He died on Aug. 5 of a heart attack, brought on by an incurable heart defect. He had written about his condition back in 2009, yet his death has nonetheless come as a terrible shock for most of us. He was only 41, immensely dynamic, intelligent, relentless in argument and full of life. It is personally difficult to comprehend that he is gone.
First a student of medicine, then law, Dima spent the last 20 years fighting for human rights and victims of injustice in Ukraine. He campaigned against the death penalty until it was ruled unconstitutional in 2000; he defended refugees’ rights and much more. He was absolutely committed to his work, reacting swiftly and without compromise to injustice. He was not cowered by authority and seldom saw the need to mince words. This was last evidenced in his efforts to have civic activist Raisa Radchenko, 70, released from forced confinement in a psychiatric hospital.
Dima’s longtime friend, Roman Romanov from the International Renaissance Foundation, described him as follows: “In our post-Soviet, predominantly conservative society, he tried through his words and deeds to limit what was prohibited, and extend the boundaries of freedom, often in the most uncompromising manner … He understood human rights at a deep level as a universal value and stood up for those rejected by the majority: refugees, prisoners, members of sexual minorities. He did so honestly and without ulterior motive.”