Among the memories that life leaves behind, I have always kept the one from the day I got to know Mikhail Gorbachev. It was in Port, a few years ago, where the congress of the always hermetic orthodox Portuguese Communist Party was held. I had managed to infiltrate the small group of guests, hardly anyone from unrelated media, and international observers. It was all very secret and enigmatic.
In front of the small number of foreign guests among whom I was, almost all of them from the Soviet sphere, ten or twelve old men occupied the presidential table in which the members of the representation of the Supreme Soviet stood out, who had arrived the day before expressly from Moscow in homage to one of the European communist parties most in tune with its orthodoxy. In the middle of a string, all from the same cut, a foreign seatmate, I think Polish, whispered in my ear:
“Look at that one with the mole on the bald head of the youngest at the table, it’s Gorbachev, the new member of the Soviet. Do not lose sight of him, he is the one who aims to succeed Brehnev and Androporv”.
In a break from those heavy sessions, relieved with a generous cocktail of the Dao’s best wine, I tried to approach him, but was pushed away by the iron-clad security guard surrounding all the prominent guests. I didn’t get it, but my curiosity about his future was engraved on me. The prognosis was soon confirmed, although it took time to confirm the image that he was still a leader faithful to the communist orthodoxy of his predecessors, but he was beginning to show a different style of managing the party’s secretariat.
Interest in the Cold War was in the air, frightening us all, and at a time of some relaxation, I attended Gorbachev’s summits with President Ronald Reagan in Helsinki and Geneva, although never to be able to approach him and less interview him. Before the press he was sparing in words and never without going further than the good intentions to achieve peace that seemed to be the goal pursued. When they began to talk about Glasnov and perestroika, two changes that broke Soviet secrecy, my interest in their promising initiatives increased.
Since then I have had many opportunities to write from the United States about those initiatives that no one trusted. In fact, many of us were not convinced until around this time of summer, while on vacation at his residence on the Black Sea, the most intransigent enemies of his reforms attempted a coup d’état that was half resolved when the tanks followed the mayor of MoscowBoris Yelsin, restored him to power.
It was for a short time and precariously, always under the shadow of Yelsin who, thanks to the tanks he had mobilized, was gaining popular sympathy, ended his stage in political power, although never from his international role in defense of freedom and democracy that he had preached by his example. He had lost the reins of a Soviet Union that dissolved in a few months, but found the general respect and influence that he exercised in international relations and his defense of peace.
The death of his wife, Raisa Gorbachova, to whom he was always closely linked, affected him greatly and began to remove him from his leading role. His death leaves behind the image of a hero of freedom and peace. only some residual fanatics of the failed communism that meant the USSR deny his memory and consider him a traitor to your ideas. Luckily they are less and less. Personally, I have been left with the frustration of never having been able to do the interview that I had dreamed of so many times.