Ten years ago, on the 7th October 2006, one of the greatest journalist of our century was killed in Moscow.
So this is the right time to remember the human- right activist and honor her work.
Yesterday I heard a radio show about her, while driving home. People who knew her, gave interviews and talked about what kind of person she was.
One person said ( I think a fellow journalist) that she was a dreamer.
That she must have been a dreamer.
Because, so she said, otherwise no one could believe that the own country can truly change as much as Anna thought it would.
Still her work, doesn’t have anything that would make a person think, that she was a dreamer.
What she’s mostly known for are her books and the couple of columns she wrote for the Novaya Gazeta (an independent newspaper, which means that it’s pretty much a government opponent).
But it wasn’t a column like mine, or the ones we usually read.
Especially regarding the following quote, believing that she was a dreamer sounds wrong.
“People often tell me that I am a pessimist, that I don’t believe in the strength of the Russian people, that I am obsessive in my opposition to Putin and see nothing beyond that”, she opens an essay titled “Am I Afraid?”, finishing it—and the book—with the words “If anybody thinks they can take comfort from the ‘optimistic’ forecast, let them do so. It is certainly the easier way, but it is the death sentence for our grandchildren.” (source: Wikipedia)
What Anna wrote about was tragic, and of great importance.
She played a main role in the reporting of the war in Chechya.
Born in New York, Anna Politkovskaya spent most of her childhood in Moscow and graduated in Moscow State University’s school.
There she met her future husband and father of two, Alexander Politkovsky, also a journalist.
Although she had the U.S.-American Citizenship she never really left Russia after her childhood.
Still her death moved people all over the world.
Working as an independent journalist, she didn’t have friends on either of the sides that were involved in the war.
Anna was used to death threats, being lonely and in danger.
A colleague from the newspaper even said, that he knew of at least 9 situations in which Anna had faced death.
In September 2004 Anna Politkovskaya flew to Beslan (North Ossetia) to help negotiate with those who had taken over a thousand hostages in a school.
This was also one of the things she did. She helped negotiate in critical situations.
But on this flight, things were different. Someone tried to poison her.
After drinking a tea, she lost consciousness. Apparently the drink was poisoned.
Luckily, she survived this assassination.
That is only one out of a number of quite alarming stories.
For example there was also the email from a police officer who wanted to take revenge, because she accused him of atrocities against civilians in Chechnya.
Even the Prime Minister of Chechya Ramzan Kadyrov said:”You’re an enemy. To be shot….”.
However Anna didn’t deny that she was afraid at times.
Hearing all those stories drew the picture of a hero in my head and that she was able to admit that she had fear too, was even more impressive.
In one of her post hum published diary chapters, she also mentioned the change of feelings.
That she stopped crying eventually, has her work included so many tears every day.
That she had to push people to tell hurtful stories, that she saw so many tears, that the war changed her so much, that she just stopped crying.
She also always remembered people of how important her informants were to her and that she wasn’t the only one in danger.
(“People sometimes pay with their lives for saying aloud what they think. In fact, one can even get killed for giving me information. I am not the only one in danger. I have examples that prove it.”
― Anna Politkovskaya)
A tough woman, a role model, and most of all an inspiring human.
Throughout the years she published a couple of books and stayed politically active-not only in Chechya. She was also a known Putin-opponent.
Trying to do her best, and trying to help humans (even if that meant to put her own life to danger) she still didn’t really get reward from the government.
However, Anna Politkovskaya received a lot of awards and honors.
The following list is copied from Wikipedia:
- 2001: “Golden Pen Prize” of the Russian Union of Journalists
- 2001: Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism
- 2002: Norwegian Authors Union Freedom of Expression Prize (“Ytringsfrihetsprisen”)
- 2002: Index on Censorship Award for the “Defence of Free Expression”.
- 2002: PEN American Center Freedom to Write Award
- 2002: International Women’s Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award
- 2003: Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage
- 2003: Hermann Kesten Medal
- 2004: Olof Palme Prize (shared with Lyudmila Alexeyeva and Sergei Kovalev)
- 2004: Vázquez Montalbán Award of International Journalism
- 2005: Civil Courage Prize (with Min Ko Naing and Munir Said Thalib)
- 2005: Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media
- 2006: International Journalism Award named after Tiziano Terzani
- 2006: World Press Freedom Hero of the International Press Institute
- 2007: UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize (awarded posthumously for the first time)
- 2007: National Press Club/John Aubuchon Freedom of the Press Award (posthumous)
- 2007: Geschwister-Scholl-Preis (posthumous)
- 2007 Democracy Award to Spotlight Press Freedom by the National Endowment for Democracy,
The 2007–2008 academic year at the College of Europe was named in her honour.
Plus, they named an award after her in 2007. A year after Politkovskayas death.
The first person they gave the award to (a friend and colleague of Anna Politkovskaya) was herself found shot in 2009.
Ten years later, five men were imprisoned. But still the murder of Anna Politkovskaya is unsolved. No one knows who was truly behind the assassination, that finally killed the journalist and human- rights activist.
What her story means to me?
I feel like telling her story is important. Not only is she inspiring for aspiring journalists, for writers, for human-activists.
She is also a fantastic role model for young girls, or for women in general.
One of our more modern role models, because no one and nothing could top her from doing her work and doing the thing she believed was right.
She stands for the freedom of press and information, for the independence of women, and for the dreamers.
The dreamers who still believe that things can and will be better.