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Evan Gershkovich marks one year imprisoned in Russia, ‘nightmare’ for loved ones

via NBC

Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, has been detained in Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison for one year on dubious espionage charges related to his journalistic work.

His friends and colleagues say the charges are baseless and the detention is devastating.

“It’s been a nightmare for us. One year is such a long period that Evan has been in jail,” close friend Pjotr Sauer said. “We all know these charges are completely bogus and we hope the White House will do everything it can.”

The WSJ has organized numerous campaigns to raise awareness of his case and call for his release.

“That’s 365 days that I’ve spent doing my job, being with friends, being with family, traveling, seeing the world, and 365 days that Evan has spent waking up every morning to the same set of gray walls, to the same routine, to the same schedule, to the same lack of basically anything vibrant or meaningful in his life, and that’s horrifying and devastating,” close friend Polina Ivanova said.

“We are trying to raise even more visibility to his plight. So, we will have a big social media push with the hashtag #IStandWithEvan and we’d be grateful if anybody that felt so inclined would jump in and amplify that,” Wall Street Journal editor Paul Beckett said.

“He’s not broken, they haven’t broken him, he keeps his hopes up, he both physically and mentally is in good spirits, so that’s incredibly inspiring to see,” Sauer said.

On the one-year anniversary, friends expressed hope the spotlight would help secure his freedom soon.

Though the conditions are difficult, Gershkovich has remained strong and maintained his curiosity and care for others.

“He reads a lot, he keeps his mind busy, he plays chess with his father over letters. He keeps curious. He wants to know how I’m doing, how his friends are doing, [he’s] able to send gifts whenever someone has a birthday, he’s very thoughtful in sending flowers through friends,” Sauer added. “He made sure I got my letter on my birthday from him. He wants to still be part of our daily lives, and he’s frankly curious. He reads articles we send him about current affairs.”

“This is Evan: sometimes I feel that he takes care of me even now when he’s in prison,” journalist Masha Borzunova said. “And I try to take care of him. Going through this I feel that we’ve become even closer.”

“He really understands Russia, and I saw how important it was for him to tell a true story,” she wrote. “Now we see that we were wrong: nothing can protect you in a country where authorities try to hide the real situation and journalism is almost banned. Evan is in prison only for doing his job.”

“They left the Soviet Union and now their son is in jail in Russia, which is an incredibly difficult situation for them,” Sauer said.

“I hope that it will make them stop and think about what they’ve done in the past 365 days, all the life that has been lived in that time, and just how important it is to get Evan out as soon as possible, and that every single day that we add to that counter is just a day he hasn’t been with his friends, a day he hasn’t been with his family,” Ivanova said.

“It is a date that is important not just because it’s a year,” she added. “I really hope that people stop and think what that means in terms of their own lives and try and imagine having lost that whole year of time, because they’re being kept hostage by the Russian state.”

“Evan is an incredible person. He is the most gregarious, extroverted person I know… being in isolation, being in a notorious prison, notorious for the conditions in which inmates are treated. If anyone can handle that, and sort of retain their sanity throughout the process, it’s Evan,” friend Jeremy Berke said.

“He wasn’t naive to the risk that he put himself in in order to do his job. So, you know, I think on some level, he may have been prepared for this,” Berke added. “All that being said, it’s been going on for far too long, and I think his mental state, his ability to crack a smile is through sheer force of will and effort on his part, because he’s been held in horrendous conditions for a year.”

“I think he’s going to be around all his friends, he’s going to want a cold beer, and I think he’s going to want to go to a Mets game and just be home in New York with his friends and just celebrate life in ways that he was not able to during detention,” Berke said.

His detention has underscored the challenges faced by journalists in Putin’s Russia.

His supporters will continue advocating until he is safely reunited with his friends and family.

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