“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”
“All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea
whose time has come.”
I was reminded of Victor’s inspiring words when I read a wonderful story about a small group of feisty writers who recently a peaceful march in Moscow in response to a crackdown on dissent in Russia.
The 12 writers — who included a poet, a detective novelist, and an award-winning literary grandmother — were nothing if not creative. As only writers can, they came up with the perfect name for their non-violent protest: they called it a “test stroll.” But when it came to the stroll’s goal, they didn’t mince words: they wanted to know if it was possible to walk together from park to park in Moscow “without being blocked, beaten, poisoned with gas, detained, arrested or at least subjected to stupid molestation with questions.”
Here’s what happened next: When the 12 writers started their Sunday stroll from Pushkin Square they were trailed by a small crowd. As they walked on at a leisurely pace, that crowd kept mushrooming until an estimated 10,000 people were strolling along with them. That’s right: 10,000 people! They stopped traffic. They filled boulevards for more than a mile.
“We see by the number of people that literature still has authority in our society because no one called these people, they came themselves,” observed poet Lev Rubenstein, one of the organizers. “We thought this would be a modest stroll of several literary colleagues, and this is what happened….I don’t know how it will all end, but no one will forget it.”
And how! “Russian history is full of confrontations between leaders and writers,” notes Ellen Barry in an article in The New York Times. And writers are still loved and revered in Russia. Here’s what one ecstatic fan, a retired teacher, said about her hero, Dmitri L. Bykov, a poet who autographed of one of his books for her: “I am enraptured by his courage, his bravery, his wit. I wrote down no less than 20 words that were new for me. It’s a wonderful book. You can’t tear yourself away, even though it is very thick. It’s 900 pages.” What a review! Don’t you just love devoted readers?! Write on!