Reading Seamus Heaney's last words, Noli timere, reminded me of the Russian poet Irina Ratushinskaya's book of poems, No, I'm Not Afraid. I've just pulled it down from the shelf.
In March 1983 Ratushinskaya was sentenced to seven years' hard labour and five years' internal exile for writing and disseminating her own poetry. She joined other Russian prisoners of conscience in suffering almost unbearable degradation. She managed to survive this unjust ordeal, but had to endure beatings, force-feeding, solitary confinement and many more humiliations. Both the writers' organisation, International PEN, and Amnesty International publicised her plight and chivvied for her release, which eventually came after three and a half years, on the eve of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev's 1986 Icelandic summit.
'Tell me the truth, gypsy woman,
Why have I dreamt of the wind?'
'Falsehood. He loves you.
But to dream of the wind means a journey.'
'Tell me, gypsy woman, the truth —
Is our fate to be found in my palm?'
'Give me your hand. He loves you.
But this means a long journey.'
'Gypsy woman, tell me, why
Has our candle burnt down?
'That means a parting soon
And the very longest journey.'
'Gypsy woman, tell me that this
Isn't true! Tell me, gypsy woman,
That it isn't that journey!'
'Don't be afraid. He loves you.'
Translated by DAVID MCDUFF