…..because of the quality writing of men like Robert Fulford, just to name one of many great NP writers.  http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/robert-fulford-natan-sharansky-survived-communist-oppression-a-siberian-prison-and-israeli-politics

We sent impressionable young athletes to the Sochi olympics where they were bowled over by the charm of Vladimir Putin, convinced he was their best bud.  The cold, calculating President Putin who oversaw the KGB.

Some years ago our local University College of the Fraser Valley, (now UFV)  had free copies of the National Post all over the campus.  That would be a good balance to some of the rather biased liberal bent of ‘higher’ learning.   –  Gerda

Some Excerpts:   Today, at 67, Sharansky is the ultimate survivor. He survived Communist oppression, survived a Siberian prison and survived Israeli politics. His personal history demonstrates that he has nerves of steel and a profound commitment to human rights. In private, during an interview, he’s confident, eloquent, tough and at times light-hearted. His well-earned contempt for the KGB emerges in the form of good humour.

In the early 1970s, with his degree in mathematics, he found a job in a mathematics institute. In his first year he decided to go to Israel and asked for an exit permit. It was refused but the request eventually made him unemployable. Soon he was arrested while demonstrating for Jewish rights.

 

The government decided to deal with him and brought a charge of treason (which carried a possible death penalty). The prosecution called him a spy for the CIA and offered evidence that he talked with foreign journalists, communicated with other foreigners and spoke in public against the restrictions on emigration. Found guilty, he was sentenced to 13 years. He served nine, much of it in Siberia and many months in solitary.

The KGB guards demanded he become an example to others by confessing his crimes, an idea he refused to consider. Solitary confinement was expected to destroy him. He believes he saved his sanity by playing and sometimes replaying chess matches in his mind. He would sometimes imagine himself as white, lose, then play as black to re-imagine the match and see if black still won. As a child he was a chess prodigy who could win three games at once, blindfolded and against adults. In Israel in 1996, the years of unremitting practice helped him beat Garry Kasparov, the champion of champions.

Campaigners in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere lifted the hopes of Russian Jews for their eventual release. And the struggles of Russian Jews gave new meaning to the lives of their supporters in the West. I first sensed this when my friend, the late Barbara Frum, told me that she and other Jews were making phone calls to refuseniks, to raise their spirits and show the Soviet authorities that people far away were concerned. It transformed lives on both sides of the equation.

The campaigns, the posters and the rallies made Sharansky a celebrity prisoner in several countries. American politicians, led by Senator Henry Jackson, supported him. Finally, Ronald Reagan’s government arranged his freedom through a prisoner swap. Immediately Sharansky departed for Israel, where his wife was waiting.

Soon he was involved in politics as a member of the Knesset. He served from 1996 to 2005, as minister in a series of four departments and for a time as deputy prime minister. When he quit, he said, “I decided nine years in prison and nine years in the Knesset was enough in both cases.”

Sharansky seems to have a knack for making a quick, concise statement at just the right time. At his darkest moment, after he was sentenced to 13 years, he said he had no more to say to the court. But he did have a message for his wife, Avital, and for all Russian Jews: “Next year in Jerusalem.”

National Post
robert.fulford@utoronto.ca

 

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