Swimming in the Daylight: An American Student, a Soviet Dissident, and the Gift of Hope is the story of the improbable friendship between Lisa Paul, an American college student, and Inna Kitrosskaya Meiman, a Soviet-Jewish dissident and refusenik, which takes place at a pivotal time in history: the years just before the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The book begins in September 1984 when Lisa is living in Moscow and working as a nanny for an American family. Inna becomes Lisa’s Russian language tutor and, gradually, her trusted friend and confidante. At the same time, Inna reveals an indomitable spirit as she endures a perverse reality: invitations from governments in the West to receive life-saving cancer treatment yet denied a visa by her own government to do so. Refusing her a visa, Inna explains, is the Soviet authorities’ way to persecute her husband, Naum, for his work as a member of the Moscow Helsinki Watch Group — the small but momentous group fighting for human rights in the Soviet Union. Before leaving Moscow in May 1985, Lisa is the catalyst for a CBS news interview of Inna. She promises Inna that when she returns to the U.S., she will do all she can to help Inna. And so Lisa sets out, relying on her American beliefs and Catholic faith, as she embarks on a hunger strike to call attention to Inna’s desperate plight.
The friendship between Lisa and Inna is ultimately a story about the human spirit soaring above oppression, hope burning through the darkest despair, and faith believing the impossible.