Preparing the documentation and presenting them to the Office of Visas and Registration (OVIR) to apply for a Visa to leave the Soviet Union was a complicated process that took about half a year to execute. Some of the required papers had to be forged and some were simply too difficult to obtain. One of the hardest documents to get hold of was a letter of recommendation from work, in which the manager of the factory testified that his employee was a decent, law-abiding individual and the factory recommended that he be allowed to leave Russia because the factory would not be negatively affected by his departure.

If someone asked for this letter directly, it was likely that he would either be refused outright or even fired. Managers were afraid that if they signed this letter of recommendation, they were likely to pay dearly for doing so. Many who submitted the paperwork lost their jobs and had to find menial jobs afterwards like being a watchman or a janitor.

When I wanted to give a letter of recommendation to one of the workers, which stated that the factory approved of his request to emigrate, I would wait until a pile of hundreds of letters had accumulated that needed the manager’s signature. I prepared a letter on the official stationary of the factory, on which I wrote, in the name of the manager, that he allowed the employee to present a request to emigrate and recommended him, and I put this paper within the pile of papers, after several dozen letters.

When the manager received this pile of papers, he glanced at the first one and signed it, then he looked at the second one and signed it, and so on, for several letters until he got tired and began signing sheet after sheet without examining them. When he got up to the page of recommendation that I had stuck within the pile, he signed it as well.

After he finished signing all of the documents and returned the pile of letters, I sighed with relief. I immediately put all of the letters into my briefcase and quickly left his office.

I cannot describe to you how tense I was each time I presented him with a pile of letters knowing that within the stack was a letter or several letters for his recommendation. If I had been caught I would have been severely censured and perhaps fired, along with all of my employees, but Hashem helped and I was able to arrange these letters for myself and for all of my registered employees when the time came to leave the Soviet Union.