This past summer on July 5, Irina Ratushinskaya, former Russian poet and novelist who survived four years in a Soviet prison camp, died in Moscow.
Her heroic story captured the attention of the West after being arrested in 1983 for anti-Soviet propaganda. She composed hundreds of poems while in prison and smuggled them on cigarette paper through her husband. She was released before the Iceland summit meeting between Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and would later meet the U.S. President in Washington, D.C. after securing her freedom.
The papers of Irina Ratushinskaya came to Special Collections, Buswell Library, beginning in the summer of 1992 through contacts of Associate Professor of Communication Emerita, Myrna Grant. They include works of poetry, correspondence, articles, audio and artwork. As well, they include a memoir of her time in prison, entitled Grey Is The Color Of Hope. The largest portion of the collection is devoted to secondary material about Ms. Ratushinskaya while she was imprisoned and as human rights individuals advocated for her release.
One of her poems speaks to the harsh labor conditions and her periodic hunger strikes at the prison camp:
And I will tell of the first beauty I saw in captivity.
A frost-covered window! No spy-holes, nor walls,
Nor cell-bars, nor the long endured pain —
Only a blue radiance on a tiny pane of glass.