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Grigory Pasko: Remembering Anna Politkovskaya

anna-1100708Open, vivid, brave… This is how I’ll always remember Anna Grigory Pasko, journalist Если Вы хотите прочитать оригинал данной статьи на русском языке, нажмите сюда. There was a short period in my journalistic life when I worked at Novaya Gazeta as an observer. I remember how they led me to some office and said: if you’re going to need a computer, you can work here. I preferred to work not in the editorial offices. But it was in this very office that Anna and I met… Later we would meet many times, and almost always this would be not only not in the editorial offices, but not even in Russia. Once in Copenhagen at a conference, another time in Edinburgh at a book festival, yet another time in Leipzig when Anna was being awarded a journalistic prize…

To Leipzig we flew together. There was time to talk about life. My tempestuous life as a journalist was at a standstill; hers – at its very peak. Which is why I ended up asking most of the questions. Reluctantly at first, she told me about how unknown low-lifes were trying to intimidate her by her house; how those same unknowns were trying to «box in» her automobile on the streets of Moscow, not knowing that behind the wheel was sitting her daughter… Later, already after Anna’s assassination, I read about these facts. But I first heard about them from Anna herself. Already then I thought: she needs to be protected somehow. Later it became known to me that the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, Dmitry Muratov, was trying to do this as best he could.I remember how spellbound I was – as was everybody else gathered there – listening to Anna when she appeared in Edinburgh at a book festival. The hall was filled with people. Anna spoke convincingly – on account of facts, and not emotions, although sometimes emotions too would get woven into her speech. They asked her questions. They bought her book. But what I was thinking was how probably nobody had criticized Putin as vividly, openly, bravely, and loudly as Anna did. Why was she not afraid? Why were others afraid and continue to be afraid to this day?Anna heard many kind words to her address too when in Leipzig they presented her with the journalistic prise of the Leipziger Sparkasse. (The prize was conferred by the chairman of the organizational committee, the former Oberbürgermeister of the city, and currently the minister of transport of Germany – Wolfgang Tiefensee). It seemed to me that Anna was somewhat distractedly listening to the exaltations to her address; that her thoughts were someplace far away…. Where? Probably in Chechnya. Because during the time of the flight to Leipzig she had been telling me about her journeys to Chechnya, about the people with whom she had met there…anna-2100708Leipzig Oberbürgermeister Wolfgang Tiefensee awarding Anna Politkovskaya the Leipziger Sparkasse prize (photo by Grigory Pasko)The last time Anna and I met was at the congress of The Other Russia in Moscow. Upon meeting I congratulated her on the new owner of the newspaper, KGB colonel (I am convinced that THEY can never be “former…”) Lebedev. She said : “This is horrible!” (It is possible that she and I were wrong about Alexander Nikolayevich. But, most likely, we had our reasons not to trust anyone from the KGB in principle, a priori…) Then Anna spoke at that congress. But before that from the audience (I was sitting next to her) she loudly did not agree with Irina Khakamada appearing on the stage.Now, after some time has passed, I can say that I knew Anna only from her articles: after all, you’re not going to say consider you were well acquainted based on the those few meetings and conversations that had taken place, properly speaking, in transit. But a journalist’s articles can often say more about him or her personally than other evidence.I liked Anna for her openness, bravery, decency, conviction…Although I knew her little. And when once a journalist acquaintance in conversation with me spoke uncomplimentarily about Anna, I strongly didn’t like this. I decided then that in this journalist, who was a woman, had simply come into play a purely female jealousy towards Anna.I don’t know who said: there are no irreplaceable people. I know that this is a falsehood. Nobody has yet to replace for us, and never will replace, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Tkachenko……I’ve just read over what I’ve written and I tripped over the phrase “properly speaking, in transit.” This is how we live: we admire a person from a distance, not finding the time to meet with him or her and to talk, to offer our help, to discuss something… Any little thing! And then we regret: too late… And then we think oh, what a person was next to us.Take a look around and you will certainly see those with whom you still can interact. Yes, they are few. There are practically none. But even if this is one or two or three brave and good journalists – extend your hand to them in greeting or at least a voice on the telephone. Who knows how much time we still have left in this world?