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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


(30 August 1958-7 October 2006)

This is a story that generated reams of footage in some parts of the world and none in others. Sad because the person in question was the brave heart some of us can only dream of being.

Looking back at her life, you know she could have been anything, but she chose to be a journalist and with that she strove to find and tell the truth.

Her Soviet Ukranian parents were UN diplomats based in New York when Anna Politkovskaya was born in 1958.

She was sent back home to be educated and after school entered one of the most prestigious university departments in the then USSR, the journalism faculty of Moscow State University. Among its other advantages, her parents' diplomatic status enabled them to smuggle banned books into the country for her, and she was able to write her dissertation about a normally forbidden poet, the emigre Marina Tsvetayeva.

After graduation, Politkovskaya worked for the daily Izvestiya, then moved to the in-house paper of the state airline monopoly Aeroflot. As she said in an interview "Every journalist got a free ticket all year round; you could go on any plane and fly wherever you wanted. Thanks to this I saw the whole of our huge country. I was a girl from a diplomatic family, a reader, a bit of a swot; I didn't know life at all."

She learnt all about life the hard way. And all because of the choices she made for the greater good. She went to the killing fields of Chechnya to report on the human cost of war. With that she made several enemies and remained a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and of Kremlin policies in Chechnya, while reporting for Russia's liberal newspaper 'Novaya Gazeta'. On October 7th, chilling images of her body beamed across the world. She had been shot in her apartment building in Moscow.

International condemnation followed, but nothing moved me as much as this tribute from my favourite literary agent Toby Eady that came in my mailbox on Friday:

Dear friends,

I will read this tribute to Anna today at the House of Lords.


Anna Politkovskaya would have been alive today had she chosen to join the claque of journalists within the confines of the plutocracy that our world leaders live behind. But she travelled without protection, and she wrote of how ordinary people live and the price they pay for the wars they are encouraged to fight in. Anna wrote "I live in the present, noting what I see and hear". She spoke to and touched those who were wounded, hostages, and the bereaved. She spoke for the dead, not just in Chechnya but in all of our wars. She hoped for human justice.

In the last conversation that we had, when we discussed the book she intended to write, I suggested that she might leave Russia. She replied "I would only leave after Putin is gone" and then asked if she was killed, would her children have to pay back her publishing advance. It's fitting that many of the publishers in Europe who brought Pasternak and Solzhenitzyn to western reader were her publishers, and will be. So we can read what Anna was murdered for: telling the truth.

She was one of Time Magazine's heroes in 2003:

Read more about her inspiring life here:,,1327791,00.html
And pause for a moment in remembrance.