“Anna, Anna!”

Anna Politkovskaya, Grant Awarded 2002

Anna Politkovskaya, age 40
Like a rock star to Chechens © Ksenia Bondareva

Back in the winter of 1999, I was in a camp for internally displaced people not far from the border of Chechnya. These were Chechens who had fled from the bombing and fighting and now were living in makeshift tents in the bitter winter. Whenever Human Rights Watch showed up at these camps, we were mobbed by crowds who wanted to share their stories.

One day in the camp, I was talking to a group of women about their experiences. I had my notebook and pencil out, taking notes, when all of a sudden, the crowd that had been intently focused on me became distracted. Anna Politkovskaya! News of her arrival spread like wildfire through the camp and within seconds I had lost my captive audience. People from all over the camp ran to an approaching car. They were shouting, “Anna, Anna!”

She was like a rock star to the Chechens. They felt she was the only person carrying their voices into Russia. Seven years later she was murdered in the stairwell of her apartment in Moscow.

Diederik Lohman was the Moscow director at Human Rights Watch during the second war in Chechnya.

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