Russia won’t let me go. I became fascinated by Russia as a boy when my parents gave me a 700-page book of Russian fairy-tales one Christmas. The fact the Soviet Union was closed, far away and America’s mortal enemy added to the country’s mystique. I devoured every book on Russia I could get my hands on. When I went to college, I started studying Russian.
What continues to intrigue me is that no matter how close I get to Russia and Russians, I always end up feeling like a foreigner. Despite all the western influence, Russia preserves its distinctiveness, belonging to neither Europe nor Asia. For me, it remains the most rewarding place to work as a journalist.
For decades, the principals at a boxy, two-story kindergarten in downtown Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, unwittingly pored over their lesson plans just a few feet above one of the city’s most sacred sites.
Based in Berlin and Moscow, I’ve reported from the former Soviet empire since 1996. I started working as National Public Radio’s Moscow correspondent in December 2016. Before that I contributed to Reuters, Slate, Bloomberg and The Moscow Times, among others.