Natalya Gorbanevskaya - Biography
Russian poetess, translator, human rights activist, and participant of dissident movement in the USSR
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 Natalya Gorbanevskaya (from the song "Natalia" by Joan Baez)
Natalya Evgenyevna Gorbanevskaya (born on May, 26th 1936 in Moscow)is well-known as a Russian poetess, translator, human rights activist, and a participant of the dissident movement in the USSR.
Natalya Gorbanevskaya graduated from the Leningrad University majoring as a technical editor and translator in 1964. She worked in Moscow as a librarian, a bibliographer, a technical and scientific translator, and was a contributor, a typist and an editor of underground samizdat editions.
It was she who came to be the initiator, contributor, editor and typist of the first release of samizdat newsletter Chronicle of Current Events issued in April 1968.
On August, 25th the same year she participated in the famous demonstration on Red Square against the Soviet intrusion into Czechoslovakia. That event, also named “demonstration of the seven” was one of the most considerable actions of the Soviet dissidents. The seven dissidents stood up against bringing into Czechoslovakia of theUSSR and other Warsaw Pact countries’ armies, which intruded on the night of August 20th to 21st to suppress Czechoslovakia’s political reforms, called the Prague spring.
All the demonstrators were arrested, but for Natalya Gorbanevskaya, because she had just given birth to her son. So while she was free she used the opportunity to publicly follow the trial in the Chronicle of Current Events, and later published the materials in the documentary book “Noon. Case on Red Square Demonstration” (published abroad under the title “Red Square at Noon”). The collection was published in the Russian language in 1970, in French, English (in England and the USA), and Spanish (in Mexico) later in the 1970s, and in Polish in 2006. The first edition in Russia, revised and enlarged, was published in Moscow in 2007.
In December, 1969 Natalia was arrested and labeled as deranged with the diagnosis of “continuous sluggish schizophrenia”. In spite of the absence of any signs of psychopathological disorders in the clinical record, she was confined in a Soviet psychiatric prison in Kazan till February, 22nd 1972.
Joan Baez dedicated to her the song Natalya with lyrics by Shusha Guppy released on the live album From Every Stage (1976). When introducing the song, Joan Baez criticized Gorbanevskaya's imprisonment and said: "It is because of people like Natalya Gorbanevskaya, I am convinced, that you and I are still alive and walking around on the face of the earth."
In 1971 Natalya Gorbanevskaya published her essay “Free medical aid”, which was written in March, 1968 and denounced psychiatry abuse in the USSR; it became part of the book “Punished by madness”.
In December, 1975 Natalya together with her two sons emigrated, and has lived in Paris since February, 1976. She worked in the editorial board of The Continent journal and in the last years of the Parisian edition of The Continent was the deputy of its editor-in-chief. Till 1988 she was a non-staff contributor for radio "Freedom", and from the early 1980s till 2003 worked in the newspaper Russian Thought. From 1999 she was an editorial board member, as well as a regular contributor and translator of the Russian-language magazine New Poland issued in Warsaw. She has also been the citizen of Poland since 2005.
Natalya Gorbanevskaya participated in the documentary TV series They Chose Freedom on the history of the Soviet dissident movement (director V. Kara-Murza, 2005).
She is also known as the author of one and a half tens of poetry books and a prolific translator. She mostly translated Polish poetry, prose and essays, but also translated from Czech (in particular, some essay and speeches by Vaclav Gavel), Slovak and French, including Claude Simon’s “Invitation” (The Continent. 1988. № 56).
At the same time, Gorbanevskaya’s poems were translated by Jerald Smith and Daniel Weissbort into English, by Victor Voroshilsky, Stanislav Baranchak, and Adam Pomorsky into Polish, and by Valery Boguslavsky into Ukrainian.
In 2008 Gorbanevskaya received the Award of Marie Curie and the Angelus Central European Literature Award.