Natalia Gorbanevskaya, 1936-2013

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On November 29, Natalia Gorbanevskaya—poet, translator, human rights activist and participant of the 1968 Red Square demonstration—died in Paris. She died in her sleep. She was 77.

Institute of Modern Russia Senior Policy Advisor Vladimir Kara-Murza summed it up nicely.

Natalia Gorbanevskaya was one of those people who serve as a moral guide for society. And even though she did not consider her activities in defense of human rights to be heroic (she often said that her participation in the 1968 demonstration was a ‘selfish’ move—she ‘wanted to have a clean conscience’) people like Natalia Gorbanevskaya defended the honor of the country and of society, openly challenging lies and injustice while the majority remained silent. Such righteous people save the city.

Too often people either forget or never learned about the struggle against tyranny by many from the end of WWII to the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Natalia deserves to be remembered and respected. There was a news story from August 25, 2013 about human rights activists marking the anniversary of the 1968 Red Square protest against the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.

RFE/RL’s Russian Service reports the participants gathered at Red Square and unfurled a black banner reading “For Your And Our Freedom” — the same slogan used by the 1968 protesters, who gathered four days after Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia on August 21.

Correspondent Ivan Trefilov reported that police quickly tried to break up the August 25 protest, saying it was an unauthorized street action.

A number of prominent activists were detained, including Nadezhda Mityushkina and Mikhail Shneider of the Solidarity movement.

Opposition leader Sergei Sharov-Delaunay — whose cousin, Vadim Delaunay, was one of the original eight 1968 protesters — was also among those detained.

Another 1968 protester, poet Natalya Gorbanevskaya, watched the gathering from the sidelines, offering support to the activists but not holding the banner.

Gorbanevskaya, now 77, spent two years in a Soviet psychiatric prison for her role in the original protest, which she attended as a mother of two, pushing her 3-month-old baby in a pram.

Gorbanevskaya, who received the lightest sentence because of her children, continued to lobby on behalf of her fellow protesters and published an account of their trials in her work “Red Square At Noon.”

She was later commemorated in the song “Natalia” by U.S. folk singer Joan Baez and Iranian-born lyricist Shusha Guppy.

Below is a video of the song, Natalia. Rest in Peace, Natalia. You have reminded us that fighting against tyranny is never over. There is always someone who hungers for the power to control people, and we always need people like you willing to fight them. We are waiting for our Natalia now for it will surely take that to bring down this house of cards under Obama. I’m glad she survived to see hers torn down.

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