Response after receiving AJC Moral Courage Award
Annual Dinner, May 6, 2004
It is a great honor for me to become the first recipient of the newly established American Jewish Committee Moral Courage Award. It is a privilege to address you tonight.
As so many of my friends in Russia, I have dreamed to visit America for many years. However, I could not imagine that my first trip to America will be in such a role. I am much excited to stand in front of and to speak to over a thousand people, to many outstanding leaders of the country and members and honorable guests of the American Jewish Committee.
Frankly, I didn't expect such a broad recognition to my action. I was very surprised to learn that so many people consider what I did heroic.
Just after the accident, when I was in the hospital in Moscow, a nurse told me: "You must be a famous person," she said. "There are a lot of journalists hanging on trees behind the windows because of you." I was surprised and tried to joke: "If I am so special, can I take one more blanket, please?"
I think that I have not done anything heroic. I believe many people would have done the same thing if they were in my position. Had I known there was a booby-trap, I would not have touched it. If people do something little to improve the environment, if people feel responsible for the small world around them, our life will change for the better. Many of us do not believe that they can make a difference. It is not true. They can.
In Tel ha-Shomer hospital in Tel Aviv dozens of people who had never seen me before came to visit me, brought fruits and flowers, tried to encourage me and wished me refuah shlema, full recovery.
After all, I am convinced it is not only the excellent doctors and medicine returned my life back to normal. In Israel I had a feeling that there was something magic in the air, the only place of this kind in the entire world.
I am dreaming about the times without bombs, explosions, wars and injustice. I hope my daughter will live in a world safer than today.
I want to thank you once again for this honor. I would like to thank David Harris for the kind words he wrote to me presenting his new book in Russian, "Hopes and Concerns at the Turn of the Century."
The award that I got tonight is not only for me. It is also for all those who have the courage to help others, across the countries and religious borders. It is also for the two thousand ordinary Russian Jews who responded to our fund-raising appeal and donated their money to help people in Israel who suffer almost daily from pain and terror. They need our help, as much as I did two years ago.
Thank you very much for your attention and support.