17 March 2016

With Anita Neyman's death, "a whole epoch has passed"

Anita Neyman, who died last Friday, was a long-time colleague of a friend of ours. When this friend, marine biologist Irina Sadykhova, told me some details about her remarkable late colleague, I decided to look for an obituary. I found it on the site of the White Sea Biological Station.

Something about this obituary moved me deeply. In some ways, it was clear that the world had lost a unique personality, but Anita Alekseyevna Neyman also represents a huge category: people who survived an era of bloody political repression and, despite the odds, went on to bless the world. We will never know much about most of those people. However, when we are fortunate enough to encounter a worthy representative of Russia's "greatest generation," we can get a glimpse of this vast heritage of courage and persistent intelligence that can (if permitted) help ensure our future in a world facing ecological disaster.

At this very moment, when our political life resembles a theater of the absurd, reading about Anita Neyman gave me a much-needed sense of perspective.
Anita Alekseyevna Neyman (October 25, 1928 - March 11, 2016). Anita Neyman, who died on March 11, 2016, was one of the members of the first post-war scientific expeditions to study the sea shelf. She was an exemplary scholar of benthic studies, and a committed and respected participant in many northern regional conferences.

Without fear of exaggeration, we can say that, with her passing, a whole epoch has passed.

Anita Alekseyevna's life was not easy. The daughter of a Soviet diplomat and his French wife, Anita Alekseyeva was born in Paris. New York followed, and then in 1936 she and her family returned to Moscow. Her father was working in the central office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when, in 1937, he was purged. [Shot.] As the wife of an enemy of the people, her mother was sent into exile. The girl remained in the care of her aunt. When war came to the Soviet Union, Anita was evacuated, but in 1943 she returned to Moscow. She graduated from high school in 1946 -- without the medal she would have been given had she not been the daughter of an enemy of the people. Even so, in that same year she entered Moscow State University's biology department. At the same time her mother returned from exile. But the daughter continued to bear the stigma of association with an enemy of the people: although she successfully graduated from the Department of Invertebrate Zoology, she was unable to remain in Moscow. Work could be found only in an epidemic station in Central Asia. After Stalin's death, Anita had the opportunity to move to Krasnoyarsk, where she was involved in research on the Yenisei River. And much later, the whole family was rehabilitated.

In 1957, A.A. Neyman returned to Moscow and joined the staff of the Russian Federal Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography (VNIRO). By this time, marine research was going beyond our own waters, toward an understanding of a single World Ocean. In VNIRO's hydrobiology laboratory, which was then headed by L.G. Vinogradov, there were many young people who later developed into serious researchers, and Anita Alekseyevna was the informal leader of this lab. In 1968, after the sudden death of Vinogradov, she was made head of the laboratory, serving as its director for over twenty years.

Anita Alekseyevna's research activities began back in her student days, and continued on the Yenisei River. The main focus of her studies in the VNIRO lab was the benthic shelf. In the course of her expeditions in the Sea of ​​Okhotsk, the Bering Sea, and the Indian Ocean, she amassed a remarkable set of materials that became the basis for her master's thesis, and later her doctoral dissertation. In these theses she developed the trophological approach (also proposed by A.A. Shorygin) for benthic shelves. Along with all this, she led a large, energetic laboratory, a team of like-minded people, whose research interests also included plankton and algae, and invertebrate fisheries. She represented her lab at the Interdepartmental Ichthyological Commission, the Russian Hydrobiological Society, and at international organizations.

Her difficult early years did not break her; instead they built her up and tempered her character. She always fought against injustice and never tolerated dishonesty. In this respect she served as a model for her colleagues and a shield for the laboratory. Even those who didn't get along well with her still respected her. And her knowledge, authority, wisdom, and unfailing kindness preserved her leadership and respect even after she left her directorship.

In the last few years, Anita Alekseyevna did not leave her home, but led an active life, remaining in frequent contact with everyone by telephone, counseling, keeping up her interest in the institute's life, providing advice. Shortly before her death, she wrote a beautiful book of memoirs, which came off the press just two weeks ago ...

We will miss her very much ...

(published by the VNIRO team, March 11, 2016)
(Translator's note: The Russian surname Нейман is most often transliterated Neumann, but also sometimes Neyman, sometimes Neiman. In Anita's case, I found references to A.A. Neyman in oceanographic bibliographies such as this one. I'm open to advice!)

May God bless her memory to our own growth and benefit!

Beyond cynicism: the renewal of prophetic purity.
In these days when renewal meetings, alleged outpourings and flamboyant leaders have reached a point of crisis, it is tempting to throw up our hands, become cynical and opt to retreat to a safer, saner spirituality. And yet we know in our hearts that we can't go back to a Christian faith without the presence, power and voice of God.
Way of the Heart: Exploring the Inner Journey Through the Lens of Henri Nouwen. Toronto, June 9-11, 2016. Too spendy for us, but I sure wish I could be there!

How would you explain the difference between war and terrorism to a space alien? Thanks to Robert Gonzalez for the link.

How do we make America great again? Repent.

Morocco: Islam and religious toleration.

The Black Woman and the Black Church that Birthed Rock Music. Thanks to Paul Ricketts for the link.

Again, Jason Ricci and the Bad Kind, with special guest J.J. Appleton.

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