The book contains the memoirs of Robert van Voren covering the period 1977-2008 and provides unique insights into the dissident movement in the Soviet Union in the 1980s, both inside the country and abroad.
As a result of his close friendship with many of the leading dissidents and his dozens of trips to the USSR as a courier, he had intimate knowledge of the ins and outs of the dissident movement and participated in many of the campaigns to obtain the release of Soviet political prisoners. In the late 1980s he became involved in building a humane and ethical practice of psychiatry in Eastern Europe and the (ex-) USSR, based on respect for the human rights of persons with mental illness.
The book describes the dissident movement and many of the people who formed it, mental health reformers in Eastern Europe and the response of the Western psychiatric community, the battle with the World Psychiatric Association over Soviet, and later, Chinese political abuse of psychiatry, his contacts with former KGB officers and problems with the KGB's successor organization, the FSB. It also vividly describes the emotional effects of serving as a courier for the dissident movement, the fear of arrest, the pain of seeing friends disappear for many years into camps and prisons, sometimes never to return.
Robert van Voren (1959) became active as a human rights activist in 1977. In 1980 he co-founded the Global Initiative on Psychiatry-GIP (then called the International Association on the Political Use of Psychiatry) of which he is currently Chief Executive. GIP successfully campaigned to have the Soviets removed from the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) in 1983. In 1990-1991 GIP started to assist reform minded psychiatrists in the (former) USSR to humanize mental health care. Since then the organization has become active in forty countries in Central & Eastern Europe, the former USSR, Africa and South-East Asia. Robert van Voren was elected Honorary Fellow of the British Royal College of Psychiatrists in 1997, Honorary Member of the Ukrainian Psychiatric Association in 2004 and was knighted in 2005 for his work as a human rights activist. In 2003 he was granted Lithuanian citizenship.