Ruth Geller Gold Papers
Scope and Content Note
The collection consists mainly of letters received by Ruth Geller Gold from the Poltinnikov family. It also includes several photographs of the family. Correspondence of Ruth Geller gold with the American Soviet Jewry organizations and activists regarding the Poltinnikov family is also included.
The collection consists of one folder.
- 1974-1975, 1979
- Geller Gold, Ruth (Person)
The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility, or privacy.
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The Papers of Ruth Geller Gold represent one collection housed within the Archive of the American Soviet Jewry Movement (AASJM). These papers reflect the effort, beginning in the 1960s through the late 1980s, of thousands of American Jews of all denominations and political orientations to stop the persecution and discrimination of Jews in the Soviet Union. The American Soviet Jewry Movement (ASJM) is considered to be the most influential Movement of the American Jewish community in the 20th century. The beginnings of the organized American Soviet Jewry Movement became a model for efforts to aid Soviet Jews in other countries, among them Great Britain, Canada, and France. The movement can be traced to the early 1960s, when the first organizations were created to address the specific problem of the persecution and isolation of Soviet Jews by the government of the Soviet Union.
Ruth Geller Gold was active in the American Soviet Jewry movement when she resided in Anaheim, CA during the 1970s. She had extensively corresponded with the family of Soviet Jewish Refuseniks located in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, the Poltinnikovs.
The Poltinnikovs, a husband and wife and their two daughters, became inspired to get in touch with their Jewish roots and make Aliyah after the Six Day War. Their younger daughter Eleanora, a professional translator, was able to leave for Israel by way of marriage shortly thereafter. In 1971 the parents and the elder daughter, all three medical doctors, applied for exit visas to follow Eleanora and were repeatedly denied with various superfluous explanations, such as lack of close relatives in Israel, exposure to State secrets, or without any reason given at all. For the next eight years the family suffered humiliation and suffering from the Soviet authorities. Isaac Poltinnikov was stripped of his military rank of Colonel of Medical Corps and lost his job as the head of the Department of Ocular Diseases at the Novosibirsk Medical Institute. Irma and Victoria were also fired from their medical jobs without the chance of reinstatement, and were under constant threat of being prosecuted for parasitism (can you explain what parasitism is in a few words in parentheses here) under the Soviet law. After Eleanora Poltinnikov initiated a campaign to attract international attention and actively engaged Western human rights organizations to the plight of her family, conditions for Isaac, Irma and Victoria worsened. Their telephone was switched off, their incoming and outgoing mail was tampered with by the KGB and both Irma and Victoria were arrested for trying to lodge a complaint to the Supreme Council of the U.S.S.R. All three members of the family suffered from life-threatening illnesses exacerbated by the constant stress and lack of proper health care. The parents had multiple heart attacks and the daughter developed tuberculosis. After Isaac Poltinnikov was injured in a hit-and-run car accident and their dog was killed by a KGB agent1, the family tried to isolate themselves in their home. Their only connection with the outside world was correspondence with Western human rights, Jewish organizations and individual activists. In 1979 the family received permission to leave, yet Irma and Victoria, exhausted and traumatized by eight years of constant torment, became convinced that the permission was false and a ploy by the KGB to further persecute them. In order to persuade them otherwise, Isaac Poltinnikov proceeded to Israel and informed them of his safe arrival. The two women persisted in their paranoia and continued their self-imposed isolation, too afraid to leave their apartment to obtain food. Despite the desperate pleas from their relatives to the Soviet authorities to help Irma and Victoria, no medical attention was provided. In late August 1979 Irma Poltinnikov died of starvation. Three weeks later Victoria Poltinnikov hung herself.
- 1 Telushkin, J., and Prager, D. (1983). “Why the Jews?: The reason for antisemitism.” (p. 132). New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
Language of Materials
The papers of Ruth Geller Gold consist predominantly of correspondence with a family of Soviet Jewish Refuseniks located in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, the Poltinnikovs. The case of the Poltinnikovs was referred to by the American Soviet Jewry movement organizations as one of the most tragic stories in the annals of the emigration movement. Two members of the family were driven to suicide after eight years of systematic persecution by the KGB as a punishment for stating their intent to leave for Israel.
The collection is arranged into a single series.
Collection is located in Consolidated Box P28.
Donated by Ruth Geller Gold in 2010.
- Guide to the Ruth Geller Gold Papers, 1974-1975, 1979 *P-953
- Processed by Andrey Filimonov
- © 2013
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