Years ago reading Living in Truth by Vaclav Havel came across the concept of "anti-political politics" formulated by the future president of the Czech Republic while he was still a persecuted dissident in 1986. It came to mind once again when reading the following words by Laura Pollan quoted in an article in Reuters announcing her untimely death on October 14, 2011: "We continue being defenders of human rights. We are not politicians, we want freedom for the country, democracy."
Laura Pollan in her own words.
An additional level of irony arises. Havel auto-defined himself a dissident but he came from a family that was never in support of the communist regime forced on the people of Czechoslovakia while Laura Pollan had been a school teacher who avoided politics until her husband, Hector Maseda, who had been a nuclear physicist who, like Andrei Sakharov, was demoted for his "ideological errors" and ended up an independent journalist, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2003 for his dissident activities. Defending her husband, someone she loved, was the spark that led Laura Pollan into the realm of "anti-politics" and the defense of human rights.
In the same month that her husband and the rest of the group of the 75 were locked up and through sham show trials sentenced up to 28 years in prison the Ladies in White came into existence. Dressed in White on Sunday mornings carrying white gladioli in their hands they would nonviolently march to attend Mass at Santa Rita Church and pray and petition for their loved ones to be freed. Over the next 8 years they would suffer harassment, threats, acts of repudiation, beatings, detentions, injections and their homes searched by state security agents. At one point when the beatings from state security agents and their recruits got especially bad in the Spring of 2010 and the Ladies were beginning to suffer fractures and other more serious injuries Laura Pollan, herself with a cast and sling for her arm, challenged the regime while marching in the street: "They can either kills us, put us in jail or release them. We will never stop marching no matter what happens."
Laura PollanLess than a year later she was reunited with her husband and the remainder of the group of the 75 were released from prison. No doubt the dictatorship thought the Ladies in White would disappear. They counted wrong. The women had pledged to continue in their struggle until all political prisoners were free not just the group of the 75. Also Laura Pollan recognized that as long as the current system existed new political prisoners would be a reality.
Last night her husband who stood by her side and accompanied her over the past week in the hospital carried out an honor guard at her wake following her untimely death at the age of 63. The Free Cuba Foundation remembers and honors this courageous Cuban woman and will seek to follow her example.