26 December 2014
By Aleksandr Podrabinek
He always threw himself passionately into the very thick of events. He defied risk and losses. He laughed when others spoke to him about danger. Not everything always turned out well for him, as is the same with everyone. But this never made him feel hopeless. It was altogether difficult to imagine him in despair. He was a bundle of energy, always full of new plans, hopes and expectations.
Many others in his place would have lost spirit. Betrayal by close friends who were broken by the KGB and who gave statements against him; a long prison camp sentence; the destruction of hopes for a speedy move towards democracy in Russia – all of this would have been enough to make anyone give up, to distance themselves from the world around them. Anyone, but not Gleb Yakunin.
He never thought of himself as being outside the events which affected the country. He dedicated all his strength, his whole life and energy to this country. Possibly faith gave him such strength and support, but it’s more likely he was like this by nature.
He was a genuine Christian, and if at the final judgement everyone is rewarded according to his deeds, then Gleb Yakunin has nothing to fear. At times he found the framework of the Church too restrictive.He was always ready to serve the Church sincerely, but not to be a lackey to the authorities. In the Soviet era the one did not exist without the other, and the Church rejected him. Even in recent times things have not been so rosy either. Gleb was always finding other refuges, clearly demonstrating the simple fact that the Church is not a bureaucratic structure with hierarchies and temples under golden cupolas, but a community of tireless people carrying the fire of faith and fidelity within themselves.
In him there was nothing of the ecclesiastical arrogance or distance from people of other faiths that one so often encounters, not only with religious fanatics but even among ordinary churchgoers and dedicated sons of the Church. In 1976 he founded the Christian Committee for the Defence of the Rights of Believers to which all those who were persecuted for their religious beliefs came for help. The Committee defended the Orthodox and Catholics, Pentecostalists and Adventists, and representatives of other beliefs, or put more simply, religious freedom and the right to freedom of worship. Gleb Yakunin was a rare example in Russia of the fellowship between Christianity and democracy.
Until his very last days, while he could still walk, Gleb Yakunin took part in opposition demonstrations and, with a rare gusto for someone of his age, would discuss the latest political events. I met him quite recently at one of these demonstrations and he began to argue fiercely with me, trying to convince me that the days of the Anti-Christ in our country were numbered. And I remembered how I saw him the first time about forty years ago outside a court building where a political trial was taking place, I don't remember whose. Yakunin surprised me then by his passion and his conviction that communism was doomed and that the truth would triumph.
He lived his whole life convinced of the inevitable triumph of goodness and justice. Many believe this, but unlike most people, Gleb Yakunin right up until his final days was never a bystander. Life had never taught him to surrender.
Source: Ezhednevnyi zhurnal
Translated by Frances Robson
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