Natalya Gorbanevskaya – first chairperson of the Jury

Natalya Yevgenyevna Gorbanevskaya (1936–2013) – a Russian poet, journalist, translator of the Polish literature. A member of the human rights protection movement. She was an active participant of Russian samizdat, e.g. as a creator and a first editor of legendary „Kronika Wydarzeń Bieżących” (Cronicle of Current Events). On 25 August 1968 she was one of the eight participants of the protest on the Red Square against the intervention of the Warsaw Pact army in Czechoslovakia. Arrested in 1969, released in February 1972 after detention centre and compulsory psychiatric prison. Left the USRR in 1975. Since 1976 lived in Paris, worked as a journalist in Radio Swoboda, cooperated with Russian emigrant journals: „Kontinient” and „Russkaja Mysl”. In 1992 awarded by Polish PEN Club for the Polish literature translations, e.g. of Czesław Miłosz, Józef Mackiewicz and Gustaw Herling Grudziński. A winner of the Parisian „Kultura” prize and the Jerzy Giedroyć Prize (2005). From 1999 she was a part of an editorial board of a monthly „Nowaja Polsza”. In 2006 received a Polish citizenship. Died in November 2013.

Farewell meeting with Natalya Gorbanevskaya

Natalya Gorbanevskaya has died. Most of us received the news on the evening of 29 November. It was sudden, severe, unimaginable; and we would have liked it very much if it had not been true. Sadly, it was and is true. I beheld Ms Natalya’s warmly smiling face not very long ago, just in the second half of October of this year. We met at a meeting of the jury for the Angelus Award, where we participated in the ceremony giving the award to Oksana Zabuzhko. There were no forebodings of disaster. Ms Natalya’s presence – energetic, joyfully sympathetic, naturally friendly – was a matter of course.

I now hold tightly in my memory the image of her petite figure, a cigarette in hand during the break, her eyes behind their glasses, the sound of her voice.

Natalya Gorbanevskaya chaired the jury for the Angelus Award for Central European Literature from the beginning, from 2006. We met several times a year and talked, and talked, and talked… I was and still am amazed by her deep understanding and feeling for literature.

We knew very well who this somewhat unassuming, but magnetic person was. We knew that she was a famous Russian poet, the author of several dozen volumes of poetry. We knew that she was an outstanding translator of Polish literature and a great lover of it, that she had superbly adapted Miłosz, Hłasko, Konwicki, Mrożek, Herling-Grudziński, Michnik and others to the Russian audience. Her own poems were excellently rendered into Polish by Stanisław Barańczak.

We knew that she was a heroic, steadfast person. It was she, along with several other heroic people, who found the courage on 25 August 1968 to protest in the very centre of Moscow, on Red Square, against the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact forces. She paid for this with imprisonment, with forced confinement in a psychiatric hospital and finally with emigration.

We knew that Ms Natalya was a stalwart friend to us Poles.

We did not know, though, that we would not see her again.

Andrzej Zawada

Joan Baez “Natalia”

Joan Baez released this song dedicated to Gorbanevskaya called “Natalia”, with lyrics by  Shusha Guppy on the live album From Every Stage (1976).

Weaver of words
Who lives alone
In fear and sorrow
Where are the words
To set you free
Perhaps tomorrow
Where is the earth
Where is the sky
Where is the light
You long for
What hope of you
Where you are now
Natalia Gorbanevskaya

Inside the ward
Naked and cruel
Where life is stolen
From those who try
To stay alive
And not be broken
Where are the friends
Where are the men
Who among them
Can defend you
Where is the child
You’ll never see
Natalia Gorbanevskaya

What else there lives
Behind the door
That never opens
Are you insane
As they say you are
Or just forsaken
Are you still there
Do you still care
Or are you lost forever
I know this song
You’ll never hear
Natalia Gorbanevskaya