November 5, 1998
Dear Friends,

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.

The 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.

Sincerely yours,

Natan Sharansky
Chairman, “Israel Ba-Aliya”

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