On Rosh Chodesh Ellul, 5701 [August 23rd, 1940] Rabbi Levi Yitzchok wrote to the infamous head of the NKVD, Lavrenti Beria, asking for his case to be reviewed and for his immediate release. It is important to note that sending any letter to such a high-ranking official, who was renowned for his brutality and ruthlessness, was very daring in itself.
The other three chassidim who were convicted along with Rabbi Levi Yitzchok also sent letters appealing their sentences. However, they did not hold out much hope. Such appeals were usually sent to the NKVD special committee, or Ossovoye Sovischenye, which always rejected them.
From then on everything seemed hopeless, until the day when a young chassid named Mendel Rabinowitz was informed that he was going to be sent to a distant combat zone with his Red Army Unit. Mendel decided to act quickly and he told the army that he was suffering from serious stomach problems. The army sent him to a special medical board for an examination. From there he was sent to Moscow, where a more senior board granted him a discharge from the Red Army after three years of service.
Before Mendel went home to his family following his discharge, he traveled to Chiali to visit Rabbi Levi Yitzchok. During this visit, he wore his army uniform and he posed as Rebbitzen Chana’s son. As they bore a resemblance to each other, the neighbors believed her and they even began to have a higher opinion of the “parents” of this military hero.
When Mendel saw how frail and sick Rabbi Levi Yitzchok had become, he made every effort to secure his release on the grounds of poor health. Knowing that Rabbi Levi Yitzchok would probably not be released at the expected time, Mendel decided to see if he could at least secure his freedom on the date that his exile was officially due to finish.
Mendel and Rebbitzen Chana met a number of officials to request the necessary papers, but none of their efforts were successful. One day, when all hope appeared to be lost, they ran into a former resident of Dnieperpetrovsk. He mentioned that his daughter was a doctor who worked in the local hospital. She had excellent connections with the senior physician, who was authorized to sign the papers that were necessary for Rabbi Levi Yitzchok’s release.
When they heard this, Mendel and Rebbitzen Chana were overjoyed. Finally there was a ray of hope. Before he had left the Red Army, Mendel had made sure to take some bottles of vodka with him. He was well aware that in the former Soviet Union many difficult situations could be remedied with a bottle of vodka and that a suitable bribe was the key to many doors. Sure enough, a bottle of vodka was enough for his new friend from Dnieperpetrovsk to persuade the senior physician to sign the papers for Rabbi Levi Yitzchok’s release.
Now Mendel was able to take the first real steps towards ending Rabbi Levi Yitzchok’s exile. It was hard for him to leave, but he hoped that his parting from Rabbi Levi Yitzchok and Rebbitzen Chana was only temporary. With tears in his eyes he promised that he would do whatever he could to bring their harsh exile to an end.
From Chiali, Mendel went to Tashkent and tried to arrange Rabbi Levi Yitzchok’s transfer to that city. Unfortunately he was unsuccessful. Eventually Mendel went to live in Almaty, the capital of Kazakhstan, with his wife and baby. Mendel’s older brother was already living in Almaty and both men put every effort into seeking Rabbi Levi Yitzchok’s release.