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Is something happening tous?
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, 02 2007

The absence of Anya’s words these days has already led to necrosis of the senses

“Dear Anna, excuse me for my familiarity, but it seems easier this way. Yes, and Iam 80years old Iread all your articles, and Icopy them and give to others. Iadmire honesty. Totell the truth, Ifear for your safety (I remember that glass of water on the airplane). Perhaps there is a limit to good luck, a sort of critical mass? Iknow this for myself (only when Ihit 80did Istart getting more cautious, though this is not a fact as much as it is a limit). Youhave so many enemies that you need to be more careful”

I opened the envelope, which was addressed to Anna Politkovskaya, on October 14th. Aweek had passed since her death. Ilooked at when the letter was sent: October 4th. Three days before her death!

 Who could it have been, who could so accurately sense this certain limit to critical mass? Ifinished reading the letter to the end. Veteran of the Great Patriotic War Leonid Yefimovich Tomashpolsky wrote it. Later Ilearned that he was just seventeen when he left to fight. In1945, as part of the 313th Infantry Division, he crossed the kilometer-wide Oder River at its mouth. Theywere thrown into the icy, stormy strait without proper craft. Helost comrades in arms left and right, and was forced to take command of the group. Manyother things befell the young warrior.

He offered our Anna other work to do, such as searching for the dead. Hewanted to save her. Idialed Leonid Yefimovich’s home number, and apologized for opening the envelope and reading her letter. Iheard crying, and the man’s lamentation:

  - “I jinxed her. Ifelt the inevitability of disaster. Ishouldn’t have said anything about it, or have written her. It’s my fault.”

To tell the truth, Irecognized her immediately. Fromher voice, the tone with which she spoke about the events in Beslan school gymnasium. Shelost Zhorik there, Zhorik, whom everyone called ‘the golden boy’. Shecalled on the third day of Easter. Shedid not celebrate Easter that year, but would someday: winter, spring, summer, fall, whatever time of year it is that Zhorik returns home. “We’ll dye eggs and wear red.”

How do Iknow Zifa so well?

It was from an article by Anna Politkovskaya, about a woman who expressed breast milk into a teaspoon and gave it to children so that they could moisten their parched lips. OnlyZhorik would not take any, because it was milk for his younger sister Vika. Zifais not simply beautiful. Sheis supernatural. Sheis there, where her Zhorik is.

Anya wrote the piercing truth about a mother who will never come to terms with the death of her child, a mother who does not believe any DNA test, and who will never accept a plastic bag with body fragments as being that, which was her boy. Itimidly asked for a meeting.

“Come on over,” she said, somehow detached.

They say that, other than Zhorik, she sees and hears nothing and no one.

 So: Zifa Ageyeva sees and hears our Anya Politkovskaya.

“Something must be done. Wecan’t have her living like this.”

Zifa is talking about Anya, the one that few people know. Outin the yard it is dank autumn, turning into winter. Anyais getting ready to leave Zima’s house and travel to Ingushetia, and from there, to Chechnya.

“You should see her boots, with the thin soles. Ioffered her some warm socks and boots. Tried to get her to stay until morning.”

Zifa called Anya’s route fatal: “What crazy luck it would take to go from Beslan to Ingushetia, and in Ingushetia, what are they going to say about somebody who just came from Beslan? Anyaleft at night. Shesaid there were people waiting for her in Ingushetia. Theyhave it rough. They’re in trouble.”

  - An eighty-year-old war veteran and a Beslan mother who lost her son, these are not just two stories. Theyare the amplitude of Anya’s journalistic gift, the ability to comprehend that, which is impossible to imagine.

What Anya saw and experienced and described are special kinds of occurrences. Professional, while at the same time existential.

Why were the authorities so sensitive about her articles? Inthe words of the philosopher, behind the details of a specific case, she discovered the force of law.

Something greater than the contour and meaning of our general life stood out beyond her personal destiny, our common destiny. Thatis what she could not forgive. Itis, after all, true that we happily (or unhappily) dwell in a world full of dead things: ideologies, national myths, declarations, conventions, elections

She presented us with the real world: real life and real people with their real-life grief and torment. Ourhalf-dead consciousness resists this, and that is why she was so fiercely rejected.

So many journalists were quick to announce that never read Politkovskaya’s articles. Iread them. Allof them. Asa true teacher, Ihad a lot of questions for the author.

Anya was ready to push any kind of work, and talk about what went on behind the scenes. Thespace that Anya mastered for just a single article just boggles the mind. Sometimes she showed me a phrase or a paragraph that was struck out or softened by the editor. Imumbled something along the lines of: “They wanted to spare you.”

“But what about them? Theyneed to be spared,” and she pointed to the mountain of mail that did not tend to decrease. Sheknew it.

“Is something happening to us?” she asked, whenever her intuition told her that the search was on for an optimal solution to a problematic situation. Annaviewed this as yet another victory for conformism.

Everyone who even got a glimpse of Anya could feel that her strength of late was reaching its limit. TheNew Lie furnished a powerful, majestic backdrop against which an individual’s fate was just some annoying little detail in the landscape. Butno more. Superhuman efforts were required, but she furnished it, never sparing herself.

Iasked her once why she never took a break to go abroad, or write a book.

“No. It’s impossible to live in well-fed Europe, knowing that you can’t help a person.” And later, she added sharply: “It never leaves your mind. Overthere it would hurt more, but over here you’re at least doing something, and so it’s easier.”

There were situations where Anya adopted other causes, unrelated to the Caucasus.

It also became clear that there really was no limit to her capabilities. Other facets of her gift were revealed, unexpected, and powerful.

Once she wrote about Syktyvkar, about the orphanage and the children there who were being victimized by well-organized thugs. There was predatory theft of funds and apartments, and the first to suggest that the children’s money be transferred to the orphanage’s account was its director, Alexander Katolikov. Agreat teacher. Mydisciple. Ishuddered when Anya went there. But, lo! Goodfor you, Anya!

“Katolikov didn’t keep a kopeck for himself,” she said.

“Anya!” Ialmost shout. “How can you even know this? Sasha’s no longer alive.”

“Yes, and God be with you, Elvira Nikolaevna. Isaw his students. Everything was obvious to me.”

Beslan showed that Anya was a team player. Shewas glad that we knew the same people and walked the same roads. Overpackets of instant oatmeal and herbal tea, we suspected that she was ill, but any talk about her disease was taboo.

She was a team player while serving on the jury for the Sakharov Prize. Incontrast to all of us, she never complained about never having enough time, even though she had to read more than more than a hundred works.

She laughed it off: “I read when I’m stuck in traffic.” She never made it to a single ceremony: she was participating in the Blagoveshchensk trial, defending the rights of that battered city, or rescuing yet another victim of fate from jail.

On the jury, her gift for being able to distinguish lies from the truth was clearly visible. Thisis not that easy nowadays. Thedegree of word manipulation is such that it lies are performing the functions of truth, even outperforming it in their essence. Before us now is that which philosophers refer to as a dead double, and no one was Anya’s equal at recognizing a dead word.

Perhaps Iam wrong, but it seems to me that the absence of Anya’s words these days has already led to an obvious result: an increase in the rate of necrosis of public life.

The word of a single person does not decide the fate of a situation, but it may prevent it from taking place. Itis possible to insert a stick into the spokes of the vehicle of lies. Itis possible to retard its triumphant progress.

Wherever life takes me, it is enough to just say: “I’m from the newspaper where Anya” and not have to say anything else. Itis a password, and they always give you the same look: full of understanding, and a sense of guilt for what took place.

Nevertheless, we have become different. Theprocess of bringing us closer to ourselves, to what the Lord devised for us, may not be leading to success.

Already we do not know the whole truth about the ‘sweeps’ in Ingushetia, about those who disappeared from the long-suffering city of Dachny, in the suburban region of Ossetia, because the voice of their patron has fallen forever silent. Weare ashamed, because even together we fail at doing what she could do. Alone. Butwe know that we should not, we have no right to do so. Tolie to ourselves, and to others. Itis but little consolation, and yet, all the same

P.S.Once Iended up a filming of the Rezo Chkheidze movie, ‘Don Quixote’. Thedirector, Lomer Akhvlediani was nearby, watching the filming from the side. Thesixth, and seventh takes went by. Suddenly Icould not hold it any longer: “Look, Lomer, doesn’t Don Quixote see that some actions need to be corrected?”

Inever got to finish the sentence.

As soon as he starts to correct his actions, he will be either Lomer, or Elvira, but he will no longer be Don Quixote. Hecannot be anyone else, and that is why he remains in history.

And this also is relevant to our topic.

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