Vladimir Tolz remembers Yelena Bonner, who, I just found out, died a month ago, in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:
It often happens that even when you try to prepare yourself for something tragic and inevitable, you find yourself completely unprepared when it actually occurs. That is what happened to me when I heard the news of the passing of Yelena Bonner. Forgive me, but I can't get used to calling her anything other than what I called her during the many years of our friendship — Lusya.
I was awakened by the buzzing of my iPhone. One after another came e-mails from our friends in English and in Russian: “Yelena Georgiyevna is dead.” “Lusya, may God protect you!” A friend called from Paris, crying, unable to speak. All I could make out was: “I feel so bad. They are all leaving. All the closest ones….” She hadn't cried so fiercely even when her mother died. And it kept on and on.
Of course, throughout the last few months, when Lusya was suffering in hospitals (undergoing yet another heart surgery), we understood that the end was near. Last autumn she called and said: “Fly out here. It is time to say goodbye.”
But when I arrived, we spent a week together in a little cottage on Cape Cod, where we spent our days on the veranda. Our farewell somehow moved to the back burner. Instead, we spent whole days remembering events from our past (mostly the funny ones) and reciting beloved poems. Lusya remembered so much — Pushkin, Baratynsky, Pasternak, Tsvetaeva. She burst out laughing when I recalled these lines from Joseph Brodsky's “Cape Cod Lullaby”:
Stuffiness. A person is on a veranda with a towel wrapped around
His throat. A night moth, with all its unenviable body,
Strikes the iron screen, and bounces away, just like a bullet
Sent by nature from an invisible bush
To hit nature itself, to strike one in a hundred
In the middle of July.
She said: “That's us. That's about me…”