Honoring Andre Vltchek: A Great Thinker, Writer, Filmmaker, Internationalist & Revolutionary
Read by Host Tiokasin Ghosthorse on September 30, 2020 edition of “First Voices Radio”
Last week on September 22, 2020, “First Voices Radio” lost a great friend named Andre Vltchek.
Andre was a Russian-born author, documentary filmmaker, philosopher, artist and anti-Imperialist investigative journalist.
Andre’s enormous outpouring of work included 50 books, many documentary films, and hundreds of articles, radio and TV appearances.
He was a fearless and informed political commentator and analyst with his finger on the pulse of what is really happening across the world.
Andre was also shunned by Western media for his anti-imperialist stance, so audiences here in the West were largely prevented from knowing his work.
We got to know Andre on “First Voices Radio” in early 2017 and from that time on, he became a frequent and generous guest, always making time to come on our show and reporting to us on the issues, and the life and death situations of the world’s forgotten, poor and oppressed peoples, including – of course, the world’s Indigenous peoples.
Andre didn’t reside in just one location. He loved to travel; and had spent considerable time in South America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the South Pacific.
We valued Andre’s global knowledge and insights, which were unlike any other because he had actually worked in the places he wrote about and filmed – a total of some 160 countries.
Despite the great distances and time zones between Andre and “First Voices Radio,” we interviewed Andre over the years in such places as Beirut, Lebanon; Malaysia; Bangkok, Thailand; Hong Kong; and Santiago, Chile.
“First Voices Radio” Co-Host Keala Kelly, who interviewed Andre earlier this year about the situation in Bolivia following President Evo Morales’ departure, said this about Andre:
“Andre was a rare journalist who saw imperialism for what it is, and didn't shy from tearing at it with books and films and articles that he seemed to manifest at will, daily. All of it. He was that prolific. He was also the last of a rare breed of person.”
Keala continues, with a story about Andre: "In East Timor where Andre was filming in 1996, the Indonesian military arrested him and hung him from the ceiling and tortured him for 24 hours. Thereafter, he could not use his left arm for one year. He was reporting on the U.S. backed Indonesian coup of 1965 in a film called “Downfall,” produced and directed by Andre. It took him 15 years to complete the film during which time he was condemned to death twice. He’s likely one of the only journalists in the world whose body is filled with battle scars via torture and/or direct closeness to battle zones.”
“People tend not to understand what it is that real journalists do, especially those who do not work for mainstream, corporate, bought and paid for media outlets. Andre was out there internationally. And among his physical ailments were the scars and disabilities that came from having the audacity to report on the genocidal history of Indonesia. In the end, however, he died. It should be said that the last years of his life were physically difficult in large part because of what was done to him. And yet, even that didn't stop him. Only death could do that.”
One of the last places where I talked to Andre, back in June, was in Santiago, Chile, where he had been “locked-down” during the first several months of the worldwide Covid-19 outbreak. He was restless, ready to get back out into the world. He was intensely interested in what was happening in the U.S. following George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis and the protests that were breaking out across the U.S., the statues that were being toppled, and how Covid-19 was affecting the country. He was planning a trip to the U.S. in July, which he was able to, finally, make happen.
Here is what Andre said about his U.S. travels and what he heard, as he was talking to people – regular people and not officials:
“I have just spent two weeks in the United States, analyzing the profound crises of U.S. society. I visited Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, New York, and Boston. I spoke to many people in all those places. What I witnessed was confusion and total ignorance about the rest of the world. The United States, a country which has been brutalizing our planet for decades, is absolutely unable to see itself in the context of the entire world. People, including those from the media, are outrageously ignorant and provincial. And they are selfish. I asked many times: “Do Black lives matter all over the world? Do they matter in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and do they matter in West Papua?” I swear, I received no coherent answer. Somebody has to tell them… Somebody has to force them to open their eyes.”
Throughout, Andre always championed the causes of Indigenous peoples. He was knowledgeable and spoke out widely about Native peoples across Turtle Island.
In fact, during one of his last interviews for a national Turkish television station, days before he died, he talked about the genocidal history of Native peoples in the U.S.
Andre was a true friend who carried our stories and struggles out to the world.
When the news came out last week about Andre’s death in Istanbul, it was immediately described as “suspicious” and under investigation by Turkish police.
The truth is that Andre had been experiencing serious health issues for some time, and died in his sleep next to Rossie, his wife, as they were traveling by car to Istanbul.
I’d like to close with some of Andre’s words that aired in January of this year on “Be My Guest,” a Hong Kong talk show:
“Look, the worst thing that can happen to you is that you’ll die.
I’m 56, and I’ve lived maybe 15 or 20 lifetimes already.
And I enjoy my life tremendously!
So I would love to be here until I’m 90 or something...
But I’m not going to sit down and shut up.
I love this struggle!
My eye got injured in Borneo and I couldn’t see for 3 days.
Now I see, but I already began working.
Because if I sit down and do nothing I feel guilty.
I feel horrible.
Because it’s a responsibility.
Actually Che Guevara and the Cuban revolutionaries knew perfectly well what it is.
They said, if you work for the revolution, if you struggle for the people, it should not be worn as some kind of a medal.
It is just duty you are performing.
It’s nothing else.
I’m a Communist but modern-day’s communist!
I’m not afraid to die.
I’m not afraid to get injured.
If I describe what is happening in the world.
I am protecting in many ways millions of people.
And I have to do it.
Because if I don’t, I would not be able to face the mirror in the morning.
It’s as simple as that.”
Farewell, Andre, RIP. You opened many eyes and ears to the truth. We will always be grateful for your voice and contributions.