Dear Colleagues, I want to thank you for the honour you have given me - one of the founders of the Russian Pen Club - when you accepted me as a member of your Italian Pen Club. This wouldn’t have been possible in Mandel’shtam’s time, who while behind the barbed wire of the Gulag, dreamt of “the Tuscan hills of all mankind”. Constantly underfed he was slowly brought towards death. It wouldn’t have been possible when they called Pasternack unpatriotic and vile because he had let the whole world know that the tragic love story between Yury Zhivago and Lara wasn’t less precious than “History” with a capital “H”. And it wouldn’t have been possible when Anna Akhmatova, who had written great verses about the siege of Leningrad, in a Party motion after the war, was defined as a cross between a nun and a whore. I want to express my thanks to Italy, because it was an Italian Professor, Angelo Maria Repellino, who translated for the first time in Europe Mandel’shtam’s poems; because it was an Italian Publisher, Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, who made all the world know Pasternack’s novel Doctor Zhivago and because it was the Italian writers who awarded the Etna – Taormina Prize to Anna Akhmatova. They also convinced the Soviet Government to give her - for the first time in twenty-five years - permission to enter Italy, the homeland of her lover, the great Amedeo Modigliani. It is said that the main reason of Stalin’s anger and envy was due to the fact that when Anna Akhamatova appeared on the stage in Moscow the whole audience rose to their feet and applauded for fifteen minutes. This was only possible in public places when Stalin appeared. And when it was reported to him what had happened Stalin blew smoke from his pipe a few times and asked: “Who organised this?”. What a poor sad man. He knew only “organised and enforced love”. Let’s try not to fear the fact that we writers are not very well organized! It is our strength but also sometimes our weakness. To defend writers freedom of expression and on the other hand to use TV, newspapers and all media in order to organize meetings by recitals, debates etc., not only among the writers themselves, but also with all the readers. A personal thanks to my Italian colleagues, because they have supported both me and the other writers of my generation when it was wanted that we should be isolated from Europe. But even now in Russia there are politicians who want to put us aside, and even abroad there are people who don’t want a strong Russia and try to isolate us. But Russia was, is, and will always be an integral part of Europe and among the Russian intellectuals there will always be those who will carry forward Sakharov’s cause, not allowing the defenders of human rights to be persecuted. But these words only have force if they find a great response. Do you know what is lacking in mankind? There is a lack of great writers. Those who would make us ashamed if they looked us straight in the eyes. What prevents us from being great? Maybe our shyness. All the same let us try. There is an Eastern saying which goes: “One hundred cats don’t make a lion” There are a lot of mews but don’t we really need to roar so strongly that everyone will hear us? An old friend of mine recently told me: “If Lev Tolstoj had been alive in 1914 the first World War would probably not have started. They would have been frightened to start it, because Tolstoj would have written something to make them all feel ashamed…” But we can’t write History using the conditional.