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Remembering Eleanor – Friends House Moscow
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Eleanor Barden, 24 February 1932 – 26 March 2018

A Memorial, by Sergei Nikitin

Sad news has come from Northampton Quaker Meeting — Eleanor Barden is dead. I met Eleanor a very long time ago, 20 years ago. She was Friends House Moscow’s long-time treasurer; she was involved with an enormous number of Friends House projects.

By the very beginning of perestroika she had already founded her own travel company, Goodwill Travel, trying to strengthen ties between ordinary people in the USSR and in Britain, an opportunity that had become possible under Gorbachev. It was Eleanor who first drew me to the Peace Tax Campaign, where I met interesting people, pacifists, who were working earnestly to hold back their hard-earned dollars, pounds, marks and francs from the militaristic systems of their countries.

I had a chance to travel around my own country with Eleanor, to its nearer and farther corners, including Nazran. There, sitting together in the back seat of a dusty automobile, we went to camps for persons displaced from Chechnya.

Next to the driver, there always sat a local guy with a Kalashnikov machine gun on his knees, which distressed Eleanor very much: it was not in right order for a Quaker to go to meet refugees with a gunman next to her.

She embraced every misfortune as if it had been her own, repeating that she had been a refugee herself; as a child during the war, she escaped from the island of Jersey, which was occupied by the Nazis.

For her nothing was insignificant: I recall a story of how her Meeting, Northampton Quaker Meeting, collected money and bought waterproof covers for mattresses for the littlest children in the cardiology clinic in Buzuluk.

Eleanor had some comic notions, for example, she was convinced that, in Russia, women — as a rule — did not drive automobiles. This was a magnificent misconception of hers, on which she loved to hold forth, always hand in hand with telling about how, in Cuba — as she had been told — they do not know what time it is, because they have no clocks. I often heard these stories from her, along with one other: in Russia, they do not know what an invoice is. Such endearing quirks of Eleanor’s only made her individuality richer and more interesting, I will always remember her with gratitude, rejoicing to have known this remarkable woman, an English Quaker. May she rest in peace.

Sergei Nikitin was the first head of Friends House, Moscow. His personal memorial of Friend Eleanor Barden has been translated by Patricia Stewart.

This post first appeared on Facebook here.  The original, in Russian, can be found here and is included in the Russian language Facebook group “Квакеры”.

[Photo of candles: © Melanie Defazio | Dreamstime.com]