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Anna’s War: telling the truth in the face of grave danger

Monday 3 February 2014, 16:03

Elena Kudimova Elena Kudimova

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Editor's note: Elena Kudimova is the sister of the murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Anna's War is this week's 15 Minute Drama series and is inspired by Anna's life and writing. Listen to Anna's War on weekdays at 10.45am from Monday 3 February.

I had quite mixed feelings about writing a blog to support this series. I’ve never done it before. I’m so old-fashioned that for me it feels a bit like an act of exhibitionism. But my inner voice kept telling me in a strong manner: "You still haven’t written Anna’s biography, life keeps you busy with other things that seem more important to you. You have to!" 

Anna Politkovskaya Anna Politkovskaya

My inner fight didn’t last long until responsibility - which I reckon is our family trait – won. And with some encouragement from my friends, here I am. 

My name is Elena Kudimova, I’m Anna Politkovskaya’s sister. We grew up together in Moscow in the 1960s and 1970s, and were very close until we both married in the late 70s and our lives took different paths for some time.

I’m very happy that Radio 4 have decided to make this drama series based on five episodes from Anna’s life. It’s extremely important for Anna’s children, my mother and myself to keep her memory alive and let people know what she was standing for, quite often on her own. 

Since she was killed there were attempts to make a film about her life in Hollywood, but these have not materialized. There have been several documentaries about her life made in various countries. Each tells something about Anna’s character, so the more coverage she receives, the better. Each producer’s perception is different, each finds something new in Anna’s character and her life and altogether these programs help people to get a better understanding of Anna’s life and beliefs.

In Moscow the second trial is taking place now. Last week, both of Anna’s children; first Vera, then Ilya – were interrogated in court once again. I don’t feel bloodthirsty anymore as I felt at the beginning. You can’t raise the dead from the grave, but justice should be eventually done. We have been waiting for it for more than 7 years now. 

The investigation is going very slowly, and if they don’t manage to find who killed my sister within 10 years the case can be left unresolved. That would be very frustrating for the family.

While Anna was alive, our parents and I tried to persuade Anna to write about something else. Why write about Chechnya or the North Caucasus all the time? Russia is a big country and there are more than 140 million people living there. They too had problems. But she knew that Chechnya was the most vulnerable area at the time and ordinary people were subjected to a lot of stress and suffering there. She just couldn’t fail these poor people who had usually tried all other means to find justice before they came to Novaya Gazeta with their misfortune or grief.

Her human rights campaigning continues to inspire many people around the world. Her friend and colleague Mariana Katzarova founded the organization RAW (Reach all Women) in War, and every year since Anna’s death they present an Anna Politkovskaya Award to the most amazing women who work in areas of conflict. Last year the winner was Malala Yousafzai, the extremely brave and very articulate girl from Pakistan who was wounded in the head by the Taliban for her fight to give girls the right to go to school. There is also an Anna Politkovskaya award for journalism in Italy. 

My sister has become a symbol for the fight for freedom of speech and for the fight for basic human rights which are deprived from people in war zones. 

I do hope that Anna’s work is a constant inspiration for young journalists. She was very strong as an investigative journalist. Yet I don’t want even one more journalist killed because of their professional activities. They are still being shot every year trying to bring their readers and listeners the valuable truth about the events around the world. They realize the importance of the truth. I believe, like a doctor’s first rule is not to harm, the first rule for journalism should be "truth, nothing but the truth." This was of course also Anna’s belief.

Listen to Anna's War

Listen to the Woman's Hour tribute to Anna after her death, including an interview with her from 2004

Listen to the Woman's Hour update on her murder trial from August 2013

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    I am humbled in the face of such courage and integrity, what a remarkable life, if we could all learn a little of this how powerful we would be, and what a change we could make in the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    I caught this yesterday and too felt humble. I have half followed Anna's story over the years, what an amazing woman and what a strong family. I hope you get some kind of justice and I really hope a film does get made to show the world the injustice that you, she and the people have suffered so far.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I am not ashamed to admit that I shed a tear listening too the last episode of Anna's war. A truly inspiring , brave beautiful caring person, who had too be killed to hide the disgusting atrocities of many others.
    The world needs more of these incredible special people now more than ever.


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See the latest on our blog


Find out about this year's panel and theme