“To avoid detection, Ms. Ratushinskaya wrote her poems on bars of soap….”


Irina Ratushinskaya, Soviet dissident who turned captivity into poetry, dies at 63 – Harrison Smith – New York Times – 7/9/17

“To avoid detection, Ms. Ratushinskaya wrote her poems on bars of soap, using the burned ends of matchsticks. When the poem was finished and Ms. Ratushinskaya had memorized its text, she hid her creation by washing it away. Eventually, the poems were written on cigarette papers and smuggled out of the camp to her husband, who arranged for publication in the West in collections such as ‘Beyond the Limit’ (1987).”

Also see 

We wrote a letter to Yeltsin, and then we packed our bagsThe Independent – June 5m 1999

“When I was very young, 16 or 17, I met one of the ‘official writers’, who was impressed by my poems. He started to instruct me how to be an official writer. First, you must write three poems, one about the Communist Party, one about Lenin and one about something neutral – about love or spring. Then you go to your local paper and try to publish these three poems. Then you write another three poems … He explained quite philosophically that it was the only way – if you wanted to be a writer, you must write for the regime as well.” Ratushinskaya decided that she couldn’t do it. “I wanted to preserve my personality. I knew that the more you co-operate with something you don’t like, the more fear you have.”

Read more poems by Ratushinskaya at the International Literary Quarterly.

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