From Marjorie’s Diary (1984)

What one truly understands clearly articulates itself, and the words to say it come easily.


Sunday, 27 May 1984

I feel the need to write down some of what has been happening. I`ve been reading Raisa Orlova’s Memoirs – the memoirs of one successful ambitious Soviet communist, who was suddenly wracked with introspection and guilt in her late middle age. It’s made a big impression on me – wondering how someone so acute and honest could have been so blind and ignorant. What does it mean for the rest of us? Because the disclosures of the 1950s and 1960s came as such a shock to her – they hit the reader with freshness. I was terribly moved by a verse of Galich’s poetry which she quotes, and I don’t know why.

Но ложились тени на суглинок  / But the shadows have spread on the soil
И сквозили тени в каждом взгляде / And the shadows snow there at every glance
Тени всех бутырок и треблинок / The shadows of all Butyrkas and Treblinkas
Всех измен, предательств и распятий.. / Of all the treachery, betrayals and crucifixions.

The image of shadows which show through at each glance is very powerful. What are my shadows, or the shadows that show through me? I’ve also been reading Living with Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler Ross, another marvellous book. We are born with only two fears, she says: fear of loud noises and fear of falling. Where do all the others come from? Why am I locked with this moral “embrace” with the Soviet Union? I am exhausted by it. Is it because of some collective shadows showing through me? I find it at once the most real and fascinating knowledge, and stifling.

On Friday we were faced with the imminent death of Yermak Lukyanov, the death penalty case we’ve worked on solidly for 10 months; and with the media collecting obituary material for Sakharov. If Sakharov dies, the whole effort of human rights work seems hopeless …



Raisa Orlova, Memoirs, Random House: New York, 1983. Orlova (1918-1989 Cologne) was a Russian writer and literary scholar, second wife of Lev Kopelev; they emigrated to Germany in the early 1980s.

Yermak Lukyanov — A Belgian citizen of Kalmyk origin detained while visiting the USSR in 1968, Luyanov spent the next 15 years in psychiatric hospitals. In 1983, he was sentenced to death, supposedly for commiting treason (during the Second World War), and executed in May 1984 despite Western protests.

Exiled to Gorky (Nizhny Novgorod) in January 1980, Andrei Sakharov went on hunger strike on 2 May 1984 in protest at the refusal of the Soviet authorities to allow his wife Yelena Bonner to receive medical treatment abroad.