Sergei Parkhomenko: ‘But we’ll survive it all. We’ll live to see another day […] And Memorial will return to its home and continue its work.’

25 September – 8 October 2022

by Sergei Parkhomenko, journalist, civil society activist

Source: Facebook

25 September 2022, Facebook

Well, there you have it! A Last Address in France, too.

We unveiled a plaque on the house in Paris where General Evgeny Miller lived and from where he was kidnapped by NKVD agents in 1937 so he could be smuggled to the USSR and shot.

Lots of people came along, and Miller’s descendants are now a whole extended family.

Ultimately, the unspent, misunderstood, and untapped historical experience of terror and repression was the very thing that led Russia to the disastrous situation it finds itself in today.

1 October 2022, Facebook

Several days ago, when I wrote about the first Last Address plaque now installed in Paris, many of the responses I got expressed sympathy as well as congratulations: Well, they said, at least things are good in Paris. I mean, in Russia, everything has come to an end. There’ll be no more [Memorial] movement and no new signs anymore.

I replied to them all: Who told you that? Why are you burying the whole project so soon? In Russia, in Moscow, in St Petersburg, in Perm, and in other cities, people who spent years working on the Last Address and with Memorial stayed on, and they are still doing their work now.

Nothing has ended or died a death.

As Oksana Matievskaya just wrote:

Two new Last Address plaques have gone up on the homes of people who were wrongly arrested, and then shot, during the years of the Terror.

Semen Abramovich Panfil’ lived at 13/47 Bolshoy Balkansky Lane.

Georgy Yakovlevich Smyshlyaev at No. 21, 8 Myasnitskaya Street.

Take a look at those who came to remember them.

Read about what kind of people they were on the Last Address website.

That’s right. Visit our Last Address site! There’s still lots of news on there, and it’s updated all the time.

7 October, Facebook

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Russia’s Memorial, Ukraine’s Centre for Civil Liberties, and Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski.

This was the same Memorial that last year was shut down, outlawed, and ransacked by Russia’s dictatorial regime under completely false and nasty pretences, the same Memorial whose staff are being prosecuted on increasingly far-fetched charges whilst continuing their unprecedented, truly heroic, work and struggle, only now in a personal capacity.

The world has now recognised this effort and this service, which has continued, unstoppable, for almost forty years – a feat of heroism for the sake of all mankind.

I’ve said many times, repeated it again and again over the years, that one day recognition will surely come. Now it has happened, and at a tragic time for Russia, when she is paying the price for her ignorance and contempt for the truths that Memorial has upheld over the decades.

Elena Zhemkova, Yan Rachinsky, Irina Shcherbakova, Aleksandr Cherkasov, Irina Ostrovskaya, Boris Belenkin, Oleg Orlov, Alexandra Polivanova, and all of the many people who have undertaken and continue to undertake this gargantuan task: thank you, and congratulations! And the name of Arseny Borisovich Roginsky, the person who made Memorial as it became, and to whom this prize and this recognition truly belong, will remain with us forever.

7 October 2022, Facebook

Memorial’s staff and activists greeted the news of the Nobel Peace Prize award today in the hallway of Moscow’s Tverskoi district court, waiting for the next court hearing to begin.

The fact is that the Russian state is now trying to claim for itself the building where Memorial worked for many years – the famous Memorial House on Karetny Ryad.

The Russian General Prosecutor’s Office demanded that the transaction transferring the premises from International Memorial to another organization in the form of a legally made donation be declared null and void. After that, a Moscow court seized the offices at the request of the prosecutor’s office, ruling that it was, allegedly, ‘an unlawful attempt to seize the property.’ The same court decision blocked the personal bank accounts of Elena Zhemkova, executive director of the liquidated International Memorial, and Boris Belenkin, executive director of the Memorial Research and Education Centre.

And just today, on 7 October, Tverskoi district court will hear the merits of the case concerning the Prosecutor General’s claim seeking to invalidate the transfer of the premises in Karetny Ryad from International Memorial to Memorial Research and Education Centre, which was founded back in 1990. At the same time, the Prosecutor General’s Office seeks to ‘expropriate the property and recover the funds in favour of the Russian State.’

The significance of what is happening is clear. These are the premises where the unique Memorial archives are held, as well as collections of items of the material culture related to the lives of Gulag prisoners and the history of political repression in the USSR and Russia. These archives (more than three million documents and personal files of people who were repressed) and collections are stored in specially equipped and protected rooms, where they are safe from fire, flooding, damage, dust, and so on. Memorial has been building this storage system for many years and has spent huge sums on it, money donated by individuals and organizations.

Now the state, which organized the trial full of trumped-up charges and absurd slanders that resulted in the closure of Memorial (a trial, I remind you, that ended just four days after the war began – on 28 February2022 – when the Russian Supreme Court rejected the appeal against the liquidation of Memorial International) and outlawed the organization, is trying to confiscate these archives and collections and destroy them.

8 October 2022, Facebook

Yesterday Pharaoh took revenge, or so he thinks, on Memorial for the Nobel Prize. He took revenge in the most – to his Pharaonic mindset – brutal way: he took away their office building and will sell it to make some cash. That’s the surest way for bandits to dish out punishment. That’s the way they punish each other when they go about their own vile affairs.

In the night, one of the leaders of Memorial wrote to me, in response to congratulations on the prize, ‘But the offices have been taken from us. And that is a real blow.”

Well, yes. They struck as hard as they could, in a frenzy, with their wild hatred.

But we’ll survive it all. We’ll live to see another day, when the beast dies off, and those who survive by chance will creep far away into their stinking lairs.

And Memorial will return to its home and continue its work. And the people of Memorial will again be happy in their home, as they were before. And they won’t even take revenge. Why would they?

Translated by Lindsay Munford and Simon Cosgrove

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