International Women’s Day is just around the corner and at Oxfam Kings Heath we’ve got stacks of stories sitting on our shelves about inspirational women from around the world. One such book is an anthology of poems by the heroic Russian poet, Irina Ratushinskaya, published in 1986 under Soviet rule. As an accomplished writer and defender of human rights she used her poetry to make her voice heard: but the Soviet regime considered her a threat. At the age of 28 Irina was sentenced to seven years hard labour and five years of exile for the “manufacture and dissemination” of her poetry. While in prison she became seriously ill and her husband collected her work and published it in the hope that readers would be encouraged to fight for her release. Her courage and fight for survival shines through her poetry and inspires us to achieve a world of justice and gender equality. Here is her powerful poem No, I’m not afraid (also the title of the anthology) written while imprisoned at a labour camp in 1984:
No, I’m not afraid: after a year
Of breathing these prison nights,
I will survive into sadness
To name which is escape
The cockerel will weep freedom for me
And here – knee-deep in mire –
My gardens shed their water
And the northern air blows in draughts.
And how am I to carry to an alien planet
What are almost tears, as though towards home…
It isn’t true, I am afraid, my darling!
But make it look as though you haven’t noticed.
Inside the book is a handwritten message: “To another brave lady, love Dad.” Who will be next to pick up No, I’m Not Afraid and discover Irina’s journey?
On sale at Oxfam Kings Heath for £2.49 – ask at the counter for more details.
International Women’s Day…
…has been celebrated around the world since 1911. It brings greater awareness to the social, economic and political achievements of women whilst calling for greater gender equality. The theme this year is ‘Make it Happen’ which encourages equal recognition of women in sectors such as, business, the arts, sport, science and technology. You can find more information on the International Women’s day website and check out what Oxfam GB has got planned to commemorate the day.