MAY 16, 1959
HYDE PARK —While our people in Geneva are discussing with the other leaders important long-term arrangements as well as trying to come to agreement on action in certain areas of the immediate future, there is one area where I think the Soviets could make a very great contribution to the happiness of human beings. At the same time they might convince many people in the world of the sincerity of their belief that if people understand communism they will accept it as the best possible government and the way of life for themselves and others.
I am referring to the apparent indifference which the Soviet government has had so far toward the question of allowing families to be reunited.
The usual Soviet answer, of course, is that if a part of the family is in a country outside the Soviet Union it should return and join whatever part of the family may still be in Russia. But frequently it is only one member of a family that is left in the Soviet Union and quite obviously wherever the rest of the family may be it has settled down and accepted the government and way of life of that country. So, it seems to me the humane attitude on the part of any government would be to allow people to decide where they want to live, and, when families wish to be reunited, allow them to reunite.
In the Soviet Union it is difficult to obtain permission to leave the country to visit members of the family in a non-Communist country. I am speaking from actual knowledge, of course. I have made an appeal to Mr. Khrushchev himself to allow someone to visit parents in this country and have not even had a reply. There was no desire on the part of this party to leave the Soviet Union permanently. This is not the only case I know of. There were other appeals to be allowed to visit old parents or a widowed mother who had elected to live with one son in another country and now as the years multiplied wanted to see those left behind in the Soviet Union.
If the Soviet officials believe in the loyalty and happiness of their citizens, this policy of forcing everyone to remain in the Soviet Union makes no sense at all. I happen to think that there are a number of people who could visit in our country, for instance, and who would prefer to return to the protection of the type of conformity that exists in the Soviet Union. But I am quite sure that there are a number who would return whether they preferred it or not, purely because they prefer to be with the family left behind.
I have also made an appeal in the case of a child whose parents have been established here for some 10 years and who was left to the grandmother who is now too old to care for her. This child should be allowed to rejoin her parents, it seems to me. It would not be any loss to the Soviet Union. In fact, the Soviet Union will gain in reputation in the world when it liberalizes its policy. I also know of an old mother who wishes to join her sons—all of whom live in this country—and who has not been allowed to leave.
Of course, I realize that these cases may simply have been overlooked and I rather hope that writing about them may draw them to the attention of the powers that be in the Soviet Union. It seems to me a more humane and realistic attitude may bring about greater respect and confidence in these attributes of Soviet government. If this could happen I think it might have some influence on some of the broader attitudes of our relationship with each other.
(Copyright,1959, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced
- [ index ] Hyde Park (Dutchess County, N.Y., United States)
About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 16, 1959
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