As I wrote in my first guest blog last week, I’m filling in for my dad, Robert Meeropol, while he’s on an anti-death penalty trip to Asia. I expected that this would be a relatively quiet time at the RFC office. We’re past the rush of the 20th anniversary events in NYC and the commemoration of the June 19th anniversary of the execution. My colleague Amber and I planned to take a few vacation days while covering the office during my father’s absence.
But the anticipated quiet disappeared in the wake of the arrest of the alleged “Russian spies.” Newspaper and television reporters from the U.S. and abroad inundated the RFC office with requests for statements from my dad about both his thoughts on the arrests and the impact on the seven children (five of them apparently under the age of 18) of those arrested.
With my father in Asia and out of both phone and email communication (and my uncle on a family vacation and also unreachable), we were unable to answer most of these requests. Fortunately, we have friends and colleagues at an organization in San Francisco (Legal Services for Prisoners with Children) who are able to speak to the likely impact of their parents’ arrests on these and other children.
And while my dad is not able to comment on this specific situation, his memoir An Execution in the Family describes his experience and its enormous impact on his life:
“After my parents’ arrests, my relatives were so frightened of being associated with ‘communist spies’ that they refused to take me into their homes. First I lived in a shelter. Later I lived with friends of my parents in New Jersey, but I was thrown out of school after the Board of Education found out who I was. After my parents' execution, the police even seized me from the home of my future adoptive parents, and I was placed in an orphanage.
Bad as this was, it could have been much worse. As I grew older, I came to realize the debt I owed to so many generous individuals whom I never met, but who rallied to my support. As a result of their collective efforts and generosity, I grew up in a loving household and flourished in the supportive environment provided by child-oriented progressive institutions. In 1990 I figured out how I could repay the community that helped me survive. I initiated the Rosenberg Fund for Children to find and help children who are enduring the same kind of nightmare I endured as a child.”
Hopefully, the children at the center of the current “Russian spy” case will not have to suffer the same nightmare my dad and uncle faced in the 1950s. And maybe, if they’re really lucky, they too will one day find a way to make sense of the disruption of their childhood and transform the pain of their current circumstances into something positive and life-affirming for others.
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