Couple Defects to Russia, Father Calls Son 'Stupid'

Associated Press

The Soviet Union said today that it has granted political asylum to a Pennsylvania man and woman. The man's father called his son "stupid" and said he was apparently persuaded by a Russian couple that life is better under socialism.

Theodore Branch, 43, and Cheryl Branch, 40, of Erie, Pa., were granted asylum by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, the nation's parliament, Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady I. Gerasimov announced.

Clarence Branch, 77, said by telephone from Erie today that his son was "stupid" for deciding to live in the Soviet Union. He said he believed that the two have been married since the 1970s, adding that they have no children.

"He talked about it, but a lot of people tried to talk him out of it," the father said. "The way I think, over there you give up your freedom. That's why I was against it. There are so many millions wanting to get out of there. Why would anybody want to go over there?"

Worked for Radio Station

Gerasimov identified the Branches as "experts in the field of mass communications."

Clarence Branch said his son had worked for a radio station in Mount Dora, Fla., but said he did not know either its call letters or what his son did there. He said his son and daughter-in-law had lived with him and his wife, Lavera, 73, before leaving in mid-November on a tour of the Soviet Union.

Branch's travel plans "just came up in the last few months," his father said. "There was a man and a woman come over here" from Russia, the elder Branch added. "He wanted to stay here, and she didn't. I guess she went back.

"She just painted him a rosy picture. She probably got homesick."

'Priority to Law, Order'

Gerasimov said Theodore and Cheryl Branch had written the Presidium to say that "in the Soviet Union, priority is given to law and order, legislation provides equal opportunities and possibilities for all, which is an alternative to capitalism."

He said the couple came to the Soviet Union late last year and "declared their unwillingness to return to the United States and asked for permission to live here as immigrants."

The Soviet spokesman said the two will be provided with jobs and housing.

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