Swim­ming in the Day­light: An Amer­i­can Stu­dent, a Sovi­et-Jew­ish Dis­si­dent, and the Gift of Hope

Lisa C. Paul
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By – August 30, 2011
Swim­ming in the Day­light is an account of the rela­tion­ship between a Chris­t­ian Amer­i­can stu­dent and a Sovi­et Jew­ish Refus­nik who was denied per­mis­sion to leave Rus­sia in order to obtain nec­es­sary med­ical treat­ment abroad. When Lisa Paul was a col­lege stu­dent in the ear­ly 1980’s, she lived and worked in Moscow, where she became friends with her Russ­ian lan­guage tutor, Inna Meiman. I, too, vis­it­ed Refus­niks in Moscow in the 1980’s and appre­ci­ate her accu­rate descrip­tion of the absurd real­i­ties: meet­ing on cold sub­way plat­forms; speak­ing on out­door pub­lic pay phones to avoid the record­ing devices sus­pect­ed to be plant­ed in the Refus­niks’ home tele­phones; walk­ing in silence until out of earshot of pos­si­ble KGB spies; obtain­ing lux­u­ry” items such as cof­fee only at stores des­ig­nat­ed for for­eign­ers; being invit­ed to share vod­ka toasts at all hours. The nar­ra­tive becomes a hero­ic tale of polit­i­cal activism as the deter­mined young stu­dent chan­nels her love for Inna into a pub­lic cam­paign to secure her release. The stakes rise to the lev­el of life and death when the young Amer­i­can engages in a month-long hunger strike while her ail­ing friend trapped in Rus­sia becomes increas­ing­ly des­per­ate for med­ical treat­ment of a recur­ring malig­nant tumor. Both women pos­sess an unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to fight for human dig­ni­ty. Their spir­it triumphs.

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