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‘I’m ashamed of my country’ Letters from Meduza’s readers to jailed journalist Evan Gershkovich
It’s been more than two weeks since Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) on espionage charges. According to Bloomberg, the arrest was personally approved by Vladimir Putin. The U.S. government, numerous major international media outlets, and hundreds of independent journalists have demanded Gershkovich’s release. The day after his arrest, Meduza asked readers to write letters to Evan, and in the days that followed, we received more than 350. We’re grateful to everyone who took the time to let Evan know he hasn’t been forgotten, and we’ll send the letters to him soon. In the meantime, we’re publishing some of them below. We hope they’ll bring comfort to everyone who’s worried about Evan.
Some of the letters have been edited for clarity. The ones that were written in Russian have been translated into English.
Bologna and Washington
Evan, hang in there. We’re all here for you — everyone who’s reading about you, everyone who’s thinking about you, and everyone who’s loyal to the truth and loves freedom. The decaying Putin regime will collapse, and the “judges” and FSB punishers will be brought to justice.
With tremendous respect,
You’re a brave person who wasn’t afraid to work in Russia even during this awful time. I believe that you won’t be left at the mercy of the Russian security services and prison wardens. Know that you have support not only from your fellow journalists but also from ordinary people from different countries who you don’t know but who know about you and who are hoping for your release as soon as possible — and for your parents to see their son again.
I was injured in Ukraine, and it was support from other people that helped me get through. What I learnt was that that support can get you through even the hardest parts, and reminded me I wasn’t alone.
Know that many of us are standing with you now, are willing you on, and won’t stop till you’re home.
Hello! We don’t know each other personally, and those are probably words that you read a lot these days. I just wanted to write to you and express my support.
What is it they say? You’re fighting the good fight. [...] I’m truly thankful to you for your journalistic work.
I’m from one of Russia’s regions, and I’ve had the chance to work for local media outlets. I left after realizing I don’t want to be like the people who work there. I want to be a journalist like you, and like the other people who actually deserve to be called journalists. Unfortunately, I can’t.
Thank you for your work and for your stance. I’m sending you strength and hugs.
Vanka, I sent you a long, loving letter through Zonatelekom [Editor’s note: A company that facilitates communication between prisoners in Russia and people in the outside world], but just in case it doesn’t get through, I’m writing you another small one through the form on the site of a media outlet. I don’t know if I can say its name. But anyway, it’s the one whose name is related to the sea :) I’m not sure at this point what the censorship is like there in Lefortovo.
I’ll say one more time that you’re crazy strong, that I have great faith in you, and that I’m sending you the tightest of hugs. We’re all behind you, and this will surely be over soon. I love you, I’m sending kisses, and I’m going to write to you through every possible form — nothing less! I hope the letter will also make it through — it has a couple of pretty good jokes, if you ask me. But if it doesn’t get to you, I can make jokes next time I see you.
I’m riding with my cat in a taxi, but in spirit, we’re with you every minute of these absurd days. I’ll write to you with any news! Sending one more hug.
Don’t let them break you. The Russian authorities are going after everyone that is within their reach because they are scared. Scared of average citizens, scared of journalists, scared of accountability. The only way for everything to go away, is for them to impose the voilance of the state on their problems. Know this, you as a person will outlast the current Russian government in 20 years you will have been a man who was wrongly imprisoned by a scared, fascist government, while in 20 years Putin’s government will just be a black page in Russia’s history.
I don’t know what conditions you’re being held in right now. But I hope they’re bearable. To be honest, I didn’t know about you until yesterday. But what I do know is that nobody should be treated this way!
It seems we’re about the same age. No doubt we grew up on the same cartoons, movies, and TV shows. (I promise this long paragraph has a point.) We probably have a lot of similar interests and habits. Without downplaying cultural differences, we’re part of the same large/small world. I’m not trying to say, “Millennials of the world, unite!” (sorry for the uncalled-for paragraph from Marx, that was a dumb joke). What I’m trying to say is that no matter how much they try to make us hate other countries and people, it doesn’t work — at all. No matter how much they try to normalize callousness, it doesn’t work either. Most people aren’t built that way. So I hope you know how many people are worrying about you. There are really a lot. I hope that cheers you up a bit.
I’m really sorry that you’ve seen my country and my beloved city in such a dark time. Thank you for not turning away, for not losing interest, and for continuing to hold open the bridges between Russia and the rest of the world as a journalist. It’s very important. And it gives me hope too. I just realized that nobody was making you do this. That speaks to your great courage and your dignity as a person.
I’m very, very sorry that this has happened to you. I’m imagining right now how, one day, you’ll sit down in a safe and comfortable place, drink your favorite drink, open your laptop, and write a new, fascinating story. I hope this happens as soon as possible.
Sorry my letter was so long. What I really want to do is give you a hug.
Evan, hang in there! The truth is on your side, on our side. Putin and his ghouls think they’ve lucked out, but that’s not the case, and sooner or later, good will triumph. I lived in Yekaterinburg for 36 years. Thank you for helping deliver the truth to people.
Evan, we’ve met several times in Moscow. You’re a wonderful person. Hang in there and be proud of yourself. Don’t lose heart, and know that people like you make the world a better place — and that a lot of people know that and appreciate it. I hope this will all be over soon, and that you’ll be safe and with your family.
I’m writing you this letter in the hope that it will cheer you up a bit in this horrible situation. I can only imagine what you’ve been through, and I want you to know that you haven’t been forgotten and that there are people who care about you.
As a journalist, you’ve taken on the task of uncovering the truth and drawing attention to the most important issues. Your work has been and remains invaluable for society.
Unfortunately, in my country, we’ve come to a time in which freedom of the press is under threat, and journalists are often subjected to unjust persecution.
I want you to know that your colleagues and friends, as well as politicians in your country, are advocating for you and doing everything possible to secure your release. Your work was not in vain, and you’ve made a significant contribution to the strengthening of freedom of expression.
I know it’s difficult to stay positive in the situation you’re currently in, but know that you’re not alone, and that there are people who are thinking about you. I’m sending you my warmest wishes for your health and safety, and I really hope you’ll soon be free again.
I’m ashamed of my country.
Hang in there, Evan!
I wish you strength, and I hope everything will be alright. I’m 17 years old, but I’m with you, so you’re not alone!
I read about you on Meduza and wanted to send you a note from Pittsburgh, PA. I hope you will be free very soon. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Keep your chin up! Many people are praying for you and trying to make sure you get home soon. Truth is on your side. You will not be forgotten. God bless you.
In dark times, we need journalists as much as we need oxygen. The bravery of people like you, Evan, has always amazed, impressed, and inspired me. As long as we have you, I know that the light will win! Hang in there! You’re a true hero!
Evan, I’m from the Urals, from Perm, very close to Yekaterinburg. To be honest, I’m not in great spirits. I read the news and decided to write you a letter, because it seems to me that you’re probably feeling even worse than I am. In America, your newspaper, other famous newspapers, and a lot of people in general are calling for your release, and there are many such people in Russia, too. Thank you very much for your work. These dark times will surely pass.
Evan, stay strong and know many of your fellow colleagues are on your side and wish a speedy release. The pen is mightier than the sword. Mark Raczkiewycz, senior U.S. correspondent for the Kyiv Post.
Evan, hi. This is Dmitry Kolezev. What happened is just a nightmare. Hang in there, please. I hope this whole thing won’t last long.
This is, of course, something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. But I’m confident that you’ll soon be free with some tremendous material for a book that will become a bestseller. So try to think of all this as an extreme research experience.
Everyone’s very worried about you, and everyone understands what really happened. I’m sending you a handshake. I hope to see you soon.
I’m a science journalist, and I’m not supposed to believe in any “rays of support,” but I’m thinking of you and I hope you’ll be free and safe very soon.
Sydney Australia (now reporting from Jerusalem, Israel)
I’m a huge fan of your reporting and I appreciate your work as a journalist. I’m getting in touch so that you will have a feeling for how many people all over the world support you right now.
Like you, I have been a Moscow correspondent. Like you, I learnt so much during my time in Russia and found it one of the most interesting and rewarding periods of my life. I know that’s how you feel because I was there for 3 years, and you’ve stayed twice as long. That’s something you only do when you really love a country and its people and the stories they tell.
Most importantly, I know that journalism is not a crime, and I am confident that, as you are not guilty of anything else, (at this stage, it’s not clear what you are being charged with) you will get out of this in one piece and will return to your country and to your family.
I’m now a reporter in Jerusalem and I want to send you a message from the Old Testament, the Book of Joshua actually, something that people say to one another here in times of stress: “Be strong and of good courage.”
I hope your freedom comes quickly, and that you will find the strength to endure your current circumstances until everything is resolved.
Many people are working to achieve your release. The rest of us are all with you, so please do not feel alone.
Sending all good wishes – udacha vam.
I will stay in touch.
Dear Evan, Everyone at Bowdoin College is thinking of you and sending you our hopes that you will soon return to the U.S. While I was never fortunate enough to have you in a class, I am a professor at Bowdoin in the Government Department and also the current chair of the Russian Department. I have read so many of your articles and admired your work. I know that you have inspired many of our students. Please take care of yourself during this difficult time. We are all with you in spirit.
With my best wishes,
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