Two Worlds, One Idea

Ten Years of Correspondence between AIUSA Group 11 and Zinovii Krasivskyj, Ukrainian activist and political prisoner of the USSR exiled in Siberia.

Group 11 has sponsored or participated in numerous special projects over its 40+ years of human rights work on behalf of Amnesty International. A prominent example of these projects is the Group’s new book: Two Worlds One Idea: Ten Years of Correspondence between Amnesty International Group 11 and a Ukrainian Political Prisoner, Zinovii Krasivskyj. The book, published in November 2013, reminds us that news today is often rooted in longstanding issues tied to human rights, and brings alive work done in the Group’s first two decades of human rights work.

Ukraine drew international attention in late 2013 when mass protests in Kiev, provoked by its President’s refusal to sign an agreement with the European Union, resulted in the overthrow of the government. Consequently, this is a propitious moment for a new book recounting Ukraine’s struggle for independence through the correspondence between a dedicated AIUSA Group in New York City and a Ukrainian prisoner of conscience in the former USSR.

Two Worlds, One Idea chronicles the 1976 to 1987 exchange of letters between Zinovii Krasivskyj, a renowned Ukrainian poet, human rights activist, and defender of Ukraine’s right to independence, and members of Amnesty International Local Group 11. During this period, Krasivskyj’s persecution by the Soviet authorities took him from a psychiatric prison to labor camps and then to enforced exile in Siberia. In addition to the letters and postcards exchanged between the group and its adopted prisoner of conscience, books and other gifts helped sustain Krasivskyj’s spirit. At the heart of the story is the poignant correspondence between Zinovii Krasivskyj and Group 11 member Iris Akahoshi, a homemaker who shared with him a love of nature and a deep sense of spirituality. Over the years, the two letter writers forge an uncommon and lasting personal bond.

Anna Procyk, a member of Group 11, edited and translated Kraasivkyj’s letters and provides extensive background on Ukraine’s struggle for cultural and political rights, as well as a review of New York City’s Group 11 efforts. Documents assembled by the group and photographs of major figures in the story illuminate the historical context.

This book is the result of a concerted effort by members of Amnesty who befriended Krasivskyj in his time of need, as well as current members of Group 11, to bring to public attention the ennobling activities that exemplify Amnesty International’s mission. They all hope that the spirit guiding this work will infuse its readers and spur other efforts to defend human rights.

The editor and translator, Anna Procyk, holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University. She teaches history at Kingsborough Community College, CUNY, and is the author of Russian Nationalism and Ukraine (1995).

“Readers of this moving and informative volume will have the privilege of sharing in the lives of an American activist and a Ukrainian dissident, both of whom wanted to live their lives ethically and make a difference – and succeeded on both counts.”

Alexander Motyl, The Ukrainian Weekly, May 18, 2014

Two Worlds, One Idea. Smoloskyp Publishers, 2013, 418 pages, photographs. To order the book at $25 per copy, including US postage, contact [email protected]. Or purchase it on Amazon.