The grand or grim design of history always comes back to individuals. This week the looming machines of tyranny were upstaged for a moment by two vivid personal events:
* A young Russian couple started married life in the freedom of America. Moscow permitted Liza Alexeyeva to join Alexey Semyonov after a hunger strike by his mother and her famed husband Andrei Sakharov. The victory was ''not only for the life and love of our children . . . ,'' as Sakharov said, ''but for the right of each man to live in freedom and happiness.''
* A veteran Polish diplomat abandoned the service of a government whose war on its own people he could no longer bear. As Ambassador Romuald Spasowski said in defect-ing to the United States, ''There is only one morality in the human family, the morality of people who live according to the principles of truth and justice. . . . It is this morality which shall prevail.''
Until this morality does prevail, each episode like these not only underscores humanity's enduring challenge to oppression but recalls all those who remain oppressed. Mr. Semyonov pleaded that ''every voice counts'' in maintaining the impact of world opinion to prevent new punishment of the Sakharovs. Mr. Spasowksi took the risk of standing up and speaking out to express solidarity with Lech Walesa, the labor leader now confined out of sight after rising from unemployed worker to head the Polish people's fight for liberty.
But there are the nameless individuals to remember, too, whether in Poland, the Soviet Union, or the other lands where freedom does not ring. And in the lands of liberty themselves there remains the need for constant vigilance to protect and foster the principles of truth and justice. By such means is the larger pattern of history steadily brought into line with the progress of individuals along the way.