Jasmina Tešanović: "I heard they are making a movie on her life."

Jasmina Tešanović shares with Boing Boing this essay about her friend Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist in Russia who was murdered last year. Photo of Ms. Politkovskaya courtesy Novaya Gazeta, via Wikipedia. — XJ

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08-23-2007 | Jasmina Tešanović

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Seventh of October 2006:

Accompanied by a nervous dog named Van Gogh,
Anna Politkovskaya returns to her three room
flat, on the seventh floor with a single bag of
(she will have to return downstairs for the second

Inside the elevator, five gunshots. The killer drops
his gun
and walks out of the building. A 14 year old, Nina, is
the first to
see Anna dead on the elevator floor. Nina screams and
runs up to the
seventh floor on foot. An elderly woman from the
eighth floor calls the elevator to her own floor,
then calls the police. Then the old woman hurries
off to buy her own groceries because all the shops
will be closing at 4PM.

Anna Stepanovna Mazepa Politkovskaya ( her ex
husbands name), mother of a 28 year old son and a 26
year old daughter… murdered in Moscow.

The long-expected news shocks no one, even
as it hurries around the world. Repeated attempts had
been made
on her life, and success, was only a matter of time.

What did this tiny, unpretentious woman do to merit
She was a journalist from Novaya Gazeta, a magazine founded in
1993 by
Mihail Gorbachev, as an attempt at Russian full
through truth and openness.

She was always close to death while wandering in the
lethal war zones of Chechnia, alone, in the dark, to
the story from the other side…

Once she was kidnapped by the Russian military, who
staged her fake execution, much as they had done to
Dostoyevski some centuries earlier. The military
commented after that they would have preferred an
authentic execution…

Arrested, she was kept in a hole of solitary
confinement for four days
without food, water, light, even buttons, for fear
that her
buttons might be microphones.

During her attempt to reach Rostov and mediate in the
Beslan school
terrorist kidnappings, she was poisoned.

Anna wrote about the dirty wars in Chechnia, on
terror attacks and the political instrumentalization
terror by the Russian government, of the
aftermath of terror, on numerous abuses of civil human
rights, of the double crimes inflicted on victims, the
crimes of
the terrorists and the crimes of the state.

It is incredible how the biggest opposer to Putin and
his virile masculine Russian model (just as Yeltsin
was before him) should be this minute fragile creature
who did not smoke, drink, or enjoy any bursts of
And yet only a hit-man could silence her.

She hated the misery and felony of Russian official
power, but she despised the Chechnian militant heroism
and its historical cult. While reporting on the
impotent war-games convulsing the region,
she tries to create a new line of understanding,
a language for survivors and grieving mothers.
The missing red thread of the missing
peace. Her motto: I live my life and I write what I

She used to say in her low key, matter of fact

Sometimes one has to pay with one's own life for one's
own words. She found no swaggering male glamour in
being a war correspondent: for her, war was about
dirt, stench, confinement, thirst, hunger, hatred,

My texts are written for the future. They bear
witness to the new victims of the new Chechnia war.

is why I write all the facts I can.

Maybe some day, there will be a war tribunal for the
criminal deeds in Chechnia , and Anna's life and death
will be a part of that.

What are those tales and facts she is talking about in
her work?
The letters of a Chechnian father whose son was
abducted and killed, to Putin and Kofi Anan. These are
the questions of the father:

– who insulted, tortured my son and according to what

– what was he guilty of?

– why is there no enquiry about it and no criminal

One mother of a dead Russian soldier refused to bury
him (she kept
it under her window sill for 15 days) while demanding
official report of his death. Thus the authorities
were forced to do it, and other Russian mothers
her example to find the truth. Breaking the general
rule: You have your son's body, shut up, you should be

Instead of saying: thank you for my dead son, they
Why, for what noble cause?

The case of a young Chechnian woman who
disappeared preemptively, accused by the Russian
authorities as a potential kamikaze. And her mother
asking both sides: why? Sometime I think that I am
here in the middle in order to see if I can survive
all of them,
says the mother, reflecting Anna's own standpoint as
a reporter.

The episode at the gala dinner when Kadyrov (the
pro-Russian Chechnian who suppressed
the rebels) made Chechian girls, winners of a beauty
contest, dance and collect money from the floor
the heroes threw it: Kadyrov the peacemaker.

Anna was lonely. Why write books that
cannot be published in Russia and are not understood
in the West?

Just before she died she said: My life is so hard,
but most of time humiliating. At age of 47 I have a
sign on my forehead that I am rejected by society, and
I don't
have the strength to fight it any more. Not to mention
the joys of my work – the poisoning, arrests,
threats… phone calls to my editors because of the
of the crazy woman from Moscow… living this way is
terrible. I need more comprehension.. But the most
important thing is to be allowed to do my work, to
tell what I see…

Anna is not here to see and write anymore: but
she belongs to a long history of women' activism,
pacifism and
the creation of an alternative, invisible history.

Her description of Malika — the girl who took the
against the Russian tanks which invaded a Chechen
village, killed alone (2002) while nobody from
her lot had the courage to follow her cry "You
cowards"… a voice like Jean of Arc, like Antigone.

She discusses boldly of the instrumentalization of the
female kamikaze bombers and their desperate ideology:
take me with
you, I too want to avenge myself… the new fake
are women manipulated, like a fashion-show with
explosive waist-belts. At last, through getting killed
'for her people,' a woman in Chechnia can become a
martyr saint —
escaping her historical role as traditional mother,
cook, housewife, nurse.

Such true life stories against all constructed
patriotism and patriarchal nationalism… that makes
Anna an international pacifist thinker.

The whole world is afraid of nuclear proliferation
while instead I am afraid of hate: nobody can predict
the paths revenge will take. The children
from our camps will never forgive the children who
grew up in cosy homes. The refugees need
understanding and solidarity, not gifts of cash or
the hypocrisy of those who fast to "share the
and yet secretly nibble cheese in the closet.

"I live my life and I write what I see:" anywhere
on the planet, we can retrace Anna's steps,
and we owe her that.

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Jasmina Tešanović is an author, filmmaker, and wandering thinker who shares her thoughts with BoingBoing from time to time. Email: politicalidiot at yahoo dot com. Her blog is here.

Previous essays by Jasmina Tešanović on BoingBoing:

Serbia and the Flames
Return to Srebenica

Sagmeister in Belgrade

Jasmina Tešanović: What About the Russians?

Milan Martic sentenced in Hague

Mothers of Mass Graves
Hope for Serbia
Stelarc in Ritopek
Sarajevo Mon Amour

Killing Journalists

Jasmina Tešanović: Where Did Our History Go?
Serbia Not Guilty of Genocide

Carnival of Ruritania
"Good Morning, Fascist Serbia!"
Faking Bombings
Dispatch from Amsterdam
Where are your Americans now?

Anna Politkovskaya Silenced
Slaughter in the Monastery

Mermaid's Trail

A Burial in Srebenica
Report from a concert by a Serbian war criminal
To Hague, to Hague

Preachers and Fascists, Out of My Panties

Floods and Bombs

Scorpions Trial, April 13
The Muslim Women 
– Belgrade: New Normality
Serbia: An Underworld Journey
Scorpions Trial, Day Three: March 15, 2006
Scorpions Trial, Day Two: March 14, 2006
Scorpions Trial, Day One: March 13, 2006
The Long Goodbye
Milosevic Arrives in Belgrade
Slobodan Milosevic Died
Milosevic Funeral