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On 21 May 2001 Academician Andrey Sakharov would have been 80...

Yevgeniy Zakharov, Kharkiv
In our house archive we have several things, very valuable for me. One of them is a photo of Andrey Sakharov presented by him to Ksenia Velikanova, who, in her turn, presented it to me. It happened so.

Ksenia or Asya, as her friends called her, died 14 years ago of cancer. She was an outstanding personality, courageous and firm. She participated in publishing ‘A Chronicle of Current Events’, was a member of the Moscow Helsinki group, she assisted much to the families of the arrested human rights protectors. Only her cancer saved her from being repressed, she lived with malignant tumors for the last ten years of her life. We were friendly with Asya, i always dropped to her coming to Moscow.

In the beginning of June 1985 I came to Moscow. Asya was very worried: she did not know about the lot of Sakharov. On 1 May his colleague, a physicist, received a letter that Sakharov went on a hunger-strike and was taken to a hospital. The addressee of the letter happened to die some days before, and his relatives were afraid to part with the letter, they just whispered about it to their closest friends. Yet, there were photo-telegrams from Elena Bonner, Sakharov’s wife, to Galina Evtushenko, her trustee in Moscow, and to her children in the USA that read: all is right. On 21 May Irina Kristi (a mathematician and a close friend of Sakharov, who managed to speak with Sakharov a year ago, when Bonner was arrested and Sakharov went on a hunger-strike), who emigrated to the USA, declared that Sakharov was not on a hunger-strike in her interview to ‘The Voice of America’. Yet, Bonner’s children in the USA smelled something suspicious and made a graphical expertise of the telegrams. The telegrams appeared to be faked. What could be said about telegrams to Moscow?

Asya gave me them. They read: ‘All is right here... Send me tights and nootropil for Andrey... Congratulations with the Victory Day, greet someone (alas, I forgot the name. – E. Z.)... I wake up and have a smoke, as a poet said. By the way, greet him too’. I recognized the quotation as that of Mezhirov. The complete quatrain sounds as follows:

‘He inhales his latest breath,

He is on the brink of death.

Horrified of what he spoke,

I wake up and have a smoke.’

Asya does not understand the hint. I recite her the verse. I said that censors did not catch the hint either. I myself, use this kind of encryption when I write abroad or to colonies.

Asya became very worried. ‘What shall we do? If something happens with Andrey, we’ll never pardon ourselves! And nobody can go there!’

That was I, who decided to go. I had a friend in Gorky, a mathematician Natalya Riabina. She could help, if needed.

Asya showed me several photos to remind me how Sakharov looks and presented one of them. She named the address: 214 Gagarina Ave, drew the scheme of the street and the house, marked the militia post and Sakharov’s balcony on the ground floor, gave the time, when Sakharov ‘has a walk’ on this balcony.

I went to the railway station, but there were no tickets for any day of the next week. I phoned to Natalya to Gorky. It appeared that she was in Moscow! I hurried to her. I learned that she knew a physicist, who was permitted to meet Sakharov, sometimes he told about Sakharov in the circle of his friends. On the same day Natalya returned home.

Asya invented the following plan: Natalya shall learn all she can about Sakharov and describe it in a letter to Asya’s acquaintance, and then Asya will pass the information to the West. They agreed to call Sakharov as ‘uncle’.

This channel worked to the very departure of Elena Bonner to the USA and later. We learned that Sakharov was kept in the oblast hospital. Before Sakharov’s appearance the entire ward personnel was changed: the doctors were sent on leave and nurses were transferred to other wards. Sakharov was fed coercively, and was not permitted to walk in the yard.

Natalya even managed to get to this ward by attending her friend, who stayed there. Sakharov and even the number of his room was not mentioned in the list of patients hung at the entrance of the hospital. There were two KGB-men on duty at the entrance to the ward, one more at the room door, two stayed in the adjacent room, one more shared the room with Sakharov.

Sakharov was on the hunger-strike from 16 April (stayed in the hospital from 21 April) to 11 July and from 25 July (in the hospital from 27 July) to 23 October. All in all the hunger-strike lasted 176 days (in 1984 he was on the hunger-strike in a hospital for 124 days); all this time he had not seen his wife. He accomplished what he wanted: Elena Bonner got a permission to go to Italy and the USA for medical treatment and meeting with her children and grandchildren. Yet, these hunger-strikes undermined his health.

Meanwhile scoundrel Victor Loui demonstrated in the West a faked film intended for pacifying the Western public. The academician is eating, has increased his weigh, is having a walk, has got reprints... The frames taken in 1984 were related to 1985; frames taken with a disguised camera were inserted: medical examination in the beginning of April of 1985, a table talk...

Andrey Sakharov and Elena Bonner were completely isolated from 4 May 1984 to 8 December 1986, when Anatoliy Marchenko died in the Chistopol prison after a long hunger-strike. This death opened the new time. On 9 December the militia posts were taken away and the telephone was installed. Gorbachev was the first who used the telephone: ‘Dr. Sakharov, return to Moscow and continue your patriotic activities’. In a week Sakharov and his wife returned to Moscow. He still had three years to live...
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