Elena Bonner

Dear Friends,

In 1998, a fund for assistance to veterans of the struggle for human rights in the former Soviet Union – the Gratitude Fund – was founded in New York.

I am convinced that this Fund is worthy of attention and support.

Hundreds upon hundreds of dissidents were arrested for their human rights and political activities and were tried and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment, internal exile, and banishment. Hundreds upon hundreds of dissidents experienced other types of "treatment"- being fired from their jobs, being blacklisted, and many other punishments.

Under these conditions the families of those put on trial or fired from their jobs were left without any means to support themselves. Thus, assistance to political prisoners and their families became one of the most important elements of the democratic movement.

At that time, there were two basic funds in Russia.

The first was the Fund for Political prisoners, organized by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.My husband, Andrei Sakharov and I, organized the second, the Fund for Assistance to Children of Political Prisoners and dissidents. The significance of these organizations was keenly perceived by the KGB, which actively persecuted them.

Now, after the fall of the USSR and the ensuing economic chaos, many of Russia’s former political prisoners and dissidents have found themselves in extreme poverty and in dire need help.

The Soviet Union did not fall under it’s own weight, as many in the West would believe, but as the result of the active, long-term struggle of countless dissidents at the price of their freedom, health, and even their lives.

The whole world knows the names of those who were at the forefront of the movement, but there were also many others not so well known.

Only we understand and know who they all are.

The Gratitude Fund, which is the only form of direct assistance to veterans of the struggle for human rights, is in its second year. And for these two years the fund has been able to help only a fraction of those who fought against the totalitarian Soviet regime.

I call upon everyone – individuals, private foundations, and governmental organizations throughout the world – to help the Gratitude Fund in its noble enterprise.

January 10, 2001