Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The collapse of Communism...

...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?


Malcolm McLean said...

The strange thing is that, when Communism collapsed, we seemed to forget that it ever existed.
I think it was because the threat of mass annihilation in a nuclear war always seemed slightly surreal. The Soviets wouldn't have won in a full-scale war, however. They would have won by gradually creating Communist insurgencies.

When Labour went to embrace unilateral disarmament it seemed they were on the verge of a breakthrough. I was a secondary school student at the time, and the issue split the teaching profession.

Anonymous said...

I am grateful for the memories I have of George. He was inspirational and always seemed full of hope. I had some interactions with him (through EESY) and he was very imaginative, willing to think creatively about off-the-wall ideas and projects that others might have deemed non-viable. I am also grateful to George for being the person who took me for the first time to a Russian Orthodox church service, and I did not realise at that stage how my faith would later grow. Back in 1979, faith seemed like a shared adventure and idealism, a sort of light shining in the darkness, through brave and courageous dissidents. I honour them and I honour George. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out."

Susannah Clark