Irina Ratushinskaya

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Irina Ratushinskaya
Evstafiev-Irina Ratushinskaya.jpg
Irina Ratushinskaya. Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev
Native name Ирина Борисовна Ратушинская
Born Irina Borisovna Ratushinskaya
(1954-03-04)4 March 1954
Odessa, Ukrainian SSR
Died 5 July 2017(2017-07-05) (aged 63)
Moscow, Russian Federation
Nationality Russian
Citizenship  Soviet Union (1954–1991),  Russian Federation (1991–present)
Alma mater Odessa University
Occupation poet, writer, screenwriter
Known for human rights activism
Movement dissident movement in the Soviet Union

Irina Borisovna Ratushinskaya (Russian: Ири́на Бори́совна Ратуши́нская, 4 March 1954, Odessa - 5 July 2017, Moscow) was a Ukrainian-born Soviet dissident,[1] poet and writer.[2]


Irina Ratushinskaya (Ukrainian: Ірина Борисівна Ратушинська) was born in Odessa, Ukraine. Her father was Boris Leonidovich, an engineer, and her mother was Irina Valentinovna Ratushinsky, a teacher of Russian literature.[2] She has one sister.

Her mother's family originated from Poland, and her grandfather was deported to Siberia shortly after the January Uprising, a Polish uprising against forced conscription in the Russian Army in 1863.[3]

Ratushinskaya was educated at Odessa University and graduated with a master's degree in physics in 1976. Before her graduation she taught at a primary school in Odessa from 1975–78.[2]

Political persecution[edit]

On September 17, 1982, Ratushinskaya was arrested for anti-Soviet agitation.[4] In April 1983, she was convicted of "agitation carried on for the purpose of subverting or weakening the Soviet regime", sentenced to seven years in a labor camp followed by five years of internal exile.[5] She was released on October 9, 1986,[4] on the eve of the summit in Reykjavík, Iceland between President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.[2]

While imprisoned Ratushinskaya continued to write poetry. Her previous works usually centered on love, Christian theology, and artistic creation, not on politics or policies as her accusers stated. Her new works that were written in prison, which were written on soap until memorized and then washed away, number some 250. They expressed an appreciation for human rights; liberty, freedom, and the beauty of life. Her memoir, Grey is the Colour of Hope, chronicles her prison experience. Her later poems recount her struggles to endure the hardships and horrors of prison life. Ratushinskaya was a member of International PEN, who monitored her situation during her incarceration.[2]


In 1987 Ratushinskaya moved to the United States, where she received the Religious Freedom Award from the Institute on Religion and Democracy. In the same year she was deprived of Soviet citizenship by the Politburo.[2] She also was the Poet in Residence at Northwestern University from 1987–89.[2] She lived in London, UK until December 1998,[6] when she returned to Russia to educate her children in Russian school after a year of procedures to restore Russian citizenship.

Ratushinskaya died in Moscow on July 5, 2017, from cancer. She was survived by her husband, human rights activist Igor Gerashchenko, and their two sons.[7]



  • Sally Beamish has set some of her poems into music (No, I'm not afraid, 1998).


  1. ^ Smith, Harrison (9 July 2017). "Irina Ratushinskaya, Soviet dissident who turned captivity into poetry, dies at 63". The Washington Post. Retrieved 14 July 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Irina Ratushinskaya Papers, 1979–1997". Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections. Retrieved March 8, 2011. 
  3. ^ Ewa Kuryluk (May 7, 1987). "An Interview with Irina Ratushinskaya". New York Review of Books. Retrieved March 17, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Associated Press (October 19, 1986). "Dissident poet Iryna Ratushynska unexpectedly released from prison". 
  5. ^ Zambrano, Mark (May 25, 1986). "Young Soviet Poet May Be Dying in Gulag, Emigres Report". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 17, 2012. 
  6. ^ "We wrote a letter to Yeltsin, and then we packed our bags". The Independent. June 6, 1999. Retrieved March 17, 2012. 
  7. ^ Bourdeaux, Michael (9 July 2017). "Irina Ratushinskaya obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 July 2017. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]