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.
Penina Grossberg is an educator and teacher mentor.