“Nothing they did could humiliate me. I could only humiliate myself.” Armed with this profound and liberating realization, Natan Sharanksy began a nine year struggle with the Soviet regime that amounted to nothing less than a moral standoff between good and evil. Upon his arrest in 1977, the two realities of his previous existence faded into one. No more could words and actions be divorced; the battleground had been clearly marked and from it only one reality emerged. Sharansky knew that he must resist the lies and dictates of the Soviet system – no matter the cost.
Engaged in this life and death struggle with Soviet totalitarianism, Sharansky’s faith and hope led him through the mental and physical tribulations of hunger strikes, punishment cells, and the absence of earthly comforts. Preserving inviolate a place that he, his God, and his loved ones inhabited, Sharansky found the strength to remain true to himself, despite external pressures. His seemingly endless and fruitless labors did not lead him to despair; rather, he found meaning in his suffering. By uniting himself to those of the past, as well as those yet to come, he found a source of resilience in the interconnectedness of the generations – both as a Jew and as a lover of freedom.
Delsol reminds us that “Man is this animal that undertakes the adventure of meaning, an adventure that constitutes a risk.” Only by surrendering to fear can man reject his dignity, “the dignity that is his as a bearer of meaning.” Sharanksy did not hide from this dignity: he carried meaning with him into the Gulag, and he brought it out of the Gulag into the world. He shows that all have the heroic capacity to resist evil in their own unique way. His witness to the power of the soul will stand, no matter the storm.
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