"I still dream that I am on the plane and the KGB tells me they are taking back my visa," dentist Mark Nashpitz said Friday.
Nashpitz, 37, is one of the 1,139 Jews who were allowed to leave the Soviet Union last year. At a press conference here Friday, he urged Americans not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews still waiting for permission to emigrate.
He said he spent 15 years as a refusenik , the term applied to those Soviet citizens who have been denied exit visas. He said that he first applied for permission to emigrate in 1970 and that from then on, he was harassed until he left last October for Israel.
In 1972, he said, he was sentenced to a year of "corrective labor" for refusing to serve in the army reserve. International attention was focused on him in 1975, when he and a group of other refuseniks carried out a protest demonstration in Moscow. For that, Nashpitz and a companion were sent to Siberia for five years.
Charity of Friends
Nashpitz said he was forbidden to practice dentistry and managed to make a living working in a photographic laboratory and as a wreath-maker at a cemetery. He and his wife, Ludmilla, 33, acknowledged, however, that they relied on the charity of friends.
"It was by hope, and hope alone, that I am here," Ludmilla Nashpitz said.
Nashpitz, who will return to Tel Aviv to renew his dentistry practice, said it was pressure from Western nations that was the main factor in his finally obtaining permission to leave. He recalled that in 1984, Walter F. Mondale, the Democratic candidate for President, wrote to Soviet President Konstantin U. Chernenko, urging freedom for a number of refuseniks, among them Nashpitz.
"Soviet officials told me if Mondale is (elected) President, I can have permission to leave," Nashpitz said.
He said he believes that he was eventually allowed to go because French President Francois Mitterrand asked the present Soviet leader, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, for his freedom in the course of a visit to Moscow last year.
400,000 Still Wait
More than 400,000 of the 2 million Jews in the Soviet Union have applied to emigrate, according to Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman (R-N.Y.), who sponsored the news conference along with the Coalition to Free Soviet Jews, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews.
Gilman contrasted the small number of Jews allowed to emigrate last year with the record 51,320 who left in 1979.
"Mark Nashpitz is a man who has endured a 15-year odyssey of arrest, harassment, interrogation, denial and deprivation," Gilman said, "yet his first words to me as a free man in Israel were: 'Don't forget Soviet Jewry. I waited 15 years, but they continue to wait.' "