Mr. Fedorov said he created The Gratitude Fund to reach out to the former political prisoners who sacrificed their lives and personal freedom to fight for democracy in the Soviet Union.
“I think that we owe something to people who played a crucial role in bringing down the Soviet Union,” Mr. Fedorov said. “I believe that their courageous work sped up the collapse of communism by 50 years.”
The idea to create the fund crystallized during Mr. Fedorov’s recent trip to Russia, his first since his deportation in 1987. While he found Russia more democratized, Mr. Fedorov also visited his old Gulag friends and found many of them living on the verge of poverty, forgotten by their countrymen and the West.
The Gratitiide Fund will provide financial assistance to poverty-strick-en former dissidents, not only in Russia but also in America and Europe. It will allocate money for their medical needs and emergency assistance; it will also help the disabled and the families of perished dissidents.
The idea of the fund is 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.”