Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Read This Book!


Read this book:

I am serious. Yes. A book about life in a Soviet prison, camp, and a variety of punishment cells, as well as a sham trial, can be as effective as Prozac. Well, I have to admit, I have not done a double-blind study yet, but I wanted to run around the block and sing.

Natan Sharansky, known then as Anatoly Shcharansky, his Russian name,fought, hard, for the rights of dissidents, particularly Jewish dissidents, in his Russian homeland in the 1970s. During that time he and his new bride Natasha, who had changed her name to the Hebrew Arial, were also just learning about their religion, since fifty years of Leninism had kept it pretty much hidden from their families. But by the time the Soviet authorities caught up with him and he was thrown unceremoniously in Moscow's Lefortovo prison, Anatoly Borisovitch had learned enough Hebrew, enough songs about Zion, and enough about his history to keep his mind occupied for the next 9 years (it helped that he'd been a chess prodigy as a child, too, and could actually play chess games in his mind while in solitary).

Well aware of what few rights he did have as a "zek" (prisoner), Shcharansky kept the guards going by insisting on keeping his "book of Hebrew folk songs" (read: Psalms). His cheekiness, his faith, and his sense of humor, as well as his empathy for all his fellow zeks (be they Jew , Christian or atheist) is so moving that the tale is uplifting. Shcharansky found a way to survive and be human in a completely inhumane environment.

Well! Now that I'm done reading about how to survive if you have to endure being placed in a tiny metal Soviet cell, I can move on to reading Pat Santy's book and learn about how to choose which lucky, eager people get to get shot up into the sky in order to realize their dream of being placed into a tiny metal Soviet cell. In space.

The irony in that is manifold. Especially if you happen to know that Pat and I first met in jail.

(We weren't in jail. The people we provided mental health services for were in jail.)

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