Frank Shatz is a Williamsburg resident. He is the author of “Reports from a Distant Place,” a compilation of his selected columns. The book is available at the Bruton Parish Shop and Amazon.com.
It was a nice surprise to see that my recent Gazette column about the 40th anniversary of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games, held in Lake Placid, New York, was reprinted on the website of the American University in Moscow.
The reason for the reprint may have been that the founder and president of the American University in Moscow, Dr. Edward Lozansky, still retains vivid memories of the 1980 Winter Olympics.
After all, it was the place where Lozansky’s case become known as "the great Russian love story.”
Lozansky came to Lake Placid to utilize the Games’ worldwide publicity to induce the Soviet government to permit his wife, Tatiana, and their daughter, Tania, 8, leave Russia and reunite with him in the United States.
Lozansky was once a young, brilliant nuclear physicist in the Soviet Union. He was married to the daughter of one of the highest-ranking generals. The Lozanskys had a luxury apartment in Moscow, a Russian country home and all the privileges of the Soviet elite. But Lozansky became disillusioned with the regime and became a dissident. His father-in-law arranged an exit visa for him from the Soviet Union.
In December 1976, Lozansky left Moscow on a Vienna-bound train. He received permission to emigrate with the understanding that his wife and his young daughter would be allowed to join him later in the West.
Alas, his father-in-law, did everything to block it.
The couple, Lozansky in the United States and Tatiana in Moscow, went on hunger strikes, demonstrated and petitioned with the goal of bringing attention to their plight and to bring pressure on the Soviet government to relent.
When Lozansky, at that time professor of nuclear sciences at the University of Rochester, learned about the Olympic People-for-People Program’s involvement with Soviet athletes, he contacted me and asked for help in persuading the Soviet government to allow his wife and daughter to join him in America.
In an effort to help him, Robert Peacock, the mayor of Lake Placid, and I as a representative of the People-for-People Program, sent a letter to Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev asking him to intercede on behalf of Tatiana Lozansky.
In his book of reminiscences, "For Tatiana,” Lozansky credits me with securing the signature of Eric Heiden on a petition sent to the Soviet government. Heiden was the American speed skater who won five gold medals during the 1980 Winter Games.
All our efforts, however, were in vain. It wasn’t until two years later, when Tatiana went on a 33-day hunger strike and her father relented that they got permission for Tatiana and Tania to emigrate.
Shortly after their arrival in the United States, Lozansky brought his family to Lake Placid to say "thank you” to the People-for-People Program.
Since the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, Lozansky has earned a high position in the Russian academic world. He became the founder and president of the American University in Moscow and is recognized as a vital bridge between American and Russian institutions of higher education.
For example, Lozansky was instrumental in organizing the first College of William & Mary and American University in Moscow lecture. It was presented by Dr. Joel Levine, a William & Mary research professor.