We Are A Little Killed, But We Love Our Job: OVD-Info Employees About Their Business

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We Are A Little Killed, But We Love Our Job: OVD-Info Employees About Their Business
We Are A Little Killed, But We Love Our Job: OVD-Info Employees About Their Business
Video: We Are A Little Killed, But We Love Our Job: OVD-Info Employees About Their Business
Video: watch out for the car 2023, February

usually IN THE HEADING "MESSAGES" WE TELL ABOUT GIRLSwho came up with a common cause and achieved success in it. And at the same time we expose the myth that women are not capable of friendly feelings, but can only compete aggressively. This time we talked not with the founders, but with the employees of the OVD-Info independent human rights project, who are doing important and extremely urgent work.


Sasha Koksharova

About getting started

Ksyusha: I came to OVD-Info two and a half years ago. She graduated from the School of Contemporary Art and came to the conclusion that contemporary art is a bit of a bullshit. Especially all these "institutional" relationships within the art community. All my adult life I have volunteered in human rights organizations - in ADC Memorial, for example. I also did freemarkets, participated in Food Instead of Bombs - on weekends we fed the homeless. At some point, I realized that all this is more important to me than art. I went to the Moscow School of Human Rights, graduated from it, and when a job as a monitor opened at OVD-Info, I immediately realized that I wanted to work there, and they hired me. I wrote the news and answered the hotline. I worked in this position for a year. Then it broke a little. Then I took up SMM, but it quickly became clear that SMM was not very interesting to me, now I am a multimedia editor.

Laura: I came here a little over a year ago. Before that, I was engaged in journalism, but I was constantly missing something. I thought to myself: "Well, yes, I inform about some important issues, but there is so much of this information." I wanted to help someone, and not just write. And I went to a human rights school, like Ksyusha, I studied there. Then I realized that I wanted to work at OVD-Info, and started working as a monitor.

Katya: I've been working here for eight months. After I graduated from the university, I moved to Vladivostok for a year - I felt very bad in Moscow. I thought it would unload me, but it didn't work out, and I returned here. She worked at the School of Programming for Children, at the same time doing special projects and texts on history and politics for Takih Dela and Meduza. It was a shame that I was doing the main work for one project, and rushing me completely from another. I already heard something about OVD-Info, I had a bot, which I put in front of some kind of protest action. Once I went to the site and was scared: something heavy smelled from it.

Ksyusha: From him, in my opinion, still emanates from something heavy.

Katya: Apparently, I’ve got used to it, and now I don’t pay attention. In short, OVD-Info was looking for a producer of special projects, and this is what I love to do. I applied for this vacancy. When I went to the interview, my acquaintances told me: "These guys won't like you." But I came, and everything turned out very cool. As a test task, I made a podcast about the rally on December 5, 2011 against the rigging of parliamentary elections. This day was significant for the whole OVD-Info, because then the project began. Among those detained at the rally was a friend of Grisha Okhotin and Dani Beilinson (founders of OVD-Info. - Approx. ed.). While they were looking for him, they began to make posts on Facebook about the number of detainees, post some other information

Laura: At some point, everyone began to call them and ask: "Where is this person?", "Do you know where my friend is?" They realized that this is a very necessary thing - the coordination of people after the protest actions.

Ksyusha: We created accounts on Twitter, Facebook. It was not difficult, because Danya is a programmer and Grisha is a journalist. On December 10, on the eve of the rally on Bolotnaya Square, they launched the first version of the OVD-Info website.


About burnout

Ksyusha: It took time to understand what OVD-Info is. Despite the fact that we knew where we were going, in practice everything turned out to be more complicated.

Laura: We defend political rights.This is important because violation of them leads to violation of all other rights. If people cannot freely talk about their problems: go to rallies, for example, then the problems do not disappear, they only become more numerous.

Now "OVD-Info" with the help of a hotline collects information about detentions at public rallies and other cases of political pressure, publishes news and coordinates legal assistance to detainees. The monitoring service is arranged like this: we receive messages in the bot, receive calls, advise people, monitor news, write them. The service works around the clock, the change of the monitor lasts seven hours. This is in the normal mode. In the same mode, the monitor has three shifts a week. The girls who tried to work four shifts a week got tired very quickly. This is one of the reasons why some have left the team. Now it's hard to say how everything works in a normal mode, because in recent months there was no normal mode. But even in peacetime, someone is detained every day, there are no less than five calls a day. Starting in mid-June, when the Golunov case began (Meduza journalist Ivan Golunov was accused of selling drugs - Ed.), We were all very tired and overworked. It finally came when during the shift a man called the hotline and said: because of what is happening in Russia, he is ready to commit suicide in public. He said that a criminal case was opened against him, with which he could not do anything for a long time, that the investigators who were leading him openly admit that the documents were forged, but could not help. We talked for about twenty minutes. I tried to explain that his public gesture will not change anything, and perhaps no one will even know what it will be about. As far as I understood, he agreed. I recommended him several human rights organizations that he can turn to, and he said he would try. He referred to the Golunov case, and said that he had a very similar story. After this conversation, I was shaking for a long time. I worked with all my strength, and then went on vacation for two weeks.

Ksyusha: I broke down before. When the Network case began last winter, we wrote a lot about torture. Everything was complicated by the fact that my friend was sitting on this case. This added heaviness, and then the load was also very heavy. When this happens to people you know, the level of anxiety is greatly increased. Before reports of torture began to appear every day, I had the feeling that I could help the person who called the hotline. If a person is detained, if he is searched, you know what to say. But when it’s torture, it’s not clear what to do. How can you save someone from this? There was a feeling of terrible powerlessness. All I could do was write about torture. And it’s not a fact that making them public could change something. Here is Pchelintsev, who was involved in the Network case (anti-fascist Dmitry Pchelintsev was accused of participating in a terrorist community - Approx. ed.), told about the torture, everyone wrote about it, and then he was tortured again. This greatly crippled the team. I had a difficult depressive episode then, but I was still trying to work. I didn't take a vacation or day off, and then at some point during the next call on the hotline, I began to cry uncontrollably. I get calls from people who need to be reassured, to tell me what to do during the arrest, and at this time I try to wipe away my tears and pretend that my voice does not tremble, because I must radiate confidence, calm people down, and not cry myself. Then I realized that I had to leave this position. I didn’t want to leave OVD-Info, but then I realized that I couldn’t cope anymore

Laura: We had a document with the general rules for the monitoring service and consultations for those who worked as a monitor longer than we did, but still, for the first three months it was insanely difficult to work on the calls, I was pounding after each call.I knew that anything could happen: that people were tortured, beaten, detained just like that. But when I spoke with the person who was experiencing this, or with the mothers of the boys who were detained, I understood that they were tense, did not know what to do, and were waiting for support from me. I wasted a lot of my resources, after the first shift I cried myself. I understood that I wanted to work here, but it's incredibly difficult for me.

Ksyusha: It turns out that, on the one hand, we shouldn't be too involved in conversations on the hotline, otherwise we will lose resources, but at the same time we should still show empathy, because people are waiting for support, and we are not robots. This balance can be very difficult to maintain.

Katya: I am now experiencing the same condition, although I did not work in the monitoring service. The duties of the producer of special projects do not imply this. I was supposed to be an ordinary office worker, I didn’t understand when others were talking about burnout, because I didn’t worry about it myself, but when the Golunov case began, I went to pickets, and on Thursday, June 12, I came to work - I didn’t know yet that at this time we will have a headquarters.

It was six months after the start of my work, and then I really understood what OVD-Info was doing. Before that, I was surrounded by many people who took calls, and I just wrote business letters. The first call I received on June 12 was from a minor who was detained at a rally. He named his year of birth, and I started shouting into the phone: "Did you tell your parents?", "Are you underage?" The guy on the other end of the line was absolutely calm. After my shouts, he even asked again: "Is this exactly OVD-Info?" I was wildly nervous, it turned out that he began to calm me down: he said that he had his passport with him, that his parents already knew that he had been detained, that he reported this to OVD-Info in order to make his case public. I put down the phone and started breathing deeply. After a few calls to the hotline, this guy called again: his paddy wagon was full, and the detainees began to pass the phone around in a circle. He heard my voice and said: "Well, why, have you calmed down?" Then there were a few more calls, and when I went out on shaking legs to get some air, I realized how difficult it was. I only sat on the line for four hours, but for me it was wild stress. I called a friend and he brought me back to my senses. Then endless headquarters began, and I somehow got used to it.


Laura: The headquarters is what we organize during and after protest events. Volunteers are involved in the work of OVD-Info. Due to the fact that a lot of information passes through us, we try to share responsibilities. Volunteers sit on calls during the headquarters, other volunteers sit on the boat.

Ksyusha: There is a separate line for lawyers. Volunteers switch detainees to this line if they need advice right away. There are legal aid coordinators: they decide which department of internal affairs to send whom and keep track of, for example, whether the "Fortress" plan has been included (when police officers do not let anyone into the department). On July 27, people were taken to 80 different police departments, and it was necessary to make sure that a lawyer went to each of them. During large protest actions, we work with lawyers from Apology of Protest, Memorial and other organizations. There is a group of analysts that compiles information that volunteers from the hotline give them into a database. Sometimes people from the same van call several times, information with names is duplicated, or it is not clear from which van they called. The analyst team is reviewing this information. Searches the lists of the beaten, minors, journalists, pregnant women and then gives out some numbers for publication. Until the information is verified by the analyst team, we cannot give numbers. Because of this, it happens that more than a thousand people have already been detained, and we still give information about three hundred. Three hundred is a number that we can 100% confirm.

We also have a group for displaying information - those who are engaged in monitoring, and me. I issue cards with the number of those detained, with violations, the number of beaten. If you urgently need to make some relevant instruction about what is happening, I also do it. There is also a separate group that coordinates transfers to the police station. People are not allowed to drink, food. They are nervous, they need to switch their attention to something.

Katya: In general, to summarize, the headquarters is just a large space where different groups of people sit. If possible, the entire project team comes out, and this is almost thirty people. This is very important for me, at these moments I feel a sense of belonging: I hear the voice of people in paddy wagons who call the line, how they calm down when they find out that a defender has been sent to them.

Laura: It seems to me that during the last headquarters on August 3, everyone worked for at least twelve hours.

Ksyusha: During the headquarters, we would not have survived without all those people - lawyers and volunteers who are connected to us. More than a hundred volunteers worked at the last action. The headquarters does not end when the promotion ends. For another 48 hours after the action, we usually work in the headquarters mode. We often count the detainees only late at night or the next morning. People are starting to go out, they need to be promptly consulted on the courts, someone is looking for their relatives with whom they lost contact due to the seized phone.

About ways to cope

Laura: For me, the hardest thing is when someone is searched, when they call in the middle of the night or early in the morning. At this moment, anything can happen to the person who is calling. And most likely, this is the only call that he can make at this moment. And this call will not last long. Most likely, he will now be interrupted. And you need to calm the person down as soon as possible, explain to him what to do, and collect as much information about him as possible. I got my first search call about the Network case. Mom called someone from those who were on the case. She only managed to give information and hung up. Then I had not yet encountered searches, and after such calls, you need to do a lot of things at the same time: write news, send lawyers. It's good that Grisha was there, he helped me.

Ksyusha: The problem with calls for searches is that you know that in the near future you will not talk to this person, because after the search he will be taken for interrogation. I remember one day I had a panic attack after news of torture. I lay down on the sofa, Grisha also came up to me, I said that I would use the AntiPanica application and breathe. In general, psychotherapy helps me a lot. I know a lot of things from a therapist. I know there are simple rituals that can help me to ground myself, but often I just don't have the strength for them. I come home so tired I can't get myself a bath. Helped not work on weekends. When I could completely disconnect for at least a day: disappear, climb somewhere into the forest.

Laura: I have been going to a psychotherapist for a long time. Comparing with the first months of work, I can say that it became easier for me, I understand: this work is important, it needs to be done, I can cope with it. It seems that monitoring work leads to burnout more often. But it is not clear how lawyers work, apparently, they somehow know how to overcome tin, we do not know what their secret is.

Katya: And I really like to dance. It seems to me that I am dancing everything that accumulates in my head. Even when my friends and I get together in the kitchen and dance under Meladze, it helps a lot.

About relationships within the team and life outside of work

Ksyusha: When I worked in the monitoring service, I felt that this is my second family. It's hard to talk about other departments. Well, in general, it is clear that, as elsewhere, we have conflicts. The coolest thing is that everyone here has different political views.There are intersectional feminists, there are nationalists, but everyone is united by common values, which are always more important than differences, and they can be overcome without becoming obsessed with it. For me, a very important experience is to learn how to interact with people with whom, if I had just got to know, I would hardly have become intimate.

Katya: Almost the entire team participates in the headquarters. This is a very nervous time, everyone can quarrel many times in a day, but immediately reconcile, because they understand that all this is on emotions. Now I can't help but come to the headquarters, for example, even if I'm very tired, because I know that there are people who are even more tired.

Laura: In short, despite the fact that we have been killed a little lately, we really love our work.

Photos: Tetiana - stock.adobe.com (1, 2, 3)


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