Elias: I first came across Irina Ratushinskaya’s poetry when the collection ‘No, I’m Not Afraid’ was published in England in early May 1986. The poems, the various circumstances in which they were written and the poet’s integrity, commitment and appalling situation (she was still imprisoned) all had a tremendous impact upon me. I was drawn inexorably into the world she describes so vividly. The powerful imagery of resistance, the acceptance of shattering realities and the fantasies of different kinds of escape made poetry of truly universal significance and urgency, and the idea of a setting for voice and large orchestra followed immediately.
Each of the settings (in Russian) is self-contained and quite different in mood and orchestration. However, I consider the songs as one piece, and the whole cycle is performed without a break. All the basic musical material, themes and motifs for the entire work are stated in the first few pages, and the order of the poems was chosen to provide an overall musical and dramatic shape that attempts to link them together and to reflect more than the immediate meaning of the individual poems.