Krystyna Kurczab-Redlich (Poland)


“In the present world – one who does not die on the screen, does not die in reality.”

Krystyna Kurczab-Redlich is a journalist. Despite the official ban, she regularly visited Chechnya between 1997 and 2004 and made four documentaries: “Chechnya – Death Rattle,” “Chechnya – Murder with International Consent,” “SOS for Chechnya,” and “Chechens after Beslan,” exposing the Russian human rights abuses in Chechnya. Her book “Pandrioshka” was published in 2000. After 14 years in Russia, she was not able to get new accreditation and her phone was bugged. She returned to Poland and continues to write about human rights abuses in Russia and to help Chechen refugees.

Playing the idiot or bursting into tears at Russian checkpoints was almost always helpful. Not, however, when the soldiers were women. In 2002, after five years of visits to Chechnya as a freelance journalist, Krystyna Kurczab-Redlich was asked to leave her car at a military checkpoint. “I wrote about it afterwards as if it happened to someone else. I did not want to frighten my family,” she says. After she was searched roughly, a woman soldier took her to a huge tent with a hole in the ground stinking of chloride. In the hole filled with water up to the neck stood Chechens. They were dying. The soldier asked the journalist: “Do you want to be there? You will be soon.” Krystyna does not like to talk about it. She simply explains that she was going to Chechnya without permission from the Russian authorities because officially journalists could go there only in organized groups with a guide. So she was hiding her hair under a scarf, sitting in the corner of a cab, keeping the tapes with documentaries in her underwear. She bribed greedy soldiers when she had to. She filmed corpses, young people without arms, legs. She talked with people who underwent the most horrible torture, with women who dug through piles of corpses to find their dead brothers or husbands. She met hundreds of mothers who lost their children. “I realized that the saying ‘if not me, then who?’ fits me perfectly. If I do not go there, if I do not write about it, who will?” In 2004, Chechens started to look at her with hatred: “You do not help us. Just make money on us,” they said. “I, then, bought a ring in Dagestan. I said to myself: I will take it off only after my actions have resulted in something concrete. My aim is to make those guilty of crimes in Chechnya undergo a trial similiar to the one of Milosevic. It is where they belong. And I will probably die with that ring. (silence) Maybe not.”

Europe | Poland

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