Diary of an exile journalist: Notes from Vilnius | Space for Freedom | DW | 17.02.2023
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Space for Freedom

Diary of an exile journalist: Notes from Vilnius

Our guest writer* left Russia in March 2022 after the war in Ukraine started to find safety and continue working as a journalist from abroad. This is his story.

*In this series, we publish personal diary entries of journalists from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus or Afghanistan working and living in exile. They speak about their new lives and the personal and professional challenges they face. In order to protect the safety of all participants, the protagonists in this series remain anonymous. 

The guest writer takes part in DW Akademie’s Space for Freedom project that aims to enable journalists to continue their crucial work in exile while, and at the same time, securing their livelihood. 


Country of Origin: Russia
Job title: reporter

The war in Ukraine began on February 24, 2022. I was on a business trip that day in northern Russia shooting a documentary film about the history of the Gulag. Plans had to be urgently revised. And by February 27, I was headed to the Russian-Ukrainian border. I wrote a report about how people live in the border zone, where Russian tanks were on village and town streets. 

This was my last field trip in Russia and the last text about Russia. On March 4, I left the country. Now I live in Vilnius.
Spring and summer were emotionally very difficult. It took a lot of energy to stay afloat and not go crazy over the news from Ukraine. 
I've had periods in my life before when I didn't want to work. And I have learned to deal with it. It's simple. "You need to remove the work that annoys you, and add the work that you like," I told myself. I have always loved working with sound, so I decided to make a podcast about Russians who oppose the war. 
Russia is experiencing a podcast boom. Now you can find more than 14,000 podcasts, 90 per cent of which are rudimentary, such as two hosts talking to each other or posing questions to a guest. But I didn't want to be one of those 14,000 people. I wanted to make a different podcast.  
My podcast’s main rule: No talking in the studio. All interviews should be recorded "in the field" - at the interlocutor's home, on the street, in an important place for him or her. You need to add documentary sounds and intermediate noise to the podcast. They allow you to reveal the interlocutor more clearly and fully. The first episode was released in September. 
I'm a natural-born reporter, and I started traveling again to different places and talking to different people, but now in different European countries. 
Of course, the production of such a podcast is more complicated: you need to choose a suitable character, do research, choose a recording place (or places), arrange an interview, record sounds, listen to all audio files, write a script, discuss it with an editor and a lawyer, think over distribution. I do all this alone. But I really like it. 
I understand that my podcast is noticeably different from 90 per cent of podcasts in Russia. Yes, it has flaws, but I am sure that each new episode is better than the previous one. The Russian and English-language news website Meduza included my podcast in the TOP 10 most notable Russian podcasts in 2022. 


DW Akademie is conducting the Space for Freedom project as a network partner of the German government's Hannah Arendt Initiative. Through this initiative, the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Commissioner for Culture and Media are supporting journalists, media workers and defenders of freedom of expression in crisis and conflict areas, as well as those living in exile.