arlen Specter lobbied on the Slepaks’ behalf.

Eventually, the couple got out. Scroll down for a thread with a summary of how the story unfolded.

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