Discussion Transcript – Dash Arts with Prove They’re Alive! campaign: VOICES FROM THE DARK

Parting Song – a collection of poetry by Batyr Berdyev

[music excerpt]

Josephine Burton (J):

Hello hello! Good evening. Welcome to our Dash event this evening and Voices from the Dark, I’m totally delighted to see you all here. Thank you for making your way across London Transport and we imagine that there will be a few more people arriving over the next while. I’m delighted to kick off the evening with some fantastic music, shortly, from Igor, who is a dear friend of ours.

Dash Arts makes work with artists across the world and we spent the last 5 years making work with artists from across the Post-Soviet space and Igor was one of our dear friend who we met on our way and was able to play music at our regular events. So for me it’s a joy to be able to welcome him back here this evening.

After Igor I will be joined on stage with four fantastic speakers who I will introduce to you later and we will spend the evening talking poetry and politics… and then we will wrap up the evening with more music from Igor, who will lift our spirits and our souls, I hope… at the end, after our conversation.

So, there is the bar, please help yourself through the evening with drinks which are on the left. Have a wonderful evening and I’ll see you back in about 20 minutes.


Igor (IG): I’ll play some Russian tunes maybe… copyrighted… From the 40s, 50s… some from the 60s, some from the 70s. I’ll start with, like classical…

[music excerpt]

IG: Thank you. Can you hear me? What about my voice? I’ll sing for you a song. Song from a 50s film [title in Russian].

[music excerpt]

IG: Can I have a bit more sound on stage, please? This is electronic… yeah… drum and bass… That one’s called… [title in Russian]

[music excerpt]

IG: Thank you. Thank you very much. I’ll be back [laughs]

JB: We will have more from Igor shortly.

[audience applauds]

JB: The fantastic Igor and his wonderful accordion. Thank you.

So, so while my friends are making their way up, I’m going to say a little bit more context of how this evening came about. I run Dash Arts, which is an arts organization and we make work with artists, you’ve seen some of the work at the beginning of the film. We have been working and creating work with artists from the Post-Soviet space for five years, and over the course of the five years, we presented quite a few events that are called Dash Cafés … Dash Cafés happen here in this space … How many people have been to a Dash Café before? Alright … nearly half. Well welcome back and welcome to everyone who has never been here before.

So you know Dash Café, we hang out in this space we explore ideas, thoughts and books and films that we come across as part of our research and we unpack them with some phenomenal speakers and artists and writers and they are beautiful gems.

Along the way, over the last couple of years, we’ve met the wonderful Eka, who is in the audience this evening, and Eka basically introduced me to Kate, who runs Crude Accountability. Crude Accountability is a phenomenal organisation and just got this really interesting book and thanks to Eka and Open Society Foundation, a connection was made to create this events today. In the spirit of the Dash Cafe, it’s something quite unique and it has been curated with Kate and her team. So thank you so much to Eka this evening.

I was just going to introduce the rest of the panel. So Kate Waters is the co-founder and director of Crude Accountability, she’s the boss, yes! And it’s really all thanks to her that we’re here. Crude Accountability, which you’ll hear a little bit more about picks up the pieces of destroyed civil society when oil gets in the way … but you will hear a much better description of it shortly from Kate.

To Kate’s left we have Academic, Translator and Writer James Womack, who hasn’t joined us from America but has joined us from Cambridge and who translated this wonderful book of Batyr’s poetry. We will hear a little bit more from James in Russian and later in English  talking about the process of translating and writing with poetry. And also in Spanish. So he is a multilingual translator and poet, publisher, and I hope we’ll hear a little bit more about all of these things later on.

On my left is Ivar… Ivar Dale, who is based in Geneva, he’s Norwegian and runs the Central Asian desk for the Norwegian Helsinki community. And has really come along this evening from Switzerland to provide us with an insight about what’s happening. We will hear more shortly from Ivar.

And on my far left is Elhum Shakerifar, and it’s a delight and a pleasure for me to welcome Elhum this evening. Elhum came to one of the very early Dash Cafes that we had on this stage and talked about art and Syria and politics. When we were thinking about this evening and about the fact that it was wonderful for us to be able to launch this book with the Open Society Foundation and Crude Accountability, I wanted to include someone in our kind of group conversation, who would be able to provide us with a wider context for the role that art will play in fighting oppression and spreading, spreading awareness… So Elhum will do her reflections on the poetry and Batyr’s work and her other experiences and engagement as an activist and as an artist.

So that’s the context for the evening. Before we kick off, I want to invite… I think it’s James, is that right? To read us a little bit about the poetry, so we have a flavour about putting Batyr’s words into this room. James is going to read in Russian and then, Cristina, who works for Dash Arts is going to translate in English.

James (J): I’m going to read two poems…Parting Song…

[reads in Russian]

Cristina (C): Recites Parting Song

[audience applauds]

J: This one… this one doesn’t have a title. It is as a dedication to his wife…

[reads in Russian]

C: Recites To my Bakharochka, a month after my arrest

[audience applauds]

JB: Thank you so much to James and Cristina, and we will hear a little bit more poetry from Batyr shortly.

Can I ask, before we start talking about Batyr, had anyone before… before this evening, had anyone heard of Batyr Berdyev? Apart from our friend Eka.

Maybe it’s actually… maybe everyone knows about Batyr apart from me, so I’m glad it’s not… it’s not just me, apart from Eka, we’re all new to his story and his work and I wanted to ask, Kate, how did you come across Batyr Berdyev?

Kate (K): Well, I first have to say thank you… Thank you for this and thank you all for being here…Because there aren’t many people who know Batyr Berdyev so it’s really lovely to see a number of people who are interested.

About Batyr…his poetry is part of the work that Crude Accountability is doing with in partnership with a number of organizations as part of this campaign that we call “Prove They Are Alive!” And Ivar’s organization is part of the campaign, and Human Rights Watch, and a number of other organizations are part of this campaign that is really trying to hold the Government accountable. Where there are hundreds of disappeared people in their prison system… some people, including Batyr, have been disappeared for as long as sixteen years, this means that they’ve had no contact with their family, they’ve had no visitors, they’ve had no access to legal care, they’ve had no medical care, and their families don’t know where they are. They believe that many of them are in a prison, which is in the desert and in Turkmenistan – they are not far from the Iranian border.

And you know, we also expect to see all kinds of international campaigning trying to figure out how to get the Government to pledge …  this is a country with an authoritarian regime … so it’s extremely hard to get information. And we are doing… more traditional human rights work with what we do. A colleague, a contact friend of mine, said “I have access to these poems. Batyr Berdyev was a different man before he was a disappeared person, before he had been a poet, and to many people in the west, he had been the Ambassador for Security…

He was even the vice… the deputy for administer and this person said “I have these poems that have been in that person’s possession for many many years and they didn’t know what to do with them and then they found out about our campaign, gave us the poetry and… passed another couple of years to figure out how to get it translated properly, and also, more importantly, how to publish this book of beautiful poems without getting Batyr’s family in trouble. So we were very very careful before we published, to make sure that we had the permission, not only from the relatives, but specifically from  two people… his wife and his son.

We will talk about this more later, but the reason we were so cautious about this is that in Turkmenistan this practice of collective punishment, where individuals are accused of a crime, or a made up crime, or you know, they come on the wrong side of the authority. Not only is that person punished, but all of their family, their friends, their neighbours, people they went to school with, you know, someone they sat next to in the class. It’s an extremely repressive horrible way of keeping people in control, because the person who is arrested, or the person who is being interrogated, knows from the beginning- “this isn’t only about me, this isn’t only going to hurt me, this is potentially gonna hurt everyone around. So it’s a brutal, brutal system.

There was one form of statement by the government of Turkmenistan that was made in 2007. The then new president Mukami Ada, who has come to power, there was hope initially that he was [inaudible]… and a graduate student raised his hand and said “Can we talk about the disappeared of Batyr Berdyev, there were two people who have been implicated in this alleged attempts to withdraw Miaza, the former president. Are there still a lot?”

And Mukami Ada said “I think so. I think they are a lot”.

And that’s really been the only public statement with regard to Batyr Berdyev and there are about 60 individuals who were arrested or disappeared at the same time as he was, and there is no account…

JB: And we know that the family is okay?

K: We don’t know if the family is okay, we believe that the family is okay but his wife is still in Turkmenistan, his son has left the country and the relatives… we are not in direct contact with them, we know very little about them, because as I mentioned, most people, particularly those who are still inside the country, are very very hesitant to speak, because of this collective punishment practice I mentioned.

We have some positive development over the course of the last six months. We learned in July, that for the first time ever, about 30 relatives of disappeared people were able to visit them in June, and one of these, one of the people who was able to do this, that we’ve heard from sources, was able to speak to the person for about 40 minutes, through a glass wall.. Unfortunately, Batyr Berdyev’s family was not among those who were able to visit and that none of the people who have been imprisoned and disappeared for the 16 year period or longer have had that possibility, but there has been some movement. I don’t know the progress exactly, it’s  a good first step. What I do think it indicates is that this international pressure of government has an impact and speaking publicly has an impact and we read part of some poetry in Russia and we read part of it in Warsaw, a year ago at the largest Human Rights conference that is held in Europe…they did not attend our event, but we know that they know about this, so… I think that the collective pressure is making a difference.


JB: And do you know what’s happened in 2002 that led to Batyr Berdyev’s imprisonment?

K: Can I have just a couple of words? Miaza was just a paranoid freak sorry [inaudible]… he was just a paranoid mess. And he was also… so he was increasingly grabbing power not only from an executive point, but throughout the entire government. And a lot of the higher level officials in the government, including Batyr Berdyev, were among a group of people who were accused of trying to overthrow Miaza, saying “we don’t want this guy to be our leader anymore, we can be better than this, we can do something different -”

JB: Have there been some movement toward…  an attempt to democratize –

K: No. No. But what was happening was those people who were in higher levels of power internationally, who were, you know, sort of… Foreign Minister, or ambassadors to other countries, saw that what was happening was not only destroying but ruining their relationships around the world. And so this group of people were the people who were accused of trying to overthrow the president. And there are many many conspiracy theories about what actually happened. Many theories about what actually happened, but this group of people was rounded up, they were arrested, hundreds of people,  some of the estimates say five hundred people were arrested… people who had known those people in their childhood or went to school with them, or lived in the same village with them…

And in the end, the 63 people were disappeared, were arrested, they were publicly tried, many of them were force-fed drugs, to watch their confessions on television. They’re clearly not in their right minds…




James Womack (J): One of the things I’m interested in is cultural politics, and the way in which…I mean the way in which literature is used as a kind of national identity. And I’ve been doing, as results of kind of starting to think about Batyr, I’ve been looking into a bit of the history of Turkmen literature and so on… and what you do find is that the nature of the state of the individuals changes absolutely after the Soviet period. So it was bad. I mean as a woman of an imprisoned poet working…who was born in 1942 and protested against the situation of women in Turkmenistan and as often happened in Soviet period, the Soviet logic that if you protested against things, you must be mad. So she was put in a mental asylum and died there.

In some ways, even researching this very terrible oppressive grim case, you find material. There are records, there are statements that she made that provoked an aggressive response from the Turkmen Soviet, but they exist and there is some sort of public records, some sort of idea that she was, within the laws of the Soviet Union, committing a crime and being punished for that crime. These laws are obviously wrong … and there is a reason behind it. And when you start thinking about people nowadays, the contemporary writers, there is no reason, there is nothing. We’ve moved from an organised bad Soviet style regime to…

JB: That’s a brilliant moment to, um… I think, there’s a question… Please…

[Audience member 1]: No one’s mentioned oil or gas… I wondered if anyone cared to elaborate.

JB: Yeah, you’re absolutely right… Kate, do you want to touch on the oil –

K: Absolutely. Thank you for raising that.

Crude Accountability, the organization that I represent which is part of this and we work precisely with issues of oil and gas, and we look at the intersection of environmental and human rights violations and issues in the context of oil and gas. And what happens to communities, specifically local communities where oil and gas are being pulled out or transported… and Turkmenistan is one of the countries… and we’ve done a lot of research on specifically looking at what oil and gas development does…

Turkmenistan has the fourth largest natural gas resources in the world, it’s a tiny country as you know, 5 million people. The fourth largest gas resource in the world, they should be rich. They should be Qatar, they should be another country in the Middle East that lives off of its natural resource and wealth. And this is not the case in Turkmenistan.

In terms of what’s happening in terms of oil and gas drilling and development…the primary consumer, the primary purchaser of natural gas in Turkmenistan right now is China. So there’s a very large pipeline that goes from the western part of Turkmenistan to the east to China. There are lots of discussions about pipelines to Afghanistan and Pakistan and India, there’s a big discussion going on … There is also drilling for oil, both on shore in western Turkmenistan and also ashore in Caspian Sea. And some of that ashore drilling goes back to the Soviet times, but a lot of it has been developed in the last 15 years or so.

There are no major western oil companies operating in Turkmenistan at present with the exception of the ENI, which is the Italian oil company … so this is not a private company but it is a western major that is operating there, and there are a lot of oil service companies making lots of money and doing the technical support that they do … and a lot of American supply companies.

What is important in terms of human rights and environmental rights with regard to gas development, above and beyond all of the issues that we have with oil and gas drilling and climate change and sustainable future for all of us, there are two things: one is, the Ministry of Environment was dismantled in Turkmenistan, so there is no real governmental oversight over oil and gas drilling. And even before the Ministry of Environment was dismantled, most of the operational and guidance and monitoring oil and gas was not carried out by the Ministry of Environment anyways, it was carried out by the Ministry, or the Agency of [inaudible] development. Which is directly under the president. And this is important because the president of Turkmenistan actually made a law that only 20% of the revenues from oil and gas goes to the national budget… 20%…  80% goes someplace else. And we can imagine how the prison system has been funded, we can imagine large offshore accounts, we can imagine all kinds of yachts and, you know, all of the things that these autocrats tend to have. So the engagement by the international oil and gas community in Turkmenistan is really complicit in these gross human rights violations that are taking place, because this is the money that funds what happens in Turkmenistan.

JB: We might come back to that later but I think that we should return to the words of Batyr…

K: Thank you so much.

JB: And can I remind you, I mentioned at the beginning, please feel free to grab a drink…

J: [reads in Russian]

J: Recites ‘Why’

[reads in Russian]

J: Recites ‘Never’

[audience applauds]

JB: Thank you so much. I want to introduce… I want to bring in Elhum. And Elhum, this is… this is definitely not your world and you are quite a phenomenal, wonderful artist and activist in quite similar parallel worlds, I wanted to introduce a bit about your work but also to talk a bit about how you felt in kind of encountering this poetry in this context.

Elhum Shakerifar (E): Well, thank you for inviting me to be here … I was just thinking to myself that, when I leave, I think what probably I will leave with, is a really strong sense of someone who I haven’t heard of before. What’s really meaningful about hearing the poetry and knowing that it’s been published, and it’s out there is that it makes him present, it makes him visible. It means that I have a really clear sense of him as a father and as a husband, and as someone who has hopes and dreams and that means that all of the other facts that we’ve been talking about make sense, or mean something and we don’t then ‘other’ them and think that their somewhere far away and disconnected because actually they’re very relatable and they mean something very palpable.

I just finished working on a film about forcible disappearance in Syria…I came to work on this film because actually, well we didn’t know we were making a film about forcible disappearance but someone that we were filming with was disappeared –

JB: While you were filming them?

E: Yeah, as we were filming with him. And it was a very confusing thing, for so many reasons but as storytellers we were telling his story separately about something else and suddenly he wasn’t there anymore… We had to make sense of what’s our responsibility now. Should we make a film about him or about him or about what he represents or the fact that he’s disappeared of the fact that everyone’s disappeared.
But ultimately there was this difficulty about making a film about something that’s not there anymore, and making this absence present, in a way that resonates and makes sense… and it also really strikes me, I always think that forcible disappearance almost doesn’t make grammatical sense. You are ‘disappeared,’ you know it doesn’t really work in language, it’s almost kind of like… the reality of it… language resists what it means somehow. And it really is that… it’s this limbo that doesn’t make sense and it’s so debilitating for people who are affected by forcible disappearance  because there’s no way to make sense of it. There’s nothing to know and there’s nothing that you can hold on to. There are no answers and I think that’s what is so confusing about it, and what makes it so confusing to talk about. So the book and the words and  making somebody who’s absent very present, is powerful and something that can resonate and that can mean something. And it’s amazing also to think that these are also words that were somehow communicated by someone who has all but disappeared.

JB: And, can you talk a little bit about… from your perspective as an artist, or a facilitator, how you kind of tone the line between the art and the responsibility you feel to tell the story?

E: It’s a difficult question actually… I mean, I think… I’ve worked lots in the middle East, so that’s where I produced films mainly, but actually, I often work outside of the UK, and I think you need to make sense of the story and need to understand why I want to tell the story in the first place. And I think I first came to film making because I learned about a reality …


I remember the first time I tried to raise money for the film, and to come up with all sorts of unexpected barriers, including the plain people from human rights, all organizations, human rights, festivals in particular, film festivals..  I remember once… I was questioned by someone in the audience who said “I’ve never heard about this”, and it’s that idea, who controls the narrative, what is the narrative that’s out there, and so it’s… with new ideas, new responsibility, you need to work out where you stand in the narrative and how you’re going to shape something, or to know that you’re a representative, you’re representing someone, a reality… You need to work out why you’re doing it and where you stand, and also to know that there might be much stronger, powerful narratives that are shaped… and even what you’re saying is being understood.


JB: James, did you… I was just very struck by… intimacy and love and actually the necessity of these poems to capture the spirit of a person like you and me… And when I was thinking what poetry to hear and read this evening, I was a couple of times trying to make my way through fine poems which are largely quite vague, and most of the poems are just extreme intimate love letters to his wife and child, and of course in some ways that’s its great joy and necessity… and I wondered how you felt when you encountered this poetry. How… how and what did you feel?

J: I mean the circumstances are important, to know that these poems… I mean before I read them, I knew that … Batyr was arrested in December 2002


So, I had this sense I think that he was turning in this moment if crisis to look for ways to speak to, in particular to speak to his family… One of the things about the poems is that even if it isn’t addressed to somebody who isn’t the person reading it, you have a sense of intimacy with the person who wrote it, so you have this referencing, for example, the particular moments of happiness in the past, because his wife and his young son. Batyr is, I think, touching on something pretty personal. I read about feeling guilty about being an inadequate father.

So I think that there is, there is that. But it’s also, the sort of narrative of wanting to create some sort of document of intimacy that you read and even if you’re not the addressee, you read and you feel the sense of relationship, a relationship of love between him and his family, but also I think there’s a very straightforward answer to this, which is that you feel that you got somebody who is…

I mean  we do not know what has happened to Batyr. We know that he’s been disappeared, we know he’s been disappeared for more that 15 years now. And as he was writing his poems, knew that, whatever the future held for him, for all that he says in lots of the poems, you know… it may be that one day in the future we will be together again but he knew that his immediate future, whatever it held, wasn’t going to be pleasant. And there’s this sense, not of resignation, not of giving in, but of putting together a document which enables him to say goodbye. I mean it’s not a coincidence that the title poem we have, “Parting Song”, is the title of the book… to say goodbye to his family and to avoid, in as far as it’s possible, this absolute kind of break in the story that you spoke about –  the idea of disappearing and then nobody knowing what’s happened. So, I mean, he’s looking for a way of trying to find some hope but also trying to kind of provide for his family a… a story that makes sense I think. And I read the poems and that came across very strongly and I found very moving when I was reading them.

JB: There was… there was something that I… that he himself, very modestly, did consider himself to be a poet. Did you, did you feel that he was a diplomat and then he was in prison and then he became a poet. I mean, surely you are a poet, would you consider , when you’ve been translating…Is there some sort of significant quality in there that makes it of some great artistic material?

J: I think these are… part of it kind of boils down to what we can do in a crisis, I suppose. That there is much more of a tradition, certainly in the Russian language, literature, a tradition of putting thoughts into metrical form. These poems are scanned, I mean they are formally very coherent…

…And so there is this kind of way in which this sort of very formal education teaches people the technique that they need to write poems… and then, this moment of crisis, this situation of crisis, I think, it sometimes happens that people are forced…if this is how they want to express themselves and they have very little time and have to focus and have to concentrate, something gets poured into them from the outside and comes out of them from inside or whatever. So yeah, I believe in inspiration I think and it seems it’s a bit sort of floaty word to use when you’re talking about this very sad human situation but I think it’s very much an inspired document.  

JB: Are there Turkmen poets today, that we know of, writing in Turkmen? Is it surprising that Batyr wrote poetry in Russian or is it something you’d expect?

J: No, we would expect it …

But certainly there are writers in Turkmen and I mean there is a community of exile Turkmen writers largely based in the Scandinavia, Sweden mostly, and they publish on a very small scale books in both languages, and they publish…which is, not bilingual, but it’s got writing in Russian and writing in German [inaudible]

[Audience member 2:] So my question is, do you know how long it took for the poems to be found?

E: We do not…and to be honest, we don’t know for a fact that the poems made their way to his wife and son, we don’t know how they were smuggled out. We know that the family has the poetry, and his wife is doing poetry, and his son is doing poetry, but I don’t know, we don’t know how they came out of prison. And, we have had to be and continue to have to be very careful about talking about that part of it to keep everybody safe and secure …but it came to us, it was very clearly stated that a desire was for something to be done with this poetry so that more people can see it and more people would know who was Batyr Berdyev.

JB: I was asked today by journalist how we knew or how Kate and Ivar and James knew they were real. How did we know they were actually written by Batyr at all? To which I was quite aghast because to me, the kind of intimacy of them struck me as being…


K: When I was first told that there were poems, my first thought was, how did this happen? how? But as soon as I saw them, I knew immediately that this was the real thing. For precisely the reasons that you’ve said. I mean these are personal love stories with personal details and you know… descriptions of places he’d seen and been together with his family, and experiences that they had had, but this is a love story, these are love poems to his wife and I think an attempt at hopefulness to his son, but they are also a remembrance of a beautiful life that three people spent together. And that you can’t fabricate.
JB: … Does prison life generate some sort of specific, kind of creative force and is there such a thing?


J: I don’t recommend the prison context just to create a few novels, I mean that’s… that’s part one. I think that yes, people in the face of great torment, sometimes reveal, or you know, sometimes create the human spirit pushed to breaking point can create great art, but that’s not argument for pushing the human spirit…

[Audience member 3]: There is great literature coming out of Norway now, nobody is torturing anyone…award winning stuff… without prison, torture or…

J: This is true, yes.

JB: So that’s great… I can see Igor is desperate to get back on stage to play more music. But before we do, one more question and then we’ve got to close with the poetry. We can squeeze you in, sir, there at the back.

[Audience member 4]: (Question inaudible)

K: That’s the six million dollar question that you just asked. It’s how do you influence an authoritarian… how does one… how do other nations influence an authoritarian regime that cares so little about human rights that disappears its own citizens, and robs its own country blind of resources that…

The question of China is a very interesting one and it’s not one that’s very well understood I think, among certainly most of us in the human rights and the environmental community but I would say even more broadly there’s not much understanding about what that means. We have an an awful lot of stereotypes and an awful lot of phrases that we throw around about the Chinese and Western governments do that as well, say “You need to be stronger in human rights in Central Asia, and be stronger about human rights in Turkmenistan”. They’ll say to us “What do you want? The Chinese to run everything? You think they care? You think they care about human rights and they care about the environment? If we let them do everything, we won’t get anything.  And of course, that gets back to what Ivor was saying earlier, about this race to the bottom, wh0’s the worst of the worst, right?

So we do a whole wide variety of campaign strategies and work with all the international institutions, from the United Nations, to the OACE, to the European Parliament, to the other EU institutions and individual Governments. We also have big international Civil Society coalitions that are organized around Environmental and Human Rights and other issues that are interconnected. So there’s, you know, a massive effort to work on this, and I think… how successful we are and what really at the end of the day is gonna change things, and I think we are really pushed to say what those things are.


But the other piece of it is really, with the risk of sounding pollyanna or naïve, the real work and the real change comes from all of us, and when I say all of us I mean all of our counterparts inside the country as well. It comes from the people, it comes from speaking out, it comes from the poetry, it comes from whatever form it is, that individuals take to say their piece and to continue to push back the boundaries… to continue to open the space, to continue to unite across borders. That’s where our hope comes, and I believe, personally, that ours is a huge and critical important role in all of this. It’s where we go. We think of it as a kind of salvation or kind of luxury or something to talk about… art is our essence, it’s who we are.  And when we look at Batyr’s work, and we boil it all down, at the end of the day, he’s this person who has been through a lot. What does he do with all that? … We can’t change Mukami Ada, he will change himself, that society can change with the help of all of us, and with the voices …

I: This poem, like most of the poems in this book, are addressed to his wife and his son, but I think it’s also worthwhile thinking about the people that have disappeared more recently. He was supposed to be released last year, his family has not seen him since, he has children, he has a wife… They are waiting for him.

[reads in Russian]

C: Recites ‘xxx’

[audience applauds]

[reads in Russian]

C: Recites more of ‘xxx’

[audience applauds]

JB: Thank you so much, to Cristina, to Ivar, to James, to Kate, for bringing Batyr’s words so beautifully tonight and I’m obviously grateful to you all … To you and your continuous fight in trying to change… trying to change the situation for him.

I wanted to thank you all for being here…for Eka for bringing us together. Do take the poems away and spread the word and we have a few more books as well as the back, so take one with you and give it to your friends.

We at Dash, have some very exciting and interesting events coming up. We are continuing actually, this journey of trying to uncover disappeared and lost cultures, and we are actually returning to the normal work of Dash Arts next month and back into our journey of the Eutopia, which is our attempt to try to understand what it means to be European. And we are looking at sort of lost traces of the vanished worlds of Jewish cultures in Lithuania and music…

Thank you so much for coming. Please stay and listen to the wonderful Igor. we’ll be around at the bar, please do ask my guests some more questions. And, when you leave, but please don’t rush, because we have beautiful music… hear a bit more about you and why you came … and what else you’d like to hear from us. And so, thank you again for coming… to Kate, to James, To Ivar, to Elhum, to Igor and thank you all.


[audience applauds]


[music excerpt by Igor]

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