Vladimir Bukovsky’s Foreword to
Against the Odds: A True American-Soviet Love Story
by Andrei and Lois Frolov
by Vladimir Bukovsky
Why should a superpower take such enormous interest in harassing two people just for being in love with each other? Indeed, after one reads about the twenty-four hour surveillance by specially trained KGB teams, in shifts, with their specially equipped cars and their walkie-talkies, about the twenty-four hour telephone bugging, and the numerous stukachi (informers) in the communal apartment, one is left with a feeling of something unreal, almost nightmarish. And all this trouble, this spectacular police operation, is just to prevent two people from getting married? The sheer cost of such an “operation” must be astronomical, to say nothing of the politically damaging international scandal. Why bother?
This question will undoubtedly come to a reader’s mind after closing this book. And it is a very good question indeed, particularly for those “sophisticated” people who still call “simplistic” any straightforward condemnation of the communist system. Or, better still, for those who are so sure of the peaceful intentions of the Soviets and who advocate a “dialogue” between our nations. If we are to accept their beliefs, why then are the Soviet people forced by their peace-loving government to treat any foreigner from a non-communist country as an enemy? Why is a marriage between an American and a Russian looked upon as high treason? What kind of a dialogue can we have, if only specially trusted informers are allowed to approach a foreigner?
Simplistic or not, the truth of the matter is that in a totalitarian state a man is a property of the state. And a cheap property to boot. He is just a pawn in a dangerous game played by the rulers. A walking function. It is only naive people of the West who believe that they live in a time of peace. From the day of its creation the Soviet Union has been at war with the West, and the people are forced to be soldiers of this war. In this context, a manifestation of simple human feeling is perceived by the state as a mutiny.
The authors of this book know these answers as well as anybody who once has felt the whole weight of the Soviet machine on his or her shoulders. However, instead of generalizations, they give a detailed account of their ordeal, patiently leading us through the jungles of Soviet life with its Kafka-esque absurdity to an unexpectedly happy ending. They describe only the facts they have witnessed. Yet, their book is a real dialogue, the only one possible between an American and a Russian in our time, a dialogue of partners fighting together again the communist slavery.
For an American it is a painful process of losing naivety, of learning to be a responsible and reliable partner in a situation where, unlike back home, life is a very serious business and any careless word may prove to be fatal. For a Russian it is a no less painful process of “squeezing the slave out of oneself drop by drop,” as Chekhov once put it. What seems to be a purely personal affair at the beginning, at the end becomes
a fight for human dignity between two people on one side and the most oppressive regime of modem times on the other. As it happens so often the Soviet Union, an individual’s victory becomes a victory for all serfs of the state. Indeed, the same people who are obliged to condemn the rebel publicly, would secretly congratulate him and express their gratitude. Thus an ordinary Soviet man suddenly becomes a new creature, known in the West under the strange name of “dissident.”
Nobody knows what this word really means. Created by the Western press, it was never used by the “dissidents” themselves, who prefer a more modest name: “pravozashchitniki,” that is, “defenders of law.” In practical terms it simply means that these people appeal to the law as is written in the Soviet constitution or in an international agreement — hardly a revolutionary idea in any country but the communist one. Because the day when the people learn to demand their rights will be last day of the communist regime.
Meanwhile, the original meaning of the word “dissident” was somehow lost.
“Oh, no, I was not a dissident,” says a ballet dancer to the press after defecting to the West. “I simply could not accept the lack of freedom to create according to my tastes.”
“No, we are not dissidents,” says a group of workers at a press inference in Moscow. “We simply decided to organize an independent trade union to protect the rights of workers.”
“We, the Jews in the Soviet Union, were not dissidents,” writes a recent emigrant to Israel in his book. “We were defending the national rights of our people.”
Perhaps that is why the Western press has announced the end of the “dissident movement” in the Soviet Union every year during the last decade, while the number of the “non-dissidents” continues to grow quite steadily.
The authors of this book also are quite sure that they are not dissidents. They simply loved each other, and this human feeling appeared to be stronger that the Soviet regime. In the eternal fight of living against dying, of freedom against slavery, they have scored a small victory for everybody. Well, it is a good enough reason for me to call them "pravozashchitniki”
June 16, 1983