Yelena Bonner, 1923-2011


Activist, dissident, organizer, leader, moral voice, former political prisoner, widow of Andrei Sakharov, and all around lioness of human rights in Russia Yelena Bonner has regrettably passed away today at the age of 88.

Only a few years ago, I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Yelena on a number of occasions, and each time I walked away from our pleasant chats with a deep sense of wonder over the determination and history she carried so effortlessly on her shoulders.

Many others knew her much closer than I did, so I will leave the celebration of her life and memory through proper obituary in more capable hands.  What I can say is that even well into her 80s, she had the intense personal drive found only among a small number of remarkable people.  She was in a state of incandescence concerning the abuses present regime, the state of disrepair of Russian democracy, and the inability of those outside of Russia to see the leadership for what it was.

Bonner belonged to a great generation.  Russia produces in smallquantities women of extraordinary drive and passion both for democracyand progressive civic rights.  I have always been bowled over by withadmiration for the strong women of former and current dissidentmovement.  Their ability to both see over the horizon and yetcommunicate with empathy with the most common person they encounter is adying art. In fact, their truth lies in their embodiment of the reallegitimate essence of what makes Russia both so endlessly compelling,and also dangerous.

Today Russia lost another important stone in the foundation of itscivic construct, a symbol that will not be easily replaced. This womanimpacted everyone she met, myself included, and thankfully through thework of her beloved daughter, she will no doubt continue to light theway for many of those who may follow.