Introduction of Tatyana Sapunova
98th Annual Meeting of the American Jewish Committee
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, President Tanner, President-Elect Goodkind, David, Shula, dear friends, honored guests. I feel particularly honored to be standing at this podium tonight, presenting to you a remarkable woman, recipient of the first ever AJC's Moral Courage Award, Tatyana Sapunova. We live in a world where terrorist attacks and other reports of daily national and international incidents dominate the news. However, once in a rare while, a report of one individual's selfless, courageous act captures the imagination of a nation and the world. Such is the story I wish to share with you tonight.
Picture yourself, if you would, on a warm spring morning in Moscow, almost two years ago to this date. A 27 year-old professional, an otherwise ordinary Russian woman, Tatyana Sapunova is returning to Moscow with her family after a weekend away. As she is driving her tiny Russian-made car, her 4 year-old is chatting non-stop with her mother in the rear seat, oblivious to the world. Suddenly, something catches Tatyana's eye. It is a large, hand painted sign on the side of the road, with a terribly disturbing message in bold red letters. " KILL THE JEWS!" In a split second, Tatyana makes a momentous decision, a decision that will determine the rest of her life. She stops the car, walks over to the sign and pulls it down. Suddenly, the booby-trapped bomb explodes in her face…
Tatyana is injured terribly. She is blinded by the explosion, her face a bloody mask. Her mother hails a passing car, and Tatyana is taken to a nearby Moscow hospital. Within hours, her story is all over Moscow, and the hospital is besieged by reporters and cameramen. Soon thereafter, the Chief Rabbi of Russia pays her a visit. He brings a gift. Tatyana and her daughter will be sponsored by Moscow Jewish community to travel to Israel, where over the subsequent two months her vision will be partially restored and some of the physical scars mended.
As Tatyana returns home, she faces yet another critical decision. Everything has changed. From an unknown Russian woman, she has been transformed into a Russian heroine, and President Putin himself awards her the Russian Order of Courage. At this time, despite the overwhelming desire to hide from the limelight, Tatyana makes another courageous decision. She will face the media, speak widely on issues of anti-Semitism and terrorism, become involved in fund-raising for Israeli terror victims.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, now you see why I feel so honored to stand in front of you today, and to celebrate this wonderful, courageous woman. Tatyana exemplifies all that is good and right in this world of so much evil and wrong. Please rise and welcome the first ever recipient of the American Jewish Committee's Moral Courage Award, Tatyana Sapunova.