Krystyna Kurczab-Redlich

A lawyer by education, Krystyna Kurczab-Redlich has been a long-time Russia correspondent for the Polish media (1990-2004). In addition to writing Pandrioszka, a highly acclaimed book about contemporary Russia, she is the author of multiple documentaries about Chechnya, a country she has visited frequently since the beginning of the so-called Second Chechen War (1999). She is known as the “Polish Politkovskaya.”

She received many awards for her work as a journalist, among them the most prestigious Polish award for foreign correspondents - the Kazimierz Dziewanowski Prize. Kurczab-Redlich also won acclaims for her publications on human rights violations in Chechnya, including the Amnesty International Award and the Melchior Wańkowicz Prize. Her work is highly regarded in Russia, where she was awarded a prize for her writings about Moscow. In 2005, at the request of Chechen organization Echos of War, Amnesty International and the Helsinki Foundation, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her book, Głową o mur Kremla, won the Book of Autumn award in 2007 and the Fr. Józef Tischner Award in 2008.

Hitting the Head on the Kremlin Wall is a collection of moving reports about life in contemporary Russia, a record of impressions and reflections gathered by the author during her many stays in the country. The book serves as an introduction to the frantically ambiguous reality of Russia. The author’s account is based on pieces of arbitrary data made publically available by Russian propaganda mixed with her own findings and observations.

Drawing on years of experience as commentator on Russian affairs, Kurczab-Redlich is able to paint a captivating picture of post-communist Russia, a country suspended between democracy and non-being. In her analysis, Putin’s system of power is revealed as a reestablishment of dictatorship, while mentality of Russians is depicted as willingness to endure and justify any hardship in the name of preserving the lingering image of Russia as a global superpower. She goes against the grain of conventional wisdom and doesn’t accept the popular image of Russia – a country feared in Western Europe, and of Chechnya – a supposed terrorist haven. Kurczab-Redlich never shies away from posing the most difficult questions: have Chechnyan terrorist attacks been, in fact, provocations carried out by Russian secret service?

Hitting the Head on the Kremlin Wall makes it possible to see the War in Chechnya from an entirely different perspective. Kurczab-Redlich writes: "Kremlin has subjected Chechnyans to both physical and psychological terror, and the world – to the terror of lies." Forcefully, she brings to the forefront the problem of human rights violations in Chechnya, where people are abducted from their homes, tortured, raped, murdered, and mutilated by explosives on daily basis.

While the author’s primary concern is for the facts, given the turmoil and tragedy of Russia’s recent history it should not come as a surprise that oftentimes she finds it impossible to separate them from the emotions they evoke. This human sensitivity, however, renders her account that much more honest and poignant.

W.A.B. | 2012 More »

Pandrioszka (or pandora's box in a matrioshka doll) is a fascinating account of the cultural, social and political changes, which took place in Russia during the 90s under Boris Yeltsin. A large part of the book is devoted to the War in Chechnya, whose consequences the author had observed as a correspondent for television and press.

Rebis | 2008 More »