Walter Polovchak

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Walter Polovchak (born 3 October 1967) is a Ukrainian-American who, as a child, became the center of the legal case Polovchak v. Meese after refusing to leave the United States and return to Soviet Ukraine with his parents when he was 12.

The Polovchak case[edit]

The Polovchak family — the parents Michael, Anna and their three children — came to the United States from Soviet Ukraine in January 1980 and settled in Chicago. Later that year the parents decided to move back to the USSR, but the two elder children, Nataly (then aged 17), and Walter (12), disagreed and on July 13, 1980, left their parents' Chicago home to stay with a cousin in the same city. [1] The parents sought the assistance of the police to get their children back, but upon the advice of the US Federal Government (the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the State Department) the police decided not to return the children to their parents but to start custody proceedings in an Illinois court.[1]

On July 19, 1980, Walter Polovchak, with the help of his lawyer, filed an application for asylum with the INS, on the grounds of potentially being disadvantaged and persecuted in the USSR as being a defector. [1] The application was granted; later, in October, 1981, he was able to adjust his legal status to that of a lawful permanent resident.[1]

The case became a Cold War cause célèbre after the INS allowed him to stay against his parents' will, even as his parents pursued legal means to retake the custody of their son. Polovchak and his 18-year-old sister Nataly went to live with a cousin during the dispute, and a sympathetic Reagan administration helped drag out court procedures until Polovchak turned 18 and was no longer a minor.

Since becoming a U.S. citizen, Polovchak visits the now-independent Ukraine every other year, and has re-established relations with his parents. He lives in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines and is married with two sons.[2]

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