Borderland


The invisible people

I have never liked it that journalism is just words. I have never liked it that journalists criticize but do not propose any ways to solve the problem. After reading a material, an unpleasant feeling remains, “Well, what next?" Yes, you have told the story, but the publication hasn’t changed anything.” This is especially true of the post-Soviet countries, where media is considered not the fourth power but a partner of the authorities and an ideological crutch.

To name a problem does not mean to solve it


It is possible to joke with partners, it is possible to spend time with them, say, in the sauna, but it is not possible to reprimand a partner. The authorities cannot stand criticism, do not react to articles posing problems, and the life of the publication's heroes remains the same. Friendship with the authorities results in the appearance of media which do not notice any problems around. Read, for example, the regional Belorussian media. Their reporters and editors seem to be living in an ideal world, where the milk production is constantly rising, where tractor drivers keep setting records during harvesting, and where the militia men successfully detect and defeat moonshiners and take part in amateur activities.

In this ideal world, there is neither unemployment nor special needs people. Many problems are simply not named to become a taboo, whereas the people whom these problems concern seem not to exist in nature. They are marginal people, outsiders and losers, whose destiny is to live outside the media space.

A year ago, the first public media, the “Imena” magazine, appeared in Belarus. Journalists and photographers who got tired of recession in public information joined the founders’ team. We decided that it was not enough to name problems, problems had to be solved. And as long as the government is incapable of doing it, why doesn’t the society change the reality?

On the roadside of life


Generally speaking, we fixed up journalism and crowdfunding. First we looked for people who tried to change at least something in the country. We looked for those who did not just write something in their comfortable Facebook but solved problems consistently by actions. We were interested not in personalized help but we searched for people who thought in project formats. So, we found the service of home help “A Step Forward”, the workers of which took care of terminally ill and old people. A project was born “The Case of the Ninth Department”, meant to help the residents of mental homes. People emerged, who helped to find tutors for autistic children. It turned out that there was a multitude of problems in the country which the government could not solve.

How can such problems be reported? The talk is about people who found themselves on the roadside of life, beyond the scope of media interest. It seems that the best way is to show a global problem through a concrete story, to go from a particular case to generalization and to let the reader get to know the character.

Writing such stories requires strong nerves and deep immersion. It is not easy to be in the mental home, which smells of feces and where old people whom nobody needs and wants listlessly sit in the corridors. It is difficult to see a 27-year-old guy, who has the weight of a three-year old child because of bad nutrition. It is not easy to interview a dying old man and to record his waning breathing on the electronic speakerphone.

A word as a deed


To write such texts, one needs to be professionally fit and cold-blooded. In this context, a reporter may be compared to a surgeon who does not faint during surgery.

Alexander Makarchuk

Alexander Makarchuk © Alexander Vasyukovich, „Imena“
I cannot but write these stories. Why do I do that? I do that in order to tell the public about the “invisible people” and to solve their problems. Unheard by the public, these people live in their local space. I remember coming to the town of Borisov to a wooden cabin in the outskirts. The 33-year old Sasha Makarchuk was lying in his bed. He had become paraplegic ten years before, but he did not lose courage and learnt to control the computer by his voice. He started to work as an IT-recruiter. People he had not known before offered him a home, and he started to live there. After his story was published, Sasha became famous overnight, and that motivated him. He found people who had similar problems and values and decided to launch an IT course for people with disabilities. The word entailed a deed. The readers raised money for Sasha’s IT-school . Now he works as its director.

Mikhail Zolotovsky

Mikhail Zolotovsky © Victoria Gerasimova, „Imena“
Photographer Mikhail Zolotovsky is deaf. He explained why it was impossible for people like him to work at factories and said that hearing people were also deaf towards the deaf. After the publication, Mikhail received many offers, among which was the proposal to teach a PhotoShop course for people with the hearing disability. Again, a word triggered a deed.

Manya

 Manya © Mika Kohan
A resident of a mental home Manya speaks by the voices of other people whom she has once encountered in her life. She has a roommate, who screams at night. Manya likes Baskov, the pop singer, and keys. Is Manya a hero for an information resource? Hardly so. For me, Manya is a hero, because she reflects a social phenomenon. She illustrates how people live in mental homes in the country which was the last country in Europe to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Manya embodies the notion of loneliness.

Over the year of the magazine's existence, the readers of our portal have raised $100,000 for social needs. The heroes of our publications are still living outside the media field but it is possible to get in touch with them by means of our stories. If a phenomenon has been named, it already exists.
© Vyacheslav Korsak

Vyacheslav Korsak


The chief editor of the “Imena” magazine. He has graduated from the Institute of Entrepreneurship and Parliamentarism. Earlier he worked as a reporter of the weekly “Express Novosti”, as a writer for “Izvestia in Belarus” and of “Sapiens” magazine, a reporter| deputy editor-in-chief of “Bolshoy” magazine, the chief editor of “Ya” magazine. He is studying tabooed themes.

Links

"Imena" magazine
Alexander Makarchuk's story
Mikhail Zolotovsky's story
Manya's story

FURTHER TOPICS





    Relevant topics

    Give me two

    Take it and be happy

    Engine

    A vacant cash desk!

    Paper

    A universal measure of happiness

    BORDERLAND

    The subtle balance of borderline states

    DIS-STANCE

    The light-to-dark transition zone

    SEROTONIN

    The sleep of reason produces monsters

    WATCHING

    About watching films: what to watch and how to see