Local Soviet defector to be freed from prison
After years of requesting political asylum while fighting deportation, Charlottesville resident and Soviet defector Gennady Denisenko received word this morning that he will not be deported and will be released from the federal detention facility in Texas where he has been held since late April.
"Oh, my God, you just want to fall on your knees and yell 'Glory,'" says Denisenko's wife, Melinda, who also got the news today. "I was glad I was sitting down because I probably would have fainted."
Attorney Mark Urbanski has learned that the counsel for Citizenship and Immigration Services handling Denisenko's case has joined the motion to re-open his client's petition for legal residence in the United States.
"This was 90 percent of the battle," says Urbanski. "We expect the court will re-open the case in a matter of days."
It also means that after five months in federal custody, Denisenko will finally be able to reunite with his wife Melinda, who recounted a powerful story of hope and heartbreak last week in the Hook.
"He's eligible for bond," says Urbanski, "and now he'll be able to be released."
It couldn't have come a minute too soon. Last Wednesday, September 25, Urbanski learned that the Russian government had fast-tracked Denisenko's deportation, and that it was to have been a matter of days before his client was placed on a plane to his native Russia, where he'd previously endured years in a gulag.
As the Hook reported, Denisenko had defected from the Soviet Union in 1991 after having already served five years in a Siberian prison for being either a bribe-taker–- or an outspoken opponent of the communist regime and an advocate for democracy in Russia.
Despite the fall of the Soviet Union, Denisenko "fears going back more than anything," his wife said. "If they deport him," she continued, "I'll never see him again. The government will make him disappear."
Now, after 17 years of petitioning the federal government for the right to stay in his adoptive homeland, Denisenko will finally be able to make his case before a federal immigration judge.
"It should be about two months," says Urbanski. "It won't even be about political asylum now. It will be about his marital status, and he's been married to a U.S. citizen for more than six years now."
Should Denisenko finally get his green card at this hearing, it will be the realization of a long-held, American dream.
"My heart is American," he told the Hook in a statement his wife conveyed. "I want to have the chance to stand and to take the oath for this great country of ours and become a naturalized citizen. This is my dream–- true freedom and liberty."