Free Nadiya Savchenko!

05/11/2015 06:39 am ET | Updated May 11, 2016

Today, May 11, 2015, is Nadiya Savchenko's birthday. She is 34.

Today, on her 34th birthday, La Règle du Jeu (France), Kyiv Post (Ukraine), and The Huffington Post/WorldPost (United States) are publishing the first part of a manuscript that she was able to deliver to us, through her sister, from the site where she is being detained.

We note for the record that she was arrested on June 18, 2014, in violation of every law and norm of war.

We note for the record that since then she has been subjected to an absurd, mendacious, and rigged trial based on a patchwork of inconsistent and trumped up "testimony."

And we note for the record the six-month hunger strike that she endured, at the risk of her life, to protest the injustice done to her and to denounce, beyond her own case, the violence being inflicted on her country.

This patriot, made a Hero of Ukraine by President Poroshenko on March 2, this Joan of Arc detained in spite of the diplomatic immunity to which she has been entitled since her election to the Rada and as Ukraine's representative to the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, has become simultaneously the symbol of Putin's arbitrary exercise of power and of Ukrainian resistance.

As Russia celebrated with great pomp and ceremony the seventieth anniversary of the defeat of Nazism, one might have hoped that Putin would make a gesture.

He did not.

The clemency and release of political prisoners that all civilized governments practice on such symbolic occasions remained a dead letter for the former KGB man.

Leaders from around the world, headed by Angela Merkel and François Hollande, have come together to try to make Putin listen to reason. Nothing has worked. Nadiya Savchenko remains a political hostage, or rather, a geopolitical hostage, in the hands of the master of the Kremlin.

For some weeks now, Nadiya Savchenko has waged a new struggle in the mold of so many of her compatriots, both illustrious and anonymous, from the Russian and Soviet past: prison writings.

Of the writings that constitute that new struggle, writings that perhaps will become a book, we are honored to publish a first fragment here. Others will follow in short order.

We invite the jailer-in-chief, Vladimir Putin, to read these lines.

We invite him to remember all of the prisoners of totalitarian regimes who have become, through their struggle and their writings, symbols of the infamy of the regimes that mistreat them.

Those prisoners always end up being very costly to their jailers.

From their cells, Andrei Sakharov, Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, and Heberto Padilla, to cite just a prominent few, shook powers that were no less self-assured and arrogant than the neo-Czarists who now run the Kremlin.

Vladimir Putin has not heard the last of Nadiya Savchenko.

As for us, we demand her unconditional and immediate release.

--Bernard-Henri Lévy

* * *

Fire, Water, and Brass Pipes*

By Nadiya Savchenko

I will tell you, as a friend ...
And I neither know how nor have time to explain it,
I will write you, as a friend...
Maybe you'll still have the time to read a bit.

Dear Reader,

My apologies that this book was not written in high style. Still, "you can't force words out of a song." I have written simply, conversationally.

I never wanted to be a writer or to write a book, no matter how hard some people tried to persuade me. A lived life cannot described or written down, and no one else needs it--except the person who writes it ...

In prison I read in a book that one begins to write a book of one's own only when one's life is pushed to the edge, to a point at which one is ready to shoot oneself but does not have the guts to do it ... And I have not reached that breaking point! Were I to reach it, it would indeed be better to shoot myself...

But I wondered how many long and tedious questions I will have to answer if I survive this and return to freedom? So I thought to myself : would it not be better to write it all down just once, while there is still time, rather than repeat it a hundred times later on? It is time for me to begin the work! I am already three months gone from my duty as a Member of Parliament. All the Ukrainians who expressed their confidence in me with their vote are waiting for some sort of action!

So I decided that paper will be inked up in prison if not in parliament! There is enough time here... They say that a year in prison is enough for anyone to get all the writing out their system, whether it's poetry or prose ... Though I never thought that I would succumb to such platitudes! But I have not yet been here a year, thank God! And I hope I won't! No need to get comfy and settled! It is time to break out! There is much work to do!

So for now, I'll write. Paper will endure all.

Translated from Ukrainian by Vladislav Davidzon with Vitaly Chernetsky.

* * *

* An idiomatic saying in both Russian and Ukrainian is "to go through fire, water, and brass pipes," which means to "go through hell and back," to persevere in the face of adversity.--Ed.