Grey is the Color of Hope, by Irina Ratushinskaya is a memoir of a poet’s experiences in a Soviet prison in the 80’s. From the cover: “Irina Ratushinskaya was twenty-eight, and just beginning to make her reputation as a rising Soviet poet, when her life was suddenly and dramatically disrupted. Appalled by what she perceived as social injustice and religious oppression in her own country, she had become an outspoken human rights activist. She was charged by the authorities with “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” and in 1983 was sentenced to seven years’ hard labor and five years’ internal exile.”

My thoughts about Chapter 1

Her opening with her ride home in a KGB car after her release is very effective. She doesn’t know whether to trust that they are actually taking her home or not as she has been lied to about release before. A favorite tactic is to build hope then burst it. Apparently this makes the prisoner more vulnerable to begging for clemency or giving information. But she has learned, “never trust them! Never drop your guard!” She is resigned to not know if it is for real for the hour and a half it takes to get to her house. This time is filled with small talk. How could she do it? How could she discuss literature, sculpture, history, and even which floor she lives on with them with a smile? I would not be able to play that game. My nerves would be too evident in my voice and my breathing and my face. I would have to just look out the window or at my hands and give as short answers as possible. But I know how to not trust them. I just don’t have a guard to drop.

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