Irina Ratushinskaya obituary

2017/7/11 11:45:53

Odessa-born Soviet poet and dissident sentenced to seven years in a labour camp who found refuge in the UK in the 1980s. In her prison poetry she was able to capture the atmosphere of the camp in a remarkable way, finding joy in the simplest experience.

 

[This 1986 photo was taken by Jane Bown for the Observer]

 


By Michael Bourdeaux for The Guardian, updated Sunday 9 July 2017 22.00 BST

 

Early on the morning of 10 October 1986, Igor Gerashchenko, the husband of the dissident Soviet poet Irina Ratushinskaya, phoned Keston College, the centre for the study of religion in communist countries then based at Keston, in Kent. “Irina is free,” he told us: relayed to the BBC and thence to the world, this news upstaged the event for which the media had been waiting – the opening of the Reykjavik summit between the US president Ronald Reagan and the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

 

The timing was no coincidence. There was a hiatus in the news while Reagan and Gorbachev were airborne on their way to Iceland. The latter was anxious to prove to world opinion that he was serious about wanting to improve relations, not only internationally, but on the home front as well, through recognition of the improved human rights situation brought about by his programme of perestroika (reconstruction).

 

So it was a calculated move on his part. Irina had been reported as nearing death in prison, and he knew that freeing her would capture the world’s imagination. Thirty years on, she has died aged 63, of cancer.

 

Access the complete obituary at the link below:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017 ... na-ratushinskaya-obituary

 

Editor’s Note: You will also find an interesting remembrance of Ratushinskaya by BBC World Service’s “Witness” program at the link below:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p057ppkp

 

 

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