INTERVIEW: Proud to be honest

Moscow graffiti

“It’s so important not to be afraid to go against what society says is success.”

What if honesty meant more to you than keeping your job—a wonderful job? What if honesty meant walking down a road whose end you couldn’t see? And what if it seemed that you
were lost, but a voice inside you said: “No! This is the road to happiness.” Would you believe that voice inside you and take that road? Meet Zhenya. She chose such a road and she is not sorry.


Question: Zhenya, tell us about the work you are doing now

Answer:  In Russia you could say that we often have two jobs. We have a basic place of work to earn a living. But however much we love that work, for many it’s not enough. The soul requires creativity and art. And so we also have what you could call a “serious hobby”. It’s something someone is very dedicated to. Gradually, it becomes a second profession. My professional work is with RIA, the Russian Information Agency. It is one of the largest news agencies in Russia. I’m the producer of a program called “Open Show”. I’ve been doing this work about a year now. “Open Show” is the center for documentary film in Russia. We do free public showings of important documentary films—films not only from Russia but from all over the world. After the film we discuss the issues, or problems, the film presents. This is all very new in Russia. It’s the former “kitchen conversations” brought out into the open. We invite a group of experts to discuss the topic and take questions and comments from the audience. There are from 100 to 300 people at the shows. The discussions are totally open and very honest. People say what they really think. That’s important to us. 

Question: You are still very young and yet you are already a producer.  How did that happen? 

Answer: I haven’t always had an easy road. Not long ago I was totally without work and, finally, without money. I left a very good job. I was a news writer and editor. I loved my work! But the times were changing. I left without knowing what was next or how I would live; how I would pay for food or rent. But I left because my bosses were publishing lies and using my hands to do so. I didn’t want that. I knew that I would become ill if I stayed. I accept everything that happened to me because I chose this path.  And I chose it because I had to be myself. To do that, I had to look honestly at myself. I had to look at what was good. But I also had to honestly look at what was not good. This is how I freed myself from lies. I started over again from nothing. It was hard but I had to listen to what I knew was right. I knew that then the future would give me what suits me—what would be right for me. I knew this would give me peace. Our hearts and souls need honesty. Our work needs it. Our friendships need it. Everything good in life depends on honesty. And this way proved to be the better way.   

     One morning I went to meet a friend in a cafe for breakfast. She was really late and so I decided to go ahead and order breakfast. As I was eating, a man at the table next to me asked what I ordered as I was, it seems, eating it with such delight! From that simple conversation we became friends. We got to know each other ... well, I should say, just so. It wasn’t important to me who he was and it wasn’t important to him who I was. He was just an interesting man. Only much later I learned that he is a well-known theater producer! Some time after our first meeting he invited me out to dinner and well known actors began to come up to our table. It was then that I learned that he’s an agent for all our most famous actors who work overseas. 

     Not long after all this, the Moscow International Film Festival was starting. Now imagine this: I have no money, no work and this friend calls and says, “I don’t have a partner to walk down the red carpet with me for the opening of the film festival. Would you like to be my partner?” All our most famous actors and entertainers were there. What an unbelievable invitation! At that moment I knew that my choice to be myself had freed me to experience wonderful things. I knew that life would give me much because I freed myself from falsehood. It was such a gift. At one of the films, I met someone who suggested that I look into RIA as a place that would really suit me. The very next week he took me there to intro-duce me and soon after I became the producer for “Open Show”. It’s taken me a whole year to understand what’s happened!

Question: Zhenya, what is the hardest thing about your work?

Answer: It is very demanding. It is not just that it takes a lot of time and effort. It produces very strong emotions. The films are serious, even disturbing. They deal with poverty and the elderly, foreign adoption, mental illness, how to care for children today. They raise questions like, “Can wrong produce right?” You can’t stop thinking about the films and discussions. They are about our very lives and our future. But it’s hard to carry such emotions all the time. Also, the dicussions are with people with different backgrounds.  It’s not easy to discuss such serious topics with people who have such different views.  

Question: What do you love most about your work?

Answer: That this work is very important for society. People come to see what is never shown to them on television. They come to hear well known people talk openly about what concerns them in society. It’s rare, I think, that people are able to actually watch such an important process develop and grow in society. I love our shows and discussions, and understand the responsibility of my work. 

     I also love the fact that this is the way I’ve chosen. My life hasn’t followed the path that society says brings happiness and success. I’m not married yet and I’ve changed jobs many times. It’s not simple, but it’s so important not to be afraid to go against what society says is “success”. This is especially true for the next generation. They have so many new opportunities ahead of them. The world’s plan, or idea, of success is not the only way. There are much better things to do! The most important thing is to listen to that voice inside you and not give in to pressure from others. The world wants to speak its message through us. Society wants to use us for it’s message. But each of us was born to be ourselves. We arrived here as our own person. It’s not important who your family is, what country you’re from, what opportunities you think you have. What is important is to be true to yourself. It’s the only way to be happy. 

Question: What gives you hope?

Answer: I’m not afraid. That gives me hope. I’ve overcome my fears and I’m stronger now. I listened to myself and freed myself from dishonesty. And that’s possible for anyone. If you find yourself in a difficult situation and you don’t run away from it, you will be stronger, not weaker. 

     To do something worthwhile (that is, useful, valuable, or truly good), we have to work together. There is no other way. No one can work alone. Yet, it’s not easy to work together. But when you choose to be with people who are working to make things better, they always make you feel stronger. It’s not hard to go to them and ask for help. They never make you feel weak. It gives me hope that there are people who are working hard to do good and that we can work together.

 ©InterestEng. July 2013 - April 2022 §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff photos or used with permission.  §  To contact us: