Avital Sharansky's short, nervous breaths formed clouds of smoke in the frigid German air. She had not seen her husband, Anatoly, since shortly after their wedding 12 years ago, and within minutes, he would cross the frozen Glienicker Bridge to freedom-and to her.
For years, she had thought of her husband, imprisoned in the Soviet Union after requesting permission to immigrate to Israel, and every day, she relentlessly fought to secure his release. Although an introvert by nature, she led marches, addressed rallies, and met with presidents, prime ministers, royalty, and Jewish leaders about Anatoly's plight. When she would despair of ever seeing him again, she recalled his promise before being sentenced: "My Avital," he had declared, "Next year in Jerusalem!" Now, she thought excitedly, we'll live together in Israel, as we always dreamed.
Within minutes, a thin figure appeared on the opposite end of the bridge. With his head held high, Anatoly stepped across the bridge and left captivity forever. As they embraced, Avital could scarcely believe that her efforts had finally been rewarded. But Anatoly, it seemed, had not forgotten his promise to her: "Sorry for being late," he said.
Avital and Anatoly-who later changed his name to Natan-immigrated to Israel, where they reside today with their two daughters. Natan was elected to the Knesset, while Avital was content to stay out of the public eye. She briefly reappeared to address 400,000 people rallying to support the unity of Jerusalem in 2001.