“If a person is weeping – leave…” Poet and human rights colossus Alexander Tkachenko dies in Russia By Grigory Pasko, journalist The phoned me from the radio station «Liberty» and told me that Alexander Petrovich Tkachenko had died. Director-General of the Russian PEN-centre, poet, novelist, human rights advocate. He had died in the 63rd year of life. In one of his last books of poems, there are the following lines: “Do not go out of a house if a bird is crying. If a person is weeping – leave.”
The last time we saw each other was a month before his death. We discussed his latest books, he was building plans for the further survival of the Russian Pen-club, the director-general of which he had been since 1994 and which the Putinite power – and indeed, the power in general – did not like at all for its constant calls for human rights to be observed… We talked about the upcoming elections, about the opposition… He did not complain about his health. True, this past summer he had told me that he’d gotten a pacemaker put in.That day, he had given me a copy of his latest book, in which he wrote: “To my dear Grigory with love and friendship, my Crimean epic with wishes for all that is the very best, an most importantly – health”.He was a true son of the Crimea – a real “Krymchak”: talented, hard-headed, full of joy, and courageous.Who was Sasha to me? A friend? An older brother? I don’t know. I do know that we always understood one another instinctively, without having to spell everything out. We were in various places and in various situations. And he was always a fighter, life-affirming, never despondent. When he didn’t like somebody, he would say: ah, he can just go and… He was a brave man. I liked him for his humor, his vivacity, his spirit, his drive, his talent. I liked him from the moment we first met – in the investigative isolator prison of Vladivostok, where he had come all the way from Moscow with Andrei Bitov just to tell me that the Russian PEN-club, in the person if its director Sasha Tkachenko, would defend me at the trial on charges of state treason. (Sasha would later say: “They should have issued a verdict that said: on the charge of treason to SUCH a Motherland – acquitted…”).Later he said he would have defended me even if he had known that I was a spy.Sasha defended lots of people: Dima Bykov, Alina Vitukhnovskaya, Bayan Shiryanov, Eduard Limonov…He wrote many books. Particularly well known is his «Football» – a book about his love of the game. Many of his books have been translated into the languages of the world. He often travelled around the world, and often gave readings of his poetry. I would say that he’s probably better known beyond the border than in Russia. World-famous writers knew him, and not merely as the director of the Russian Pen, but as a friend.It is not true that there is no such thing as an irreplaceable person. Tkachenko is irreplaceable. It’s hard for me to imagine someone who defended people being persecuted by the stat with such commitment, with a mass of emotion, with such energy.May the memory of you always remain bright, my friend Sasha, Alexander Petrovich Tkachenko.