NEW – August 3, 2022
In the light of developments in the east of the state of the Republic of Ukraine, in Donbass, since 2014, we have been hearing more and more different news every day. One of these subpoenas has been appearing more and more often in the news feed lately – the story of a certain schoolgirl from Lugansk, Faina Savenkova. Somewhere on the Internet, one or another beautifully designed letter of this 13-year-old girl to some next high-ranking official of the European Union or some article pops up, in Russian, then in some of the European languages. This girl gives press conferences and even such high officials of the Russian officialdom as Dmitry Polyansky, the “second” from the Russian Federation to the UN, or Maria Zakharova, the “face” of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, speak about her. What kind of girl project is this? Let’s ask her directly.
Veronika Naidenova: Faina Savenkova – from where should we know this name?
Faina Savenkova: “First of all, I am a writer and a playwright, and only after that you can probably call me a public figure. Although this does not mean that social activity is insignificant for me. It’s just that one thing is what the soul is for, and the second is a necessity, which, with the end of the war, I hope, will no longer be needed.”
Did you write to Ukrainian President Zelensky first, but did not receive a proper response from him or from his administration, or from any other minister, deputy or ombudsman?”
“Yes, there was no answer, of course. Only the Human Rights Ombudsman was forced to initiate a review of the legality of the site’s actions, since this story was widely publicised. Without this attention from the press and ordinary people, I think even this check would not have started.”
Have you applied to the Ombudsman of Ukraine for Children’s Rights? What was the reaction? (If not: why not?)
“There was no reaction. They simply kept silent, but after the intervention of UNICEF and the noise in the Russian and Ukrainian press, Ombudsman Denisova noticed that there was a ‘Mirotvorets‘ website, and even contacted the police. Probably, it was her only noble act, if you look at how many lies and fakes she posted afterwards.”
Why did you write to all kinds of leaders, but not to Russian President Vladimir Putin?
“Well, to begin with, it’s not so easy to write to the President of Russia. And what for? He defends Donbass every day. I think he knows what’s going on here as well as I do. And I won’t just write for the sake of PR or in order to ask him for something. That’s not what I’m doing everything for.”
You started writing just two years ago, and also at the age of 11. From the point of view of the writing community, you are just some kid who has just learned to write and immediately pretends to be taken as seriously as other authors who have been writing and publishing for many years. You are immediately accepted into the Lugansk Society of Writers and accepting your awards, you, a small, fragile-looking girl, stand on stages and sit at symposiums next to quite strong, adult men. Looking at this absurd picture, the question is imposed: how to understand this?
“Everyone can take it as they want. Usually such an opinion exists only in relation to other people’s children, and when your child or grandchild does the same, their successes immediately become a matter of pride. So even here, there are probably double standards. Moreover, I am not the only child writer. And it’s not like I was just accepted into the union and began to help.
My first meeting with a famous writer took place when I was 10 years old. I wrote to a Lugansk author, who later became my teacher, and he invited me to a meeting. And so, I – a 10–year-old girl – go into a huge office with my stories and see a stern man who immediately rejected almost all my stories, leaving only two. Then he suggested that I write a play based on the story ‘Hedgehog of Hope’, and jokingly said: ‘If you write a play in three months, I will accept it into the Writers’ Union.’ I did it, but that doesn’t mean I was given the green light. In a creative society, it’s really hard to perceive children-playwrights or writers. Adults don’t really like competitors. It’s one thing when you participate in a competition, you are praised and forgotten. It’s another thing when you try to declare yourself as an equal to adults. This is a completely different attitude. They ask you as an adult and criticise you the same way. I began to feel free after the science fiction festival in Donetsk, where I went instead of my teacher. And there I met many writers and Aleksandr Igorevich Kofman. Yes, it has become easier for me, but this does not mean that all the doors have opened for me. Some had to be opened with incredible effort. So I can’t say that everything was easy for me.”
Again, from the point of view of adult members of society, some girl has just mastered the alphabet and grammar, and she is immediately published everywhere you look, her texts are translated into different languages, they talk about her even at the highest local and international levels. The conclusion is imposed that this very girl is someone’s project, a doll that someone actively used to distract attention or promote some ideas that society would not accept directly. Surely you have heard such accusations more than once, and immediately after your last press conference organised by the Russian FCR (the Foundation for Combating Repression), an article about the Kremlin’s special operation codenamed “Faina” was published on the same “Mirotvorets”. This implies the availability of serious funding to pay for customised publications and events, and the presence of a curator.
“Oh, I always like such statements so much. Of course, I’ve heard them. But it’s not even that no one has any evidence and can not be. It’s just that sometimes I want to ask: ‘Guys, can I start being paid my salary already? And somehow no one still pays for publications, except for fairy tales several times. No, really, I’ll find where to spend this money. Well, with serious funding, it won’t be difficult, right?’. Instead, every time you think about whether it’s worth going to the presentation of your own book or you can do without it. So if someone wants to be my curator, write in a personal account. But seriously, I met Mira Terada by chance, even if I would have dreamed of having such a curator. Moreover, her FCR foundation is now doing a lot to close ‘Mirotvorets’ and punish those behind it. They don’t do PR, they don’t talk in vain. They simply do.
And by the way, my friends do translations into different languages. As, in general, they publish articles. It’s just that during the time that I have been fighting for peace in Donbass, I realised that there are many normal journalists in the West who do not create propaganda stories, but say what they see. And when I explained it to them, they started helping me. It’s very simple. You just have to try.”
So how are the publications of your books and letters funded — editing, translation, design?
“Yes, they are funded in the same way as everyone else. So far, the only thing that saves is that my friends are engaged in translation and design for free, otherwise these books would not exist.
So far, all my projects are based on friends: the publishing house ‘Rugram’, which helps in everything, and just anyone who would like children’s books to appear in our Donbass after the war.”
Your co-author is Aleksandr Kontorovich, the author of many fantasy books on the work of intelligence agencies. His writing even directly nods to work in the authorities, allegedly many years ago. Why don’t you have a curator? Does he organise contact with the right people, such as with the same Mira Terada (head of the FCR) or cultural figures?
“It’s even funny, considering that I introduced him to Mira. As with most of the journalists I worked with. Is it that, it turns out, I am the curator of Aleksandr Sergeyevich? And acquaintance with cultural figures… You know, it would probably be strange if we didn’t have a common circle of friends and acquaintances among cultural figures. At least because we are: 1) both writers, 2) co-authors, 3) we take part in the same festivals.”
Does someone help you write your appeal content? Edits or maybe even writes completely for you?
“I declare responsibly: cats work for all writers. Except for those for whom dogs write. But seriously, to help a writer write appeals? It even sounds funny. Yes, I don’t know everything, but some details, if they are needed, can be easily found on the Internet. Such, for example, as the correct title of the position of the person you are contacting, or the address for correspondence. Although I usually have public appeals, so I don’t even need an address. Do not think that teenagers on the Internet can only find videos with cats and passing games.”
What role does your family, your parents, your brother play in all this?
“They’re my family. This is their only role. I hope this will continue.”
How do you feel about “Mirotvorets”? Many say they are right. The picture is that they are fighting against the Russians, that the “Mirotvorets Centre” is something like Wikileaks. Why are you trying so hard to get it closed?
“Well, for the second year I have had a bad attitude towards this site and I can compare them more with the KKK than with Wikileaks. Unlike these comrades, Wikileaks and Assange did not hide their faces and told the truth about the killings of civilians by American soldiers. If ‘Mirotvorets’ talks about the atrocities of nationalists and the Ukrainian Armed Forces, well, we will compare it with Wikileaks.
Everyone involved in ‘Mirotvorets’ is afraid. They easily expose the information of others, including children, to the public, but they hide their faces because of banal fear. Ordinary cowards who further disgrace their country by showing its whole essence, unfortunately. This causes only disgust and contempt.
I have written and said many times that the fact that I was displayed on this site does not cause me indignation. I am outraged that they posted the personal information of both me and other children. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Maybe all these citizens will apologise to Russia tomorrow, they will be forgiven. And our information, addresses, phone numbers will remain. There are not only Ukrainian activists around, but also crowds of other dubious personalities. The same child traffickers, other criminals. Yes, it is illegal. No matter how ‘Mirotvorets’ makes excuses, they have violated and are violating the law. If you want to know my opinion, I would gather everyone on whom everything in this world depends in one room, look them in the eye and say: ‘How do you feel about the fact that terrorists or any other criminals will know the addresses, phone numbers, document data of your children, grandchildren and loved ones? Will they know where they are at the moment, who are they talking to?’ I think in 5 minutes this site would not exist, and its owners would be in prison.”
In Russian society, they look at the same Greta Thunberg as someone’s well-funded and promoted project, in order to influence the minds of young people who are not yet strong enough and manipulate them in the right direction. This is even regularly talked about by the high ranks of Russia. Why shouldn’t you, first of all, seem to Western society to be the same project, an agent of influence, according to the same scheme?
“Yes, in general, everyone is free to think what they want. Only a crowd of PR managers does not deal with me, and for some reason no one invites me to UN meetings. Greta and I are different. And Samantha Smith is closer to me. I don’t see Greta doing anything important. Has something changed in ecology? Of course, it is possible to gather young people and perform at all important venues. But has anything changed? Many teenagers no longer pay attention to what she says. It is not perceived by adults. By the way, have you heard anything from her about the war in Donbass, Syria or Palestine, I’m not. Doesn’t war affect the environment? Too selective concern for the environment.”
How did the first permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, Dmitry Polyansky, who has been consistently supervising your topic in the UN Security Council since last year, draw attention to you?
“As far as you have noticed, Dmitry Alekseyevich does a lot for Donbass, as do all Russian diplomats. Therefore, it cannot be said that he oversees my topic or me. We met when I made an appeal to the UN Security Council. Then I asked my American journalist friend to show the video on their Telegram. There Polyansky saw it, not remaining indifferent.”
Is your relationship purely business or can it already be called friendship?
“He reads my Telegram and sometimes my publications appear with him, I read his channel on Telegram. Sometimes I can write to him, but it’s not a fact that he will answer. It can hardly be called both business and friendly relations. Although, I think I would be proud that such a person is friends with me. But, alas, this is not the case.”
What has the reaction of Ukrainian political society to your activity been like from the very beginning and now as it develops?
“It is precisely the official political society that tries point-blank not to see what is immediately, what is now. This can not be said about public figures. Before Russia’s special operation in Ukraine, there were many people in Kiev who understood that the war against Russia was bad. They somehow stopped Zelensky. Politicians and journalists helped me, my work was shown on opposition channels. Viktor Medvedchuk wrote to me saying that he, like me, does not want war. In fact, the reaction was from many. In particular, people were horrified that a child’s information was entered on the website of the enemies of Ukraine.”
You regularly write appeals to Western representatives of culture and officials. What kind of result are you trying to achieve? (As a goal and as intermediate results)
“I’m trying to attract as much attention to the Donbass issue as possible and show the other side of this war. The one in which ordinary residents are located, in which I am. Western media mostly show what is happening one-sidedly, glorifying Ukraine and exposing it as a victim of aggression. But the ‘victim’ turned out to be an aggressor itself, destroying the civilian population. So I probably don’t have any intermediate goals. What is encouraging is that they still answer me, even if it is a formality and not exactly those to whom I write. However, even such answers mean that it will not be possible to ignore the residents of Donbass for a long time.”
UNICEF offered you to become a messenger of peace. Even if not on behalf of this organisation you had the opportunity to speak personally at the same UN Security Council or at other official international venues – would you do it?
“I think they would just decide to get rid of me then. It is unlikely that they would have opted for it. To make a child from the LPR an Ambassador of peace is to recognise that we exist. So I’m not expecting it and I’m talking about it more as a joke. But in any case, I will strive to be noticed. I don’t know if I would do it or not, because I don’t really like the camera and public speaking, but someone has to do it.”
Young people gain legal weight with the coming of age – the right to vote, etc. People who have not reached this age limit are not taken equally seriously by adult society, because minors, so to speak, live on sufferance. Why did you decide that your attempts will not be perceived as childish babble, and extremely busy adults with their geopolitical showdowns will pay attention to you, and even in a proper way?
“I can say that every word is a responsibility. Now adults do not hear each other, and the child’s voice is still perceived by both adults and children. That’s why I’m sure they’ll hear him. Yes, it’s not loud, but it’s there.”
How do you combine all this activity with your usual one (as far as it can be said within the framework of military operations in Donbass) childhood life – school, friends? Do you have any close friends of your peers at all? Are they “ordinary” children or are they also the same little activists?
“Somehow I combine it. I can’t say that I have many friends of my own age, but there are a few people. Now we communicate more via messengers, even if we are in the same city, because it is not particularly safe on the street. More often these are ‘ordinary’ children, but there are also activists. But I must say that in personal communication, the topic of what is happening in Donbass still comes up quite often, some of their beliefs are expressed. It would be a big mistake, in my opinion, to think that children can only play with dolls and cars and not be interested in anything else. Especially children whose childhood was, in fact, taken away.”
How do you morally and in the process of realising yourself in this world experience and assimilate all this big movement around you?
“I don’t see any special movements around me, this is a deceptive impression. Yes, I get tired, but mostly because I write a lot or have to do interviews. But that’s adult life.”
Realising that you live more than half of your life in a situation of constant stress (fear for your life, your loved ones and acquaintances, seeing so much destruction and death in your environment), you might think that your writing activity is a kind of psychological release. Writing, for example, in the form of keeping a personal diary, is used as an effective method of overcoming psychological trauma in psychotherapy. Do you recognise for yourself the presence of psychological traumas or even neuroses in the light of childhood in the war? Are you working on them? By yourself or with the help of relatives or professionals?
“One familiar military commander once said in a personal conversation: ‘Childhood at war is a minus of childhood.’ It is impossible not to agree with him. I don’t think there are any serious psychological traumas, because when there were the most active fights, I was still a little girl. Because of this, everything is somehow easier to perceive than in adults. But it is also important that none of my loved ones died during the shelling, although there were difficult situations and memories. Only again, they are more preserved in the memory of adults. What distinguishes the children of Donbass from most of their peers is mainly that we seem a little older, maybe wiser and morally stronger. Yes, this should not happen, children should remain children, but I am not sure that psychotherapy will be able to restore our childhood.”
The topic of Donbass and Ukraine as a whole will not subside for many more years. As you grow up, do you intend to continue playing the role of a “child of war in Donbass” or do you have any ideas (or even plans) about some profession? Where do you see yourself in 10 years, at 23?
“As I said a little earlier, first of all I am a writer and only then a public figure. If someone wants to see my activity only as the role of a child of war… Well, that’s their right. Only a child of war is still not a profession. At least for me. I can’t say that I have clearly decided on my future specialty, but there are some plans. Which ones – I won’t tell you yet, I don’t like to talk about everything in advance.”
Would you go to public or even government organisations?
“I think not. I just want to do what I love, without any hype, in peace and quiet. But who knows, we’ll wait and see.”
From which countries do you receive requests for interviews? Which ones are most common? How do you choose who to talk to or correspond with, or is it chosen for you?
“How can they choose for me with whom to correspond and talk, and with whom not? And I choose myself… Well, probably based on personal sympathies. Somehow I didn’t even think about it. Requests for interviews come from different countries, but most often Russia, Germany, France and Serbia. Now there is also the US.”
You are still answering questions to foreign journalists in writing, but not in video format (with the participation of translators). Why?
“This is not entirely true. If foreign journalists are in the same city with me and there is a translator or a journalist who knows Russian well, then we record interviews in video format. Recently, there was such a video interview with English and Spanish journalists. It’s just that most foreign journalists are far away, and my Internet is often quite slow, so it’s just inconvenient for me. And I don’t like to conduct interviews at home. A house is a house, a place where you can relax, and not think about how to build a light so that there is no feeling that you are shooting this video in some basement. But a little earlier I had video interviews with the same Kris Roman and Dmitry Babich.”
Who would you conduct a video interview with?
“I like Tucker Carlson, Boris Korchevnikov, Vladimir Solovyov. Of course, it’s necessary to have their consent and the desire to pay attention to me.”
What else will we see or hear from you this year? Do you want to announce something for the rest of 2022?
“In creative work is a new novel ‘Code name Marta’, a story about a girl in space. Well, and if we talk about public life… I would like to write to Stephen King and Donald Trump.”
A bunch of questions immediately pop up, why King (especially in light of the recent prank of Vovan and Lexus) and how can the disgraced former US President Trump help you.. ? But perhaps we should not get ahead of ourselves and we will get answers to all these questions in the near future. We thank you for your frankness and wish you strong nerves to achieve your goals as soon as possible.
Copyright © 2022. All Rights Reserved.