...didn't happen in a vacuum. Last night, friends of George Miller-Kurakin gathered to honour his memory and to swap now-it-can-be-told stories of the Association for a Free Russia which he founded. George's funeral was held at a Russian Orthodox church - he was a devout Russian Orthodox Christian, with a deep and sincere faith which was the wellspring of his invariable courtesy, kindness, and good humour.
Among those gathering last night, in the solid comfort of the National Liberal Club - that glorious grand staircase, the fine portraits including that splendid one of Winston Churchill in hussar's uniform - were Members of Parliament, writers, campaigners. There were those who had been arrested in Moscow or elsewhere for human-rights efforts in the 1970s and early 80s - men now middle-aged, looking back on the efforts and adventures of their youth. Some one said "Well, I suppose each of us can say 'I helped to shorten the Cold War by fifteen seconds'..." We recalled afternoons addressing envelopes to Russian addresses to mail freedom literature, and then posting them from all sorts of places around Britain. There were tales of international youth gatherings with efforts made to neutralise pro-Soviet lobbying. Several people recalled trips to the old USSR or Eastern European with freedom literature strapped around their chests under their clothes with sellotape, and training sessions beforehand on how to loose the inevitage KGB follower by dropping quickly off a bus or tram and double-turning into side-streets...
It was good to reconnect with old friends, and to hear news of marriages and the arrival of children - now themselves approaching the ages that we were when we worked for the great causes of a different era. The days of the 1980s seemed a long, long time ago.
Jamie and I both contributed speeches and shared our own memories. As we left, the lamps in Whitehall glowed against the gloom. There are a lot of roadworks at present, partly because of new barriers being erected to protest Govt offices from terrorist activity. We walked back along the Embankment and past the Houses of Parliament - currently all covered in scaffolding for some cleaning/repairs. What new challenges will the second decade of this 21st century now present to all of us?