Bonner, Elena (1923–)
Bonner, Elena (1923–)
Russian physician and civil-rights activist. Name variations: Luisa (childhood name still used by her family); Yelena or Jelena Bonner. Born Feb 15, 1923, in Merv in Soviet Turkestan; dau. of Levon Sarkisovich Kocharov and Ruth Grigorievna Bonner (subsequently Communist Party official); stepdau. of Gevork Sarkisovich Alikhanov (Communist Party official); attended Herzen Teachers Institute, 1940–41, and 1st Leningrad Medical Institute, 1947–53; m. Ivan Vasilyevich Semyonov, 1950 (sep. 1965); m. Andrei Sakharov, 1971 (died 1989); children (1st m.): Tatyiana (b. 1950), Alexei (b. 1956).
Daughter of high-ranking Soviet officials, victims of Stalin's purges, who became a physician, a civil-rights activist in the Soviet Union, and a spokeswoman and representative for husband Andrei Sakharov; parents arrested during a Stalin purge (1937); served as nurse in WWII (1941–45); was wounded in action which destroyed her sight in one eye, leading to a progressive weakening of vision in the other (1941); mother rearrested (1950); attended medical school (1947–53); mother released from imprisonment (1954); separated from 1st husband, joined Communist Party (1965); became a leading member in the Soviet dissident community (1970); met Sakharov at a protest demonstration (1970), then married him (1971); was now linked personally to one of the nation's greatest scientists and by then an internationally renowned critic of Soviet political life; left Communist Party (1972); when Sakharov could not leave the Soviet Union to receive the Nobel Prize awarded him, received it in his place, then received medical treatment in Italy (1975); with Sakharov exiled in Gorky, became his chief spokesperson and link to the outside world (1980); also arrested and sentenced to exile in Gorky (1984); had medical treatment in Italy and the US (1985–86); husband released from exile (1986), then died (1989); following collapse of the Soviet Union (1991), established Sakharov memorial library in Moscow (1994); as a witness to the purges of the 1930s, as a member of the armed forces during WWII, and as a leading dissident in the era following the death of dictator Joseph Stalin, observed and helped to shape the course of her country's history.
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