This past weekend a dear friend of mine, Olga Konskaya, passed away. Words are insufficient to express my grief. My thoughts and prayers are with her friends and family.
Olga Konskaya, a prominent Russian film producer, director and actress, died on May 28th, having just turned 45. She was a graduate of the prestigious Moscow Arts Theatre school and went on to work in the famous Stanislavsky’s MKHAT theatre. She starred in numerous feature films, receiving a prestigious award for the best lead role at the Kinotaurus Film Festival in 2001 (“Lubov and other Nightmares”). When the Russian government unleashed a brutal military campaign in Chechnya in 1999 Olga broke up with the Russian cultural establishment and started her own company, Dreamscanner Productions, to produce films beyond the reach of Putin’s tightening grip.
Together with Andrei Nekrasov she produced a number of internationally acclaimed documentaries, such as “Disbelief”, “My Friend Sasha, a very Russian Murder”, “Rebellion, the Litvinenko Case”. After the latter’s success in Cannes in 2007 Olga was diagnosed with an advanced life threatening illness. It did not prevent her from managing on two big film projects, of which one she was also directing. She was saying that she needed to work twice as hard as a healthy person, because she had to hurry. Until just a few days before her death Olga, being in excruciating pain, had been working on a film about Russian aggression in Georgia and its wider Caucasian context. The film is due to be released in the autumn.
Olga Konskaya was a selfless and uncompromising fighter against injustices committed in the name of her own people. She knew what it meant to be ashamed by the behaviour of one’s own country – a very rare feature in contemporary Russia. She was ashamed of Russia’s unquenchable thirst for blood in the Caucasus, of unending waves of war crimes and state sponsored terror in Chechnya. Her directness, idealism and the utter lack of cynicism made her stand out even in the human rights and democrats’ community, whose members often tend to reserve criticism of the government for narrow political squabbling, while shying away from confronting the regime’s nationalistic brutality.
We are profoundly shaken by Olga’s untimely death. She may have not seen most of her effort bear fruit, but the inevitable triumph of justice will bear her unmistakeable mark. She will not be forgotten.