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Joan Baez – Natalia

August 25th will see the 43rd anniversary of the 1968 Red Square Demonstration against the suppression of Prague Spring. Although 8 people took part in it, only 7 were thrown in prisons and lunatic asylums. Among them was Natalya Gorbanevskaya who turned 75 on 26 May. Having recently given birth, she wasn’t tried with all other participants. She used the “free time” to narrate the history of events that was published abroad as Red Square at Noon. However, in December 1969 she was arrested and spent next few years in the psychiatric prison, until February 1972. Soon after her release Gorbanevskaya emigrated and has since been living in Paris.

Gorbanevskaya graduated from the Philological Faculty of the Leningrad University in 1964 and worked as a technical editor and translator. She also wrote beautiful, lyrical poetry that was very sparingly published in the Soviet literary journals. This is how Yury Kublanovsky describes Gorbanevskaya’s poetry:

The originality of Gorbanevskaya’s poetry – and with the years, in emigration, this tendency has increased – lies in the fact that most of her poems do not develop in a linear way: introduction; development; resolution. Economical, lapidary, her texts go straight to the heart of the matter, apparently devoid of a framework. Metaphorically speaking, one might say that she constructs not “houses”, but “nests”. In her lyrical heroine there is indeed something of the tireless builder of nests: ever busy . . . And the reader suddenly feels that it is a privilege to be a contemporary of this indefatigably intrepid worker, tough, at times even harsh. There’s a certain phonetic, rhythmic, imagistic complexity that is more a sign of something organic than a defect. (read the full review).

A selection of Natalya Gorbanevskaya’s poems is displayed at Arlindo Correia website, with English translation. And in 1976 the famous policial activist and singer Joan Baez dedicated a song to Natalya, to the lyrics by Shusha Guppy, a distinguished female writer, editor, and performer of Persian and Western music. The political demonstrants of the once terrifying Soviet Union were like a gleam of hope for people’s rights activists and those who believed in the individual’s power. As the Czechs said, because of those 7 people who sat in the Red Square in 1968 they could no longer think bad about Russians.

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