Immigrants in L.A. Fear Post-Coup Chaos : Families: Some want their loved ones in the Soviet Union to seek safety in the United States.


“When we heard about the coup, I went out of my mind. Day and night, I did not sleep,” said Sofia Zoryan, who left behind a daughter and two grandsons when she came to Southern California from the Soviet Union three years ago.

On Wednesday night, the 66-year-old Armenian immigrant heard from her daughter for the first time since the abortive coup. All was well, she reported after the late-night phone call from Yerevan, but her daughter expressed little hope for the future of the rapidly dissolving Soviet Union.

“ ‘Mama,’ she told me, ‘we still want to come to you as soon as we can,’ ” Zoryan said, speaking with visitors to an English-language class at the Armenian Evangelical Social Service Center in Hollywood.

Like other emigres who have begun now to get back in touch with loved ones at home after the coup, Zoryan said that, even with the eclipse of the Communist Party, she expects little more than chaos in a fragmented Soviet Union.

But she was glad to see a quick end to the coup, which awoke fears of Stalinist repression and the renewal of hostilities with the Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. That republic, adjacent to Soviet Armenia, was the home of several classmates before they were forcibly expelled in late 1988. “We thought it was the end of the world,” said Zoryan, a retired choral singer.


Of the coup, she added: “Thank God the junta fell. But we don’t know what will happen, so for now we want all our relatives to come here, because it’s a very peaceful country.”

Zoryan came with her husband to the United States to join their son, who immigrated seven years ago. She said the family recently sent the documents needed for her daughter to join them, “but God only knows when they’ll let her go.”

Another emigre, Alla Feldman, had hoped that her father and 13 other relatives would be allowed to leave as soon as next month. She even had an apartment rented for them, only to learn on the morning of Aug. 19 that the Emergency Committee had made its grab for Kremlin power in the night.

“I was disappointed and I was scared,” said Feldman, 35.

Surprisingly, she said, her feelings for her former homeland are as strong as ever, perhaps even stronger than they were in the early days of becoming established in America 2 1/2 years ago.

“It’s funny about nostalgia. When we first came. I was too busy. Then when something happens there, we still feel it’s our land,” she said. “It’s still your country. You can’t throw your past life away.”

Once a construction engineer in the Moldovan capital of Kishinev, Feldman is now working as an admissions counselor for ORT, a vocational training institute, and as a volunteer at the Jewish Federation Council’s acculturation program for recent immigrants.

Her relatives are scheduled to arrive Sept. 14, and initially she feared that their departure would be scratched.

“For them to get out was a dream, but they could not come with us because my nephews were in the army,” Feldman said. “For this to happen now, at the last step . . . my father is old, and my mother-in-law is old, and their dream is to see my children again.”

She heard from them on the eve of the coup, but since then call after call failed to get through. Finally, her nephew called from Kishinev at 2 a.m. Wednesday, shortly after Moldova declared its independence.

The statues of Lenin were gone and streets were stripped of Russian signs, he said, but the planes were still flying, and the family still hopes to emigrate next month.

“I don’t trust the Russians,” she said. “There have been a lot of examples of things that go wrong at the last minute.”