Information Access in Russia; Hospice Work in Ukraine

Global Voices Online
Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Marina Litvinovich - LJ user abstract2001 and founder of (Truth Of Beslan, a site that contains transcripts of Beslan-related trials as well as other information on the tragedy) - notes that it's significantly harder to ensure free access to information in Russia than it is in the United States (RUS) :

Free access to information

The opening of the 9/11 terrorist act [trial] materials in the United States is a welcome development. I myself have been trying for two years already to do a similar thing on The only difference is that over there, it's the court that's doing it, while here, it's me and my friends.

Taking into account the peculiarities of our judicial system and investigative process, the work on uncovering and gathering information, testimonies and documents on high-profile crimes becomes extremely important. And it's not just that these documents allow a person to figure out independently what happened, and who is guilty and who is not. In our country, collecting these materials becomes the basis for future trials, which, under the current political regime, cannot take place.

Unfortunately, I haven't had enough time and energy to organize gathering of materials and transcribing of the trial transcripts in [Andrei Sychyov]'s case. I should've done it.

And the Vladivostok fire, and [the events in Nalchik] should have been taken up. And there are many other themes that exist for three days in the news, but then it's impossible to find any information on them: nothing. [...]

Marina expounds on the issues of timeliness and unbiased approach in her answers to the readers' questions:

_kleptos_: Isn't timeliness one of the most important factors in this kind of information gathering?

abstract2001: There are different situations and different stories. In the case of Kulayev trial, we tried to do everything in a timely fashion, so that it was possible to continue working with the people trial testimonies. But there are also stories that last many years. It depends.

_kleptos_: Thanks you. I'd also like to know how strong is the opposition to the gathering of this kind of information?

abstract2001: It is strong.


hoholusa: Sychyov. Vladivostok. Nalchik. What's the use of these materials?

abstract2001: The main goal is to gather politics-free witness and other testimonies. Due to censorship and self-censorship, the mass media cover many events either incorrectly or not at all. Besides, courts are not bias-free and don't aspire to justice. As time goes by, facts are mixed with fiction, myths, etc. It's important that there are accounts of "how it really was."

hoholusa: This is a good goal, of course... As long as this is really "politics-free" material. I won't talk about Beslan, but your participation in Sychyov's case (rallies, LJ) was nothing but an attempt at political evaluation of one specific person.

abstract2001: But the desire to figure it out and gather the facts remains.

The first comment to Marina's post is from Elizaveta Glinka (LJ user doctor_liza), who runs and fundraises for the first and only hospice in Kyiv, Ukraine - Vale Hospice International:

doctor_liza: Good luck to you, Marina. I wouldn't be able to do even one tenth of what you're doing.

abstract2001: You're also doing an important thing. It's hard to make comparisons here. We are both doing what we have to do.

doctor_liza: It's easier for me because I'm forced to be apolitical: because of - or for the sake of - my patients. Definitely without any evaluations, the public ones. It won't work otherwise. While you are constantly taking risks - with yourself, your child. Well, you know it all yourself. Thank you.

Below is the translation of one of doctor_liza's hospice stories, about a patient named Tanya (RUS):

She has bright blue eyes and a happy smile. On her left hand, there's a tattoo [with her name] Tanya, made many years ago in [Magadan].

She was born in Ukraine. I'm not asking how she ended up in Magadan, and she doesn't like to talk about it, either.

Alone. There's her daughter's phone number, but no one's answering it.

She was brought to the hospice by two people. One of them, when asked who he was to Tanya, replied: "Brother. In Christ." The next question the "brother" asked himself: "How to arrange trusteeship on Tania's pension?" The third question, and the last one in our communication, was asked by brother and sister - in Christ, of course, too: "How to arrange trusteeship on her apartment, while she's still conscious?"

Jehovah's Witnesses. She loves them. But she loves everyone who comes to visit her.

She is happy about everything that surrounds her: her roommates, flowers, candies, and even the hot water that we take to her instead of tea in the mornings.

- Tanyusha, where do you like to live better: here in Kyiv or in Magadan?
- In Magadan. People there were kinder. You know why?
- No.
- Because they were in exile. They are kind. All of them.

Of the 14 patients that the hospice can house, not all are adults. Below is doctor_liza's sketch of a new arrival - a baby boy:

I've received a 5-year-old baby into the hospice today.

The boy is very patient, though the move from home to the [hospice] has been very tough for him.

He'll be here with his mama.

I asked where it hurts and what can be done for him. He looked at me like an adult and said: "I want silence..."

There is some politics in doctor_liza's work, despite what she wrote in her comment to Marina Litvinovich. On her blog, she quoted this question to Vladimir Putin (RUS), posed by the mother of a sick child from Ukhta, Russia, on the eve of the July 6 online chat with the president:


Why is it that in order to save a child dying of leukemia, the whole town has to do fundraising? What are the country's medical and social insurance funds for? Why parents are left face to face with such trouble, on their own?

In order for Putin to answer this question, as many people as possible had to vote for it. In the comments to doctor_liza, many bloggers wrote that they did. Here is one such comment:

tiputya: I've voted. I'm very interested in this issue. [...] For a long time now. Ever since my husband's sister [lost] a 4-month-old boy, who was ready for a [heart surgery], which they didn't carry out because the parents hadn't had enough time to find $50,000. [...] Can any one of those "caring" officials survive for just two weeks on 1,550 rubles [roughly $55] that they throw [monthly] to a mother caring for a sick child? (Just one hormones test costs 1,000 rubles [roughly $35]!)

Indeed, money is much more of a problem in doctor_liza's work than politics. Her fundraising effort for the hospice, for example, is now taking place on her blog - because it's free, while running an ad on Vladimir Gusinsky's RTV International (RTVi) - a "Kremlin-free" channel - costs too much (RUS):

Social advertisement :)

Got a call from RTV International.

Would you like to know how much it costs to air a banner - just a picture, not a video (I simply don't have it) - for 30 seconds, three times a week - ONCE a day for thirty seconds?

$2,080. And no discounts.

Let it hang here. For free.

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