I’m in Kyiv. Within the coronary heart of a metropolis whose superhuman efforts enable life to go on. Associates and comrades are organizing, in secret, on the Zhovten, probably the most stunning movie show of the Podil quarter, the Ukrainian premiere of my movie, Slava Ukraini. And, from Tbilisi, Georgia, on the far shore of the Black Sea, greater than 1,500 kilometers away, a handwritten letter reaches me, in a trembling script, from Mikheil Saakashvili.
Saakashvili… Like a ghost rising from a current previous (2008!) that appears out of the blue so far-off… It was springtime. The winds of liberty blew over the Georgia the place he was president. It was a wind of liberty and roses. I’m there. I see, braving the Russian tanks on the doorstep of the capital, this light large who, just like the heroes of literature for kids, has a princess to avoid wasting, named both Georgia or Europe, no distinction. He resists. Requires support. Appears, at occasions, poised for victory. Loses the election. Goes into exile in Ukraine, the place he turns into governor of Odesa Oblast. Returns house. And finds himself thrown into jail by an influence underneath orders from Putin who, not content material to only put him away, appears to have poisoned him as effectively.
“Pricey Bernard,” he writes, now, on a sheet of skinny paper which makes me shiver to learn once more… I used to be “poisoned in my cell”… A “staff of overseas medical doctors” discovered underneath my nails, in my blood, “traces of heavy metals”… “Day-to-day I get weaker”… I’ve misplaced “at the very least 50 kilos in lower than a yr”… I write to you to “ask on your assist” and to beg you to “converse of my torture, my poisoning, and of the Kremlin’s direct curiosity in killing me”… I write to you since you got here to Georgia in 2008, within the period when Putin was testing the brand new Iron Curtain he needs to attract at this time throughout Ukraine. And I write so that you inform the world that “my demise in jail” will imply my nation “is thrown into the arms of Russia” and that, past my borders, as Minister Lavrov’s spokesperson has sworn, my destiny “additionally awaits Zelensky”…
I attempt to think about him, this exultant, magnificent character, out of proportion in all methods, not simply bodily. I attempt to recall his verve, his gaiety, his religion within the democratic transition and in a tomorrow that sings liberty. I attempt to image him, skinny, boney, frail, maybe dying. Has he misplaced his Rabelaisian exuberance? His jovial enthusiasm, like that of a Porthosian musketeer? What’s left of his heroic intelligence, his hardiness, his confidence within the genius of those that he held as masters, the nice spirits of French humanism whose language he speaks impeccably?
I attempt to think about how, precisely, he wrote these phrases that I’m , and thru what twisting paths he managed to get them to me. I think about a jail visiting sales space. Or, as in The Three Musketeers once more or the period of Soviet dissidents, an envelope handed in secret, a sympathetic or complacent jailer, a bottle at sea, a samizdat. Did he write them at a desk, these traces in a infantile hand, clumsy however excellent for expressing his struggling by means of it? On a skinny mattress the place he has grown too weak to rise up? Or from the bottom itself, like Solzhenitsyn within the Gulag? He was a European nice and, even fallen, stays so. This courageous man, hated by Putin’s little gray males like few others, has misplaced none of his panache.
I additionally attempt to think about, and to grasp, how he might have determined, 17 months in the past now, to leap again into the lion’s den, defying the inevitable. Like Navalny, deep down. Like different heroes of the brand new dissidence. Like Khodorkovsky, the previous oligarch as soon as imprisoned by Putin, now turn into one of many faces of free Russia—Saakashvili additionally, it appears to me, knew the destiny that awaited him and selected to face it. Are these males helpless earlier than the unbendable will of the Kremlin terrorist? Is Micha despairing earlier than the flexibility of his nation, which beloved him earlier than chasing him out? Is there a second when the thought strikes you, as brazen as could also be your soul, that it’s time to hitch the immortal race of males of excellent religion who spared no effort searching for the triumph of a simply and misplaced trigger?
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky holds photographs of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili taken in jail, throughout a press convention in Kyiv on Feb. 1, 2023.
Sergei Supinsky—AFP/Getty Photos
Micha, I don’t know for those who’ll learn, out of your jail cell, or from the hospital the place they just lately put you, these phrases that I write in reply to yours, pondering of you and the possible peril of your tortured physique. I don’t even know if, from the place you might be, you hear the murmur rising from the Rustavili avenue the place, on the hour I write this, hundreds of pro-European protesters are demonstrating and chanting the Ukrainian anthem. However I do know that Europe, your nation, doesn’t appear to listen to your warnings. I do know that, on this West that you simply championed, you, and your courageous outraged and revolted individuals, obtain solely a glacial silence. How can we not be ashamed of that, once we converse the language of Hemingway or Chateaubriand? Of Zorro or Alexis de Tocqueville? How can we not—remembering Sartre and Camus who you claimed as soon as to be the equal of—be horrified by the disillusioned negligence of western opinions?
A dying man cries out for assist. A complete individuals braves the militias within the pay of Putin, by taking over, ten years later and, I repeat, 1,500 kilometers away, the Ukrainian spirit of the Maidan. And the world (if this nonetheless means one thing greater than a mob managed by the algorithms of nothingness) might care much less. They don’t give a fuck, as one says, within the newspeak slang, to specific servility to evil. That is insufferable.
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