Sakharov is their symbol

Laureaat Freedom of Speech Award 1990

Those whose voices helped destroy the Iron curtain Laureaat Freedom of Speech Award 1990

In 1990, the Award for Freedom of Speech and Expression was given in memory of those whose voices helped destroy the Iron Curtain. Andrei Sakharov is their symbol – one of the bravest men of our time. A poem by Yevgeny Yevtushenko is dedicated to his memory. The poem was read by Adrian Brine, one of the leading stage personalities of the Netherlands.



Dedicated to the memory of A.D. Sakharov



The heart went on strike,

                                      as if it were a mine.

Just yesterday,

                      hair even whiter in the snow,

he left the Kremlin, hatless,


through ghosts of boyars,


                                               and leaders.

Malyuta spied on him in the powdery snow,

and so did Beria,

                                    and that pock-marked butcher….



His last words to his wife

      and the world were:

                                    "Tomorrow there will be a battle…."

History's most peaceful rebel,

in dying, he

               did not come down from the cross,

but he left a horrifying hole

in the moral fabric of the world.




              There is no strike more terrible,

But in defiance of advancing death

stoop shouldered,

                           face whiter than a leaflet,

he raised his fists

                           above the Congress's jeers.



Not vengeance,

                           not personal spite,

but reason led him to save the country

from rule by arrogance,


which had turned into war against the self.


He understood, in premonition of the end,

boos still ringing in his ears:

that unenlightened semifreedom

was just a step away from enlightened freedom.



O, Homeland!

                     weary of tears and groans,


       and prisons,

                            and hospitals,

don't grow accustomed

                                     after the murder of millions

to the loss of individual geniuses.

The pivot of a nation

                                is an individual.

A nation is made up of people,

                                               not zeros.



O Homeland!

                    to keep from freezing over,

learn at last to be warmer toward your geniuses.

We 're too closely enmeshed

                                              with the base and the unclean,

and if we solve complexities crudely,

                                                         head on,

we will have to weep over the idealists

we hound to the grave.



Will we be able to avert apathy

and keep up our spirits and our conscience,

and worry how to earn our freedom

where power belongs to everyone

                                                     and the only authority is conscience?

Let's unite at the fateful mountains pass!

As long as our hearts

                                  bear up under the load

and do not tire,

                        do not go on strike….

As long as there is a tomorrow,

                                       tomorrow there will be a battle.



                                Yevgeny YEVTUSHENKO


Translated, from the Russian, by Antonina W. Bouis. December 15, 1989.