It’s not common lately to get a unanimous vote on the U.S. House floor, but that’s exactly what happened in a 422-0 vote earlier this month to support a resolution that called for the immediate release of , an American reporter for the Wall Street Journal who is imprisoned in Russia.
Russian authorities arrested Gershkovich nearly three months ago on espionage charges, which he, his employer and the U.S. government deny.
Also in that unanimously passed resolution was a line of continued support for all American citizens detained in Russia and elsewhere, including, by name, International Baccalaureate history teacher Marc Fogel.
“He’s not in the best health,” said Fogel’s sister, Anne Fogel.
Marc Fogel is serving 14 years in a penal colony after Russian airport authorities found less than 20 grams of medical marijuana on him, which a doctor had prescribed for chronic back pain due to a childhood injury.
Fogel’s family had hoped he would be included in the prisoner swap that released WNBA star , but that didn’t happen.
“We don’t want to fight with anyone,” Anne Fogel said. “We just want to get our brother home, our son home.”
The State Department classified Griner as wrongfully detained about two months after her arrest. The classification came for Gershkovich two weeks after he was detained. But nearly two years after Marc Fogel was arrested, his family is still begging the State Department for that designation.
“We don’t have the Wall Street Journal behind us and we don’t have the NBA behind us — but we’re going to fight the good fight,” Anne Fogel said.
Last month, Marc Fogel’s sister and 94-year-old mother took matters into their own hands, meeting with any lawmaker that would sit down with them on Capitol Hill.
Anne Fogel said it’s the natural next step for their family, short of sending their mother to the Kremlin.
“I’ll go,” Marc Fogel’s mother, Malphine, responded.
The pair met with 17 members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.
“The reception has been phenomenal. They have all showed a real interest in Marc’s case and have all promised to see what they can do to get the ball rolling and get him designated as wrongfully detained,” Malphine said.
A few weeks later, Marc Fogel’s son and nephew also met with lawmakers, including Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines of Montana, where Fogel’s sister, son and other relatives live.
“It just breaks your heart to see what’s happening right now to Marc Fogel,” Daines said. “He’s struggling with health issues. He’s not in good condition.”
Daines recently joined his former high school debate partner and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul to send Sec. of State Antony Blinken their own letter urging him to immediately designate Fogel as wrongfully detained. There’s an added layer of meaning for McFaul.
“Marc was Michael McFaul’s son’s teacher and just thought the world of him. So these are very important personal connections, there’s a Montana connection,” Daines said. “And we’ve got to keep this in the forefront of our State Department’s minds and get us release.”
Getting Fogel home is the first priority for his family, but they’re also hoping to get momentum for what’s being called the Marc Fogel Act.
“They’re going to work on a bill to limit the amount of time that the State Department can keep you in limbo for whether they’re planning to designate or not designate wrongful detainment,” Anne said.
The family is also planning a rally at the White House for July 15, which they hope will get the attention of the Biden Administration.