Eulogy to Ludmilla by Rachel Sharansky Danziger

December 8 at 8:49 PM ·

Lyudmila Alexeyeva died today.

I'm writing the words and I can hardly believe them.

Yes, she was 91 years old. Yes, her health was poor.

But she was so full of life, so full of fire. I can't imagine her dead.

Luda fought against the Soviet regime back when it meant incarceration or exile or worse (she was eventually exiled). She looked that evil regime --- a regime built on oppression that went very deep, as deep as telling people what version of history to believe in, as deep as tainting all friendships with the fear of being turned in for telling an anti-Soviet joke --- in the eye, and said "no".

She chose to live free, right there, in the midst of the oppressors. She formed true friendships with other like minded individuals. She held their hands and held her head high. She told jokes and laughed and spoke her mind. She risked it all. She refused to go on pretending, hiding, living a lie.

She founded the Helsinki Watch Group.

She was a dissident.

She was exiled for it.

And once the regime collapsed and she went back to Russia, she went straight back to fighting the dangers of oppression and dictatorship, standing up to the current government, and rallying support for the cause of democracy in her homeland.

One day, when my kids will grow up and ask me what I'm proud of, I'll tell them that I'm proud to have met Luda Alexeyeva. I'm proud to have talked with her. I'm proud to have heard her stories first hand.

I'm not proud because it's an achievement: I didn't earn these meetings.

I'm proud because these meetings were an opportunity - an opportunity to meet a person of true courage and learn from her. And I'm proud that I took that opportunity, and that I tried to learn.

she taught me that standing up for your principles takes a lot of leg work: It's not always about making grand stands and taking risks. Sometimes it's about walking from one store to another, until you have enough paper to create the prisoners lists that need to be smuggled to the free world.

She taught me that the most valuable currency of any movement is friendship.

She taught me that you don't need to be strong, young or healthy to stand firm.

Rest in peace, dear Luda. May your legacy live on. May your country deserve you.

Roger LernerComment