Svetlana Gannushkina: Notes towards a portrait of Valery Abramkin

28 January 2013 

Source: (info)
Svetlana Gannushkina: Valery was one of those people with whom you feel as though you are old friends when you meet them for the first time, and immediately use the familiar ‘ty’ [ты] (something that doesn’t often happen with me).

His speech at the session of what was then called the Presidential Human Rights Commission on 10 December 2002 was extraordinarily moving.

He told the story of two girls who had both been sentenced to four years in prison for stealing a half-loaf of black bread, an open bottle of sunflower oil, and a kilogram of cooked porridge. Their neighbour had called them in, fed them and given them something to drink. Then she fell asleep, and as they left, the two girls took away everything that was on the table. The neighbour took offence and on an impulse made a complaint to the police.

And no one noticed that the girls had not reached the age of criminal responsibility.

The aim was to free these girls, because until then no one had wanted to put this mistake right.

But Valery also had to get someone to meet them at the prison, give them clothes, take them home – and first of all to find out if they had anywhere to go.

For some reason I remembered with what astonishing sympathy and delicacy Valery pronounced the word ‘girls’.

And now our Duma wants to lower the age for criminal responsibility. How many hungry girls like those two will now end up in prison as a result? Their protector is no longer with us.