Ida Nudel, a prominent refusenik who immigrated to Israel from the USSR, becoming an icon for Societ Jewry under communist rule, died on Tuesday at the age of 90.
Refusenik was an unofficial term for individuals - typically, but not exclusively, Soviet Jews - who were denied permission to emigrate, primarily to Israel, by the authorities of the Soviet Union and other countries of the Eastern bloc. She eventually emigrated to Israel in 1987 after 16 years of struggle.
Nudel was born in 1931 in Novorossiysk, Krasnodar Krai, in the Russian SFSR.
Following Israel's victory in the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1970 Leningrad Trial, she and her sister – her sole relative – decided to leave for the Jewish state in 1971.
Her sister and her family were permitted to emigrate but Nudel was refused permission on the ground that she was privy to state secrets.
At the time, Nudel was working as an accountant for the Moscow Microbilogicial Institution.
Dismissed from her job, she became extremely active in the Jewish emigration movement and was known as the "guardian angel," caring for Jewish prisoners and their families.
Through demonstrations, correspondence, and meetings with foreigners visiting Moscow, she brought the plight of the prisoners to public attention. Nudel was arrested on many occasions, placed under house arrest, harassed frequently and physically abused.
In 1978, she hung a banner on the balcony of her apartment reading "KGB – GIVE ME MY EXIT VISA," as a result of which she was sentenced to four years' exile in Siberia on charges of malicious hooliganism.
There she suffered great hardships and after her release in 1982 was refused the right to live in a major city and moved from one place to another.
In the West, Nudel became the most famous female refusenik, winning the active support of many public figures, such as Jane Fonda (who visited her in her exile) and Liv Ullmann (who portrayed her in a movie based on her biography "A Hand in the Darkness").
Finally, in 1987 she was permitted to leave for Israel where she settled near her sister in Reḥovot.
In Israel, Nudel became very involved in right-wing politics and aiding her fellow Jews who emigrated from the former Soviet Union.
Nudel established the “Mother to Mother” non-profit, which sought to provide afterschool activities for the children of Russian immigrants.
First published: 15:03, 09.14.21