April 21, 2023 | OPINION | By Zeke Lloyd

Dear Evan Gershkovich,

You are my hero. 

In early March, I wrote an article about Russia’s war against free press. The piece was centered around a talk given by Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov. Muratov was Editor-in-Chief of Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper which has lost six reporters to extrajudicial killings since 2000. 

But even then, after hearing his stories, that reality seemed distant. His examples were historical.

Three weeks after I published that piece, you were abducted by Kremlin agents. Then, earlier this week on Tuesday, April 18, a Russian court upheld your detention. Now I am afraid. But it’s not a foreign, abstract fear. It’s real.

But you went to Russia knowing the extent of the danger. You understood that, at any moment, you might be taken by authorities without cause or justification. And you went anyways. You went so you could provide people around the world with honest and accurate information.

I can’t think of anything more heroic than that.

Dear Evan Gershkovich,

You are one of the greatest journalists of our time.

And not just because you were detained, but because, even from your cell, you continue to live and breathe journalism. Understandably, your family only chose to share a few words of the letter you sent to them. Translated from Russian, even from those brief excerpts, it seems you have not lost your wit, drive, or sense of humor, “I read. I exercise. And I am trying to write. Maybe, finally, I am going to write something good.”

And in all the work you have done as a journalist, you’ve written with loyalty only to truth. You are, as any reporter should be, unbiased. Your sister, Danielle, said it better than I ever could, “I think America reports on Russia sometimes in a way that makes it seem like a pretty terrifying, cold place. He was really passionate about showing other sides of Russia, the nuance and the beauty of it.”

Dear Evan Gershkovich,

You are a great American; you embody the soul of our country.

Your family’s history is a true American legacy. In 1979, your parents emigrated from the Soviet Union to escape persecution. But, according to your sister, they never lost touch with Russian culture. “Our parents raised us to have pride in where we come from. We got to be proud of where we come from and tried to share that as much as we could in school.”

And now you are detained in the country your parents fled decades ago. “That was just crushing – totally crushing. That experience all came back from the Soviet Union,” said your mother, Ella Milman.

But Russian authorities can revert to Soviet practices. They can silence domestic writers without justification and invade foreign countries without cause. They can even detain an American journalist.

But as much as it would serve Vladimir Putin’s aim, he can never take the American out of you. In fact, your dauntless commitment to an uncensored press in a foreign autocracy makes you a symbol of freedom for Americans around the world.

Dear Evan Gershkovich,

You are what no person should ever have to be, but you bear the attention thrust upon you with an intrepid, unencumbered, and jovial spirit.

We can see it in your letter.

“Mom, you unfortunately, for better or worse, prepared me well for jail food,” you said in your letter. In the morning, for breakfast, they give us hot creamed wheat, oatmeal cereal or wheat gruel. I am remembering my childhood.”

Dear Evan Gershkovich,

I don’t know if you’re going to be ok. I’m afraid for you. And while I wish constantly for your safe and immediate release, I do not know how this will end.

But as I experience the same anxiety felt by onlookers throughout the country and around the world, your mother’s words give me hope.

“It’s one of the American qualities that we absorbed – be optimistic, believe in a happy ending.”

Leave a Reply