New York, N.Y. 10025
PRESIDENT Yuri Fedorov
TREASURER Victoria Szerko
The Gratitude Fund (GF) is a non-profit organization which was created to provide assistance to the forgotten heroes and veterans of the active struggle for freedom and human rights in the former USSR such as ex-political prisoners and the families of those dissidents who perished in Soviet prisons. All funds raised by GF are distributed to the recipients in accordance with the available information relative to their needs. The Fund is responsible to inform US government officials of the existing program and seek their cooperation in creating special assistance programs.
The Gratitude Fund provides financial assistance not only in Russia but also in America and Europe. It allocates money for their medical needs and emergency assistance. Such known dissidents as Yuri Orlov and Nathan Sharansky have expressed their endorsement of the Fundís activities in open letters. The mission of the Fund is also supported by several Jewish organizations, including the Union of Councils for Soviet Jewry. "I strongly support this idea," said the international director of the human rights bureau of the UCSJ, Leonid Stonov. "It is very important and just. I hope that American grass-roots organizations will support this fund."
The Board of directors would like to express its sincere gratitude to all people who assisted in the Gratitude Fund opening ceremony providing the space, food for reception, collecting money, etc.
Special thanks to Yuri Abdurakhmanov who provided his art studio for this event; to the director of the International Food at Brighton Beach, for providing food for over 100 people; to Gennadi Dozortsev for providing beverages; to Marina Kovaleva for substantial help with organization of the event; to Boris Kerdimun, Sam Kliger and Alexander Antonovich for all their help in organizing this meeting. This ceremony was attended by over 100 people and resulted in collecting a sufficient sum of money to begin assistance to the most needy. Below are few photographs from this event.
Yuri Fedorov - GF President
Silva Zalmanson, former political prisoner,"samoletchik" process
Boris Kerdimun, NYANA
Lynn Singer,executive director of The Long IslandCommittee for Soviet Jewry
Silva Zalmanson and Ilia Levkov, director of the Publishing House "Liberty"
2. Status of Fundís Assistance Program
is a famous dissident, poet and bard. He was in serious need of assistance due to very serous illness. Significant sum of money collected by Fund allowed him to receive qualified medical help and pay for apartment. Currently, after a year of illness, his health has improved.
Y. Kim wrote to the Fund: "To all who helped me:
Dear friends! Thanks to your generous help, my economic situation is completely turned around. All I have to do now is transform your support into new songs. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Now that my difficulties are over, I feel in good enough shape to keep on living and working. I will still sing! Yours Yuli Kim, November 1999
For the obvious reason of protecting privacy and dignity of people receiving The Gratitude Fund's assistance, their real names are not revealed. Below we describe the situations of people who currently receive Fund's assistance.
1. A widow of dissident who died in prison (1927-1984).
She is in great need of assistance because she does not have any other
means to support herself except for the Fund's money which is being sent
to her monthly. She lives in Moscow. In 1957 her husband was arrested for
protesting occupation of Hungary by the Soviet Army. He was sentenced to
7 years in the labor camp with additional 5 years of living under restrictions
(i.e., exile like). He was released from prison in 1964 and in 1977 he
was arrested again for so-called "anti-Soviet activities" and sentenced
to 10 years in prison and labor camp with additional 5 years of exile.
He was serving his term in Perm's political camp and died there in 1984.
2.Mother and daughter of the deceased dissident. The mother is very old and the daughter is very young and both need financial assistance. They live in Israel. Dissident's Biography: she was arrested for participation in demonstrations against celebrating 90th birthday anniversary of Stalin and spent 1 year in prison. During the rest of her life she was deprived from continuing education and was constantly under KGB surveillance. In spite of this, she continued to actively participate in various human rights activities such as "Chronicles of Current Events", the samizdat magazine forbidden by KGB. In 1980, during the trip through Baltic republics, where she was collecting the information for the "Chronicles", she was killed in the auto accident. There are serious reasons to believe that KGB has arranged this "accident".
3. Human right activist, poet, who was born in 1937 and now lives in Israel. He was arrested for participation in meetings of artists and poets on Mayakovsky square; sentenced to 5 years in labor camp.
4. 72 year old former dissident, active participant of "Chronicles of Current Events". She lives in Moscow. She was arrested under false pretenses of "arson" of her apartment during which she was seriously injured. KGB used this incident against her and she was imprisoned for 2 years and required to pay a huge fine. She was released in 1978 (under general amnesty). Then she was arrested again for anti-Soviet activities and sent to Siberian exile for 5 years.
5. Former political prisoner, born in 1930. In spite of his advanced age, he continues to work as electrician in order to support his family (4 children of school age). He lives in Moscow. First time he was arrested and sentenced to 1 year in prison under false pretenses - forging of documents (a typical KGB claim). In 1981 he was arrested again for anti-Soviet activities and committed to 4 years in the labor camp and to 5 years of exile. He was released in 1987.
6. Former political prisoner, he was in born 1949 and lives in Moscow. He now works as a delivery person, very poor. In 1985 was arrested for anti-soviet propaganda and sentenced to 6 years of labor camp. He was released in 1987.
7. Former political prisoner. She has two school age children, older daughter is incurably ill. She lives in Moscow. In 1984 she was arrested for anti-Soviet activities and sentenced to 1 year in prison and 4 years in exile in Siberia. She was released in 1988.
8. Former political prisoner, he was born in 1927 and lives in Moscow. He is very ill and survives on very meager pension. In 1985 he was arrested for publishing his books in the western press as well as for signing petitions in defense of human rights; sentenced to 5 years in Siberian exile. Released in 1987 under general amnesty.
9. Former political prisoner, he was born in 1935 and lives in Moscow. He has only a meager pension. He was arrested for the first time for the distribution of anti-Khruschev's proclamations and sentenced to 6 years in the labor camp. In 1980 he was arrested for the second time and sentenced to 3 years in labor camp for publishing samizdat magazine "Search". He was released in 1983.
10. Former political prisoner, he born in 1941 and lives in New York. He was an organizer of the first youth human right organizations which published and distributed proclamations denouncing the antidemocratic nature of soviet government. In 1962 he and his friends were arrested by the KGB and sentenced to 7 years in prison for anti-soviet activities. In 1963 he escaped from the labor camp with a group of other political prisoners, but shortly after he was arrested and sentenced (as recidivist) to the additional 3 years of the labor camp of maximum security type. He was released in 1972
11. Former political prisoner, he was born in 1959 and lives in Moscow. He is in great need of assistance. He was arrested for the anti-Soviet activities and sentenced by military tribunal to 7 years in prison. He was released in 1965.
3. In Support of The Gratitude Fund
Letter from Yuri Orlov
Appeal in support of The Gratitude Fund for veterans of the struggle for democracy and human rights in the former Soviet Union.
This is a noble and important initiative - the effort to organize a fund for supporting veterans of the democratic movement in the former Soviet Unionó former longtime prisoners of labor camps and prisons--and also for supporting the families of champions of democracy who perished in those camps and prisons. Before the collapse of the Soviet regime support for such people existed with the Solzhenitsyn Fund, but nothing on that scale exists now. And many of these former prisoners, who are now old and often very ill, have really been forgotten by the people who enjoy freedoms achieved by the struggles sacrifices of these very men and women.
I do not believe that history will forget them, however. Their contribution to the collapse of the totalitarian regime arid, as a result, to the end of the Cold War, with its insane arms race, was tremendous. Their names will be in textbooks. But they urgently need support now.
Yuri Fedorov, the organizer of this fund, is the very best person for such a task. I have known him very well for many years. He spent 15 years himself. In the notorious Perm Labor Camp #36 under the so-called special regime, the hardest regime, the one g even to political prisoners. For a short time we were even in the Perm Labor Camp #37 together, both under the strong regime. But we did not meet one another there because we were both isolated from the other prisoners, and very soon he was sent back to camp #36.
I appeal to people able to support The Gratitude Fund to support it generously, before these old veterans--who deserve honor arid gratitude from lovers of democracy and freedom everywhere--die.
I am writing to you about The Gratitude Fund, an organization founded to help veterans of the human rights movement in the former Soviet Union.
The struggle for political and economic freedom, for the right to emigrate, was not won by the handful of us who are well known to you. It was the result of the struggle of hundreds of individuals who passed through political prisons and labor camps, paying with their careers, their liberty and sometimes with their lives.
Today, many of these individuals who paid such a high price to liberate Russia and the rest of the world from the most oppressive political system, find themselves in a very difficult situation in their "new" lives. Many of those people who lost significant years of their life, career and health in the Soviet labor camps are not always given an equal opportunity. Many are destitute, in ill health, and with no adequate medical care or other basic assistance from Russian society.
These people helped all of us! I feel compelled and obliged to help them now when many of them can no longer help themselves.
The Gratitude Fund was created to address this need. The fund will provide desperately needed assistance to those who fought actively for human rights, who endured long periods of imprisonment and to the families who died in struggle.
Thc Board of Directors of The Gratitude Fund consists of former dissidents, all of them well known for their struggle for human rights: Vladimir Bukovski, Alexander Ginsburg, Eduard Kuznetsov and Yuri Yarim-Agaev
The President of the Fund is Yuri Fedorov - a participant in the "Leningrad Trial", which played the decisive role in opening Jewish emigration from the former Soviet Union. He spent 18 years in political labor camps for these efforts! After emigrating to the United States, he worked for a number of years for an American philanthropic institution. This combined experience makes him uniquely qualified for the position
As this is the first organized attempt to provide fundamental assistance to the veterans of the human rights struggle, I wholeheartedly support this vital undertaking and hope that you will also consider lending your support.
Chairman, "Israel Ba-Aliya"