NEW YORK -- Soviet dissident Pyotr G. Grigorenko, a World War II general stripped of his rank and put in a psychiatric ward for five years for criticizing the invasion of Czechoslovakia, has been hospitalized in New York, his family said Wednesday.
Grigorenko, whose Soviet citizenship was revoked in 1977 while he was visiting the United States, became a U.S. citizen and has lived in New York since.
Grigorenko, 79, has been hospitalized since November, his son Andrei said Wednesday. A Beth Israel Hospital spokesman confirmed that Grigorenko was a patient.
Andrei, one of Grigorenko's four sons but the only one living outside the Soviet Union, said his father never fully recovered from a stroke he suffered three years ago while delivering a lecture on human rights in Kansas City, Mo.
The stroke left him partially paralyzed and although he recovered somewhat he has 'never gained the ability to write again' and his condition deteriorated in November, his son said. Grigorenko's last work was his memoirs, which he subtitled: 'In the Undeground, One Meets Only Rats.'
'He was the first one to speak out for human rights,' his wife, Zinaida, said. 'There was no Sakharov, Bonner and Shcharansky then.'
She was referring to Soviet dissidents Andrei Sakharov, his wife, Yelena Bonner, and Anatoly Shcharansky -- all well-known in the West.
As a general during World War II, Grigorenko was wounded twice. He fell out of favor for criticizing the army establishment and was reduced to private's rank in 1964.
He went on to denounce the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and to demand that Crimean Tatars be allowed to return to their native areas from which dicator Josef Stalin expelled them in 1944, charging they collaborated with the Germans.
Instead of being tried on charges of anti-Soviet activities, Grigorenko was sent to psychiatric hospitals from 1969 to 1974 -- setting off protests by human rights activists.
'They placed him in a psychiatric hospital for speaking out. He was the sole dissident then. I know I stood next to him then,' his wife told told United Press International.
Grigorenko, a Ukrainian who campaigned for the rights of all nationalities in the Soviet Union, stands well over 6 feet and is beloved by the Soviet emigre community in New York.
When he arrived in New York in 1977, Ukrainian school children from the area engulfed him with flowers and he lovingly scooped many of the youngsters into his arms.