Irina Ratushinskaya (32), Orthodox heroine and poetess, was released from prison in the USSR on October 9, following a flood of protests on her behalf from the West, After 3½ years of imprisonment, her health was severely undermined by lengthy periods of solitary confinement in near freezing temperatures, a punishment she suffered for having interceded for certain fellow prisoners who were being harassed by the authorities. Despite fears of possible re-arrest, she and her husband, physicist Igor Geraschenko, were finally granted permission to accept an official invitation from the British government to go to England where Irina was offered free medical treatment. Before their departure on December 18, Soviet authorities warned that their parents and other relatives in the Ukraine "will be hostages to your behavior abroad." Nevertheless, the couple intends to disregard the 3-month limit on their travel visa and to remain in the West. Geraschenko told newsmen: "I consider that the possibility of return to the Soviet Union will only become a reality when respect for human rights becomes something real, not only in words but in deeds."
Even in the difficult conditions of imprisonment, Irina continued to write poetry, scratching out verses on a bar of soap and committing them to memory before washing them away. Later she said that writing helped her to survive her ordeal. While still at home in Kiev following her release, she was interviewed over the air by Chicago radio station WBEZ. Asked if she would consent to read one of her poor, is. she replied: "I will read a poem which I wrote already in freedom . It is dedicated to all those who thought and remembered about my fellow prisoners or about me." The following is a literal translation of the poem, submitted by one of our readers.
Believe me, so it happened often:
In solitary confinement, on a wintry night
Suddenly an embrace of warmth and happiness,
And a note of low would sound.
And then I sleeplessly know,
Leaning against the ice cold wall-
Now, now they are remembering me,
They are begging the Lord for me.
My dear ones, thank you
All, who remembered and believed in us
In the cruelest prison hour.
We, surely, could not have
Gone through all from end to end,
Not bowing our head, not faltering,
Without your lofty hearts
Illumining our way.