Alexei Navalny’s daughter’s heartbreaking letter helps us contemplate our freedoms


I’ve lived my entire life with the blessings of U.S. citizenship, but my ancestors grew up under Russian czars before emigrating. Whatever your ancestry, every American should tremble with gratitude for the liberty we enjoy here, although we don’t necessarily take time every day to contemplate those freedoms.

Perhaps you will today if you read the piece linked below, written by a Stanford University student, Dasha Navalnaya, who happens to be the daughter of Russian resistance leader Alexei Navalny.

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Dasha is completing a degree at Stanford, where she is relatively safe and comfortable compared to her beloved father. He is not only rotting in a Russian prison cell but is also suffering various forms of deprivation and torture designed to break his spirit, or at least serve as a warning to other Russians who might support his movement of resistance to Vladimir Putin’s tyranny.

In this heart-breaking, brave letter of solidarity with her dad, Navalnaya wrote:

“We all know that prison isn’t a place where you want to end up anywhere in the world, but, the conditions of the Russian prison system are far worse than those in the U.S. or Europe. There is nothing like a Russian prison to cripple even those in perfect health. 

“My father survived a chemical weapons poisoning, which took a toll; he spent more than two weeks in a coma and over a month in intensive care. The rehabilitation took months. Shortly after the imprisonment, he started experiencing back pains and a gradual loss of control in his legs. He had to endure a 24-day hunger strike just to get access to medical help.

“Barely surviving the hunger strike did not break his spirit — nothing ever will. But the solitary confinement conditions he is now subject to are clearly aimed at mentally breaking and physically killing him. My dad’s “residence” for over two months now — a 7 by 8 feet punishment cell, which is more of a concrete cage for someone of 6 ‘3 height. He spends days sitting on a low-iron stool (which exacerbates his back pain), with a mug being the only thing he’s allowed to keep. Even his bed is fastened to the wall from 6 AM to 10 PM.

“On Thursday, November 17th, my dad was moved to the strict regime in a solitary housing unit. The rest of the prisoners live in barracks, which they can freely exit, but he will be permanently locked in the solitary cell. He wrote: ‘It is a regular cramped cell, like the punishment cell, except that you can have not one, but two books with you and use the prison kiosk, albeit with a very limited budget.’ These new conditions will also prevent him from receiving any family visits — they are all completely banned. Being able to have a second book is definitely a bonus for an extremely fast reader like my dad.”

It presumably won’t be published in Russia, but you can celebrate your freedom by reading this heart-breaking daughterly tribute and Crie de Coeur in full. It ran in Time magazine, but if you’re not a subscriber you can access it via the excellent Reader Supported News here.


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