At a 26 April 2011 Kennan Institute event, Lisa C. Paul, author and attorney, Milwaukee, WI, discussed her new book, Swimming in the Daylight: An American Student, a Soviet-Jewish Dissident, and the Gift of Hope. In Swimming in the Daylight, Paul chronicled her life as a college student working in Moscow from 1983 to 1985; her relationship with her teacher and friend, Soviet-Jewish dissident Inna Kitrosskaya Meiman; and the challenges Paul faced in garnering enough support for Meiman to travel from the USSR to America.

Paul lived in the Soviet Union by working as a nanny for an American family in Moscow, where Meiman was her Russian language tutor. As their friendship developed, Meiman revealed that she was battling cancer. Although western countries had invited Meiman to travel abroad to receive medical treatment for her condition, the Soviet government denied her a visa for political reasons—her husband, Naum, was a member of the Moscow Helsinki Watch Group—the small but momentous group fighting for human rights in the Soviet Union. Back in the United States, Paul went on a twenty-five day hunger strike in December 1985 to publicize and protest the Soviet government’s refusal to grant Inna an exit visa. Her effort gained national media attention and caused American politicians to fight for Inna’s freedom. All these efforts succeeded in getting Mikhail Gorbachev to issue Inna a visa in December 1986.

Meiman, unfortunately, died three weeks after arriving in America. Paul explained that “if your fight is for human dignity and for your own right to survive—whether that’s a day or a week or three years—I think if you win that battle, it’s enough. Inna died living free.” In conclusion, Paul hoped that Swimming in the Daylight will “inspire people to find hope even in the darkest times.”

By Christian Dallago
Blair Ruble, Director, Kennan Institute

The Kennan Institute speaker series is made possible through the generous support of the Title VIII Program of the U.S. Department of State.