Human Rights Activist Yelena Bonner Dies
The Russian human rights activist, who lived part-time in Brookline, passed away on Saturday.
Yelena Bonner, widow of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov and renowned for being a "fearsome" critic of Soviet-era right abuses, died Saturday at the age of 88, after a long illness.
A statement posted on the website of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation by her daughter, Tatiana Yankelevich, and son, Alexey Semyonov, says a memorial service will take place at noon Tuesday, June 21, at Stanetsky Memorial Chapel, 1668 Beacon St., Brookline. The statement said that, according to Bonner's wishes, her body will be cremated. The urn with her ashes will be interred at the Vostryakovo Cemetery in Moscow, with her husband, mother, and brother.
Bonner reportedly had been splitting her time between Brookline and Moscow.
Bonner was born in Soviet Turkmenistan to parents persecuted under the rule of Josef Stalin and was later bounced from medical school during a Stalin-era campaign against Jews.
In 1972, Bonner married nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov, who helped develop the Soviet atom bomb, but later spoke out for peace and human rights.
When the Soviets wouldn't allow Sakharov to travel to Oslo to pick up the Nobel Peace Prize he had won, Bonner represented him at the 1975 ceremony in Oslo. She was also his communication lifeline with Moscow and the West when he was banished to Gorky in 1980 after he spoke out against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Then Bonner herself was arrested in 1984 for "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda" and also sentenced to confinement in Gorky.
In 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev allowed both Sakharov and Bonner to return to Moscow.
After Sakharov died in 1989, Bonner established the Andrei Sakharov Foundation, and the Sakharov Archives in Moscow. According to Wikipedia, she donated Sakharov's papers in the West to Brandeis University in Waltham in 1993; in 2004 those were turned over to Harvard University.
Bonner continued to fight for human rights after Sakharov's death in other ways, too, opposing the 1991 coup and the Russian invasion of Chechnya, and was a fierce critic of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Bonner came to Boston in 1985 for bypass surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her children emigrated to Massachusetts in the late 1970s.
In their statement on the Andrei Sakharov Foundation website, Yankelevich and Semyonov wrote: "In lieu of flowers, we suggest a donation in Mother's memory to The Andrei Sakharov Foundation, which can be sent to ASF, 7112 Wesley Road, Springfield VA 22150. We will post the list of all who sent donations, condolences and flowers on the Foundation's website asf.prime-task.com."