By Sigrid Weidenweber
Few might have noticed on Tuesday, October 29, 2019 the small article on the last page of the Wall Street Journal. It is entitled “A Dissident Outlives Soviet Communism” by Juliana Geran Pilon.
The title is misleading. Vladimir Bukovsky is dead but Soviet-style Communism is alive and well with Vladimir Putin in charge.
I am saddened by Bukovsky’s death—my family knew him well. His entire life was a struggle against the tyranny of Communism, and later against the tendrils of Socialist encroachment in Europe. He began this fight in high school, from which he was expelled for creating a satirical magazine, exposing the foibles of Communist education.
At Moscow University he read forbidden poetry in unofficial gatherings, disseminated underground literature and was arrested for for possessing anti-Soviet literature. These struggles were only the beginnings of his travails. As his jailers were unable to break his combative spirit, he was declared schizophrenic and confined in mental institutions. For, as their logic went, only a mentally ill person would be unable to understand the blessings of Communism. Therefore, he had to be mentally defective. For 12 years his youth was destroyed in psychiatric wards, prisons and labor camps. His fight for freedom and democracy was noted in the West. His defiant attitude, educating prisoners in Russian law and inspiring them to begin hunger strikes, together with a campaign to free him, brought him release to the West. In 1976 he was exchanged for the Chilean Communist party leader Luis Corvalon.
He settled in Cambridge, England, where he studied biology. His acclaim was such that President Carter, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan questioned him about Soviet life and politics.
He wrote a most powerful book about his experiences when he was psychologically and physically tortured, and the mental games he used to stay sane. “To Build a Castle: My life as Dissenter,” is an amazing, detailed account of survival.
During Yeltsin’s time in office, he managed to get into the archives of the Communist Central Committee, and with a lap-top and hand-held scanner smuggled out thousands of pages of evidence. Much of the material proved that the American left was in treacherous complicity with Moscow, had infiltrated the US government and showed how Communists supported Middle Eastern terrorists. One of his best-known books was finally recently released in the U.S. because it documented these treasonous abuses and was, therefore, not published.
As he watched political event s unfold, he believed that the European Union was growing into another Soviet-style behemoth, enslaving people with controlling little laws, smoking bans, restricting free speech and liberties.
Our family got to know him because of our involvement to free Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion. Bukovsky always gave freely of his time and person—no monetary strings attached—to help in the struggle against oppression. He generously helped our organization Americans for Afghans raise funds by attending and speaking at several of our fund-raisers, and by donating books to our cause. Through the years, since the mid-eighties, we stayed in touch until the death of my husband five years ago.
On a personal note, Vladimir loved his cat, cigarettes, vodka and his small Cambridge home.
He was a most unusual, strong-minded man who will be missed.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.
Sigrid Weidenweber grew up in communist East Berlin, escaping it using a French passport. Ms. Weidenweber holds a degree in medical technology as well as psychology and has course work in Anthropology. She is co-founder of Aid for Afghans. Weidenweber has traveled the world and lived with Pakistani Muslims, learning about the culture and religion. She is a published author and lecturer. You can find her books on Amazon.com