Soviets seek news One immigrant: "I'm just wondering how much blood there will be"

August 20, 1991|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,Evening Sun Staff

The pastor of St. Andrew's Russian Orthodox Church on Fayette Street expressed the same doubt and uncertainty that seemed pervasive everywhere in the wake of yesterday's coup in the Soviet Union.

"I don't think anyone really knows what to think," said Father Myron D. Manzuk, pastor of St. Andrew's.

"They don't even know where the Patriarch is at this time," he said. The patriarch is the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union. "Everybody's just waiting to see if Gorbachev is still alive."

A dedicated Lithuanian patriot, Aldona Buda, a manager at the Lithuanian Hall on Hollins Street, had been up since 2 a.m. trying to call relatives in the Baltic country.

"They keep say there are no lines," Buda said.

Some Fax messages had come through to the local Free Lithuania Committee, among them a cry for help from Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis.

A cousin visiting from Lithuania called from California: "What am I going to do ?" he asked. His wife remained behind in Lithuania.

Buda, who has been in the United States since 1949, has 19 cousins in Lithuania. "All are married," she said. "All have children." She's worried about them all.

The television station in Kaunas, Lithuania's second city, had been taken over, she said. Ports were closed.

"We haven't heard if the parliament has been taken over or not," Buda said. She believes the Lithuanian people will defend their government as they did when the Soviets threatened their burgeoning independence last year.

"I'm just wondering how much blood there will be."

Svetlana May, a Russian Jew who emigrated to America in 1988, worried about her father in Sevastopol and many, many friends left in Russia.

"I feel very sorry for those in this situation," said May, who is a secretary at Johns Hopkins University. "I have no idea what will be next."

Her father and half-brother are still in Russia and so are her husband's elder brother, his wife and their son.

May had no direct word from the Soviet Union, but she had access to a computer network that includes Soviets. She learned on the network about the 10 tanks that had joined Boris Yeltsin, the defiant president of Russia.

She thinks the hard-liners may get a kind of unenthusiastic support from people who feel the reformers are not succeeding.

"They say there is chaos and anarchy," May said. "And they promise order. And some people are eager to have order.

"What makes me optimistic," she said, "is that the Soviet psychology is such that no one is eager to accept responsibility."

May said it is one thing to anonymously murder people at a Lithuanian TV station, quite another to order in tanks and personnel carriers when people know who's doing it.

"They are strong when they are anonymous," she said, "but not when they are exposed."

May lived in Kharkov, a Ukrainian city, before she and her husband, two sons and mother emigrated. She was trained as a computer programmer, but she and her husband became sort of free enterprise color film processors, virtually the first in Kharkov.

Watching tanks roll along the streets of Moscow were for her like watching an "unbelieveble, unrealistic movie."

May expects a rise in anti-Semitism if the hard-liners remain in power very long, and perhaps an end to the exodus of Jews from the Soviet Union.

"Scapegoats are always needed," she said.

"And not only Jews. Anybody in cooperative enterprises -- free enterprise -- because they don't obey the rules of the game. They really make money and they really produce something."

Len Latkovski was born in Latvia and brought out as a baby with his parents at the end of World War II. He teaches European history at Hood College in Frederick, specializing in Soviet and Latvian cultural and religious history.

He'd been in Latvia in July for a conference of Latvian scholars.

"The trip was great," he said.

Now Latkovski was marveling at the deposition of Mikhail Gorbachev by hard-liners in the Soviet Union.

"It's an amazing set of events," he said, "I didn't think it would happen -- because it can't succeed . . . .

"This is [the hard-liners'] most dramatic and desperate attempt to take power," he said.

Phones lines to Latvia were jammed, he said, but communication was still possible by Fax and Telex.

"I asked a contact of mine if anyone had been arrested," Latkovski said. "The answer was 'no.'"

He believes that if anyone in the independent government of Latvia is arrested by the Soviets there will be resistance. No guns, he said, demonstrations and strikes.

The Baltic nations are strategically important to the Soviet Union and full of Soviet troops.

"They won't succeed," Latkovski said. "They have no plan of action except to take control. To use force to get people to work just won't succeed. . . . It's a much more open society and they won't be able to close it."

The Rev. George Markewycz, the pastor of St. Michael's Ukrainian Orthodox Church, said "Yes, we are very concerned."

"I personally have my brother's daughter with me," he said. "She's extremely upset. I just got word there are soldiers already in Kiev. Somebody just called Kiev."

A short hurried call about a tour scheduled to leave tomorrow, and now it was canceled.

"My brother's daughter's having a heck of a time trying to stop from crying. Her father's there, her mother. She feels like she walked out on the whole thing, like she should be there."

Markewycz was born in the Ukraine. He, too, came out with his parents at the end World War II. He returned for the first time a couple of months ago. He was appalled by the impoverished living conditions.

Ukrainian sovereignty is threatened by the coup, the priest said, and so is independence from the Soviet Union.

"They're going to have to put that on hold," Markewycz said.

He chose a metaphor of illness for the Soviet Union.

"It's like waiting for an elderly patient to die of cancer," he said. "When death does come, it's still very surprising."

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