Keston Spring Lecture Reflects on Ukrainian-born Dissident Poet Irina Ratushinskaya

February 6, 2023

Keston Institute (UK) Chair Xenia Dennen will present the Keston Spring Lecture, “Irina Ratushinskaya: Triumph of the Spirit,” on Friday, February 24, 2023, at 3:00 p.m. in Room 104 in Moody Memorial Library on the Baylor University campus. A brief reception and conversation will follow. This event is free and open to the public.

Born and educated in Odessa (Ukraine), dissident poet Irina Ratushinskaya (1954-2017) was charged in 1982 with “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” and sentenced to seven years of hard labor. While imprisoned, she continued to write, etching poems into bars of soap and later transcribing them from memory onto cigarette papers. Her works were smuggled out through her husband who delivered them to publishers in the West. Ratushinskaya was released from prison in 1986 after global public outcry, intense international political pressure, and Gorbachev’s glasnost policies. After a short time in London, she became poet in residence at Northwestern University in Chicago from 1987-1989, but was allowed to return to Moscow in 1998.

“On the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine it seems appropriate that Xenia Dennen remind our community of Irina Ratushinskaya’s triumphant spirit,” said Kathy Hillman, director of the Keston Center for Religion, Politics, and Society. “Her poetry continues to offer hope to the people of her native land, especially today.”

Xenia Dennen holds degrees in Russian and French from Oxford University and a graduate degree in Russian politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. In 1969, Dennen helped found The Centre for the Study of Religion and Communism, which would become Keston College and eventually Keston Institute. She began Keston's academic journal and continued as editor until 1981. She has served as the Keston’s Moscow representative and is currently lead collaborator on the multi-volume “Encyclopaedia of Religious Life in Russia Today.”

The Keston Spring Lecture is sponsored by the Keston Institute (UK) and the Keston Center for Religion, Politics, and Society along with the Baylor Libraries, International Studies (Political Science), the Department of English, the Department of History, the Department of Religion, and the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures.