Archive for February 16th, 2024

Navalny’s friend speaks out: “Yes, it’s scary to talk, it’s been scary for a long time.”

Friday, February 16th, 2024
The speaks out

Several years ago, I remember a long languorous afternoon at the Stanford Shopping Center, having coffee with Varya Gornostaeva, editor of the prestigious Corpus Publishing house in Moscow, and her husband Serguei Parkhomenko, a senior advisor at the Kennan Institute. How times have changed. Today I connected with Varya on a grimmer matter.

The whole world is outraged by the unexpected and unexplained death of Alexei Navalny, a heroic Russian opposition leader, lawyer, political activist, and freedom fighter. He died a political prisoner in the Arctic today. We know no more.

Here are Varya’s comments about the new and shocking events surrounding a man who was a personal friend, posted on Facebook in Russian:

No words for a long time. None at all today. But I have to find a few; it seems like it’s my duty. A duty to the man who was the hope of a huge country, although the country did not know about it or think about it. At best, it spat on him – and on itself at the same time; at worst, it oppressed and ridiculed him. A duty to the man I considered to be my friend and my personal hope, the man I trusted completely and in whom I had complete confidence. He wrote me amazing letters from prison – after reading them I would have been ashamed to break down and whine, ashamed to complain, ashamed to feel sorry for myself.

Navalny and an admirer

I have no words, but I have to find them. This is such terrible grief, such terrible loss, such terrible helplessness. Today we said to each other – that’s it, we have no more hope. And we immediately thought that Lyosha [Alexei] wouldn’t approved of us, he would be ashamed of us. No hope, really? He lived only for this hope of ours. He almost died for it once, but he survived for it, and he returned to Russia for it. And now he has died for it. No, that’s the point. Not died, you can’t say that. Not died, but murdered. Just like that – he was murdered, and many participated in this murder. The main murderer is Putin. And those who carried out his orders are murderers. And those around him are murderers. And those who were silent – they covered it up and protected the murderers. Yes, it’s scary to talk, it’s been scary for a long time. It’s scary to talk out loud, but at least tell yourself this truth, tell your children, tell your mom and dad. You cannot go out to the public square, now no one asks that of you anymore. If you did not go out before – it’s on your conscience. But now at least admit it to yourself – we live among murderers. I live among murderers. Murderers of the whole country of Ukraine, murderers of Russia, murderers of its best people. Say this to yourself. That’s already a lot.

Grief, grief. Feeling helpless, powerless in front of terrible evil. And also rage. And also burning hatred, so unusual, unknown even a few years ago. I never knew what hate was before. And now it is with me every day. There’s something about this hate. No, it does not destroy you, it does not eat you up inside, there is nothing to be ashamed of, there is no need to think that it is giving birth to a new hate. I gave myself permission to hate. This is noble hate. Hating evil is necessary for mental health. And also gratitude. That we lived nearby, that such a human example was shown to us. Such impeccable sense of language, intonation, such selfless dedication without pathos, such wit. And such fearless confidence in his own rightness. This is what hope is – it happened to us once and it can still happen again.

And it will.