Younger Pol­ish AEGEE mem­bers know Arleta Bojke as TV anchor or cor­re­spon­dent in Rus­sia; old­er ones from all over Europe remem­ber her vivid­ly from her time in AEGEE – for exam­ple as Chief Edi­tor of the Key to Europe or train­er at sev­er­al Acad­e­my events. Now the AEGEE-Poz­nan alum­na has pub­lished a book about Putin.

GT: Arleta, con­grat­u­la­tions on pub­lish­ing your book on Putin! Are you hap­py that this work is final­ly done? You worked quite some time on it…
Arleta Bojke: Thank you very much. Yes, I’ve been work­ing on it for more than a year. It should have been ready ear­li­er but my per­son­al life and the birth of my son pushed it away in time a bit. I’m real­ly hap­py it’s final­ly print­ed. It was real­ly lots of work, lots of sleep­less nights and hun­dreds hours of writ­ing. The­o­ret­i­cal­ly it was ready in August but it appeared there was still much to do. Cor­rec­tions, pho­tos and more. It took me and my edi­tors addi­tion­al few months to have it print­ed. But it hap­pened. I feel hap­py and proud.

GT: How long did it actu­al­ly take you to write the text?
Arleta Bojke: Pure­ly writ­ing took me a bit more than a year, but I had a big break in between. If I count only the time when I was real­ly work­ing on it at least three evenings or nights a week, it was about sev­en months.

GT: Is it your first book?
Arleta Bojke: Yes, and I would have prob­a­bly nev­er writ­ten it if it hadn’t been for my col­leagues, who were urg­ing me, peo­ple on var­i­ous meet­ings who were ask­ing me about a book and final­ly a pub­lish­ing house who called me and offered they will pub­lish my book, which they sug­gest­ed I should write. It was not real­ly my own ini­tia­tive.

GT: There are not so many authen­tic books about Putin since he shields his pri­vate life. What is the book about and what insight can you give us that is new?
Arleta Bojke: It’s not real­ly a book about Putin as such. More about his pol­i­tics. The title is “Vladimir Putin. An inter­view, which hasn’t hap­pened”. Prob­a­bly it sounds bet­ter in Pol­ish because I play with words: “Władimir Putin. Wywiad, którego nie było”. There are ten chap­ters. Each of them starts with a hypo­thet­ic ques­tion to Putin. Lat­er I write main­ly about my own expe­ri­ences from work­ing in Crimea in the first day of its annex­a­tion to Rus­sia, from Don­bas when the war start­ed and from a few years liv­ing in Rus­sia. It is def­i­nite­ly non-fic­tion. When I for exam­ple write what peo­ple in Donet­sk told me when they were tak­ing over build­ings of local author­i­ties, I didn’t write what I remem­ber. I was lis­ten­ing to every­thing we record­ed there once again and trans­lat­ing it lit­er­al­ly. Most of these records have nev­er been pub­lished because I work in news. I make sto­ries of two or three min­utes and a lot of what I see stays behind the cam­era. I wrote down much of that.

GT: You worked as TV cor­re­spon­dent in Rus­sia for Pol­ish tele­vi­sion. When did you start and fin­ish work­ing in Rus­sia and what are the strongest impres­sions of that time?
Arleta Bojke: I worked in Rus­sia from 12th of May 2010 till 31st of Decem­ber 2013. I have tons of strong impres­sions. In my first year I was main­ly report­ing about the case of the Smolen­sk cat­a­stro­phe, where the Pol­ish pres­i­dent and 95 oth­er politi­cians, gen­er­als and impor­tant offi­cials died. I spent lots of time cov­er­ing anti-Putin demon­stra­tions, which start­ed in Decem­ber 2011. I loved trav­el­ing around Rus­sia. Siberia for exam­ple is so beau­ti­ful and peo­ple are so open there that I was always wait­ing for an oppor­tu­ni­ty to see a “dif­fer­ent Rus­sia”. I will nev­er for­get when I want­ed to go to Yaku­tia in Jan­u­ary – a time when it was -60 degrees Cel­sius. Local author­i­ties told me on the phone that the cam­era will be work­ing for max­i­mum three min­utes and the bat­tery will be off in such con­di­tions. We went at the begin­ning of March. It was minus 25 degrees and every­one was telling us that was almost sum­mer already!

Arleta Bojke with Putin choco­late

GT: Rus­sia turned into an autoc­ra­cy under Putin log ago. Did you per­ceive any major change of the coun­try or was it all done before?
Arleta Bojke: It changed after Crimea’s annex­a­tion and the West­ern sanc­tions. Peo­ple are told on TV that the West is respon­si­ble for the fact that they have a more dif­fi­cult life. There­fore the atti­tude to peo­ple from abroad got worse. We expe­ri­ence that a lot as Pol­ish jour­nal­ists. You can feel it even on such a basic lev­el as bureau­cra­cy, which has always been ter­ri­ble but now for West­ern­ers it is twice as painful and time-con­sum­ing as four years ago. Because of the eco­nom­ic prob­lems Rus­sians also trav­el less and it also influ­ences their atti­tude. They see less how it real­ly is in the EU and they believe offi­cial pro­pa­gan­da.

GT: How do you explain the fact that Putin is so pop­u­lar despite being an auto­crat­ic ruler?
Arleta Bojke: Many Rus­sians in fact expect him to be so. They believe that democ­ra­cy as we see it in the EU is not a good solu­tion for Rus­sia. These who remem­ber the 90s, describe it as a real­ly ter­ri­ble chaos and pover­ty. Putin brought them order, mon­ey on time and they remem­ber that. Anoth­er thing is that for many Rus­sians hav­ing a nice house with toi­let inside – which is not often the case in vil­lages – is not so impor­tant as the fact that the whole world is afraid of Rus­sia again, respects it and con­sid­er it a key play­er. Putin gave them that — a sense of being the world’s super­pow­er.

Arleta at work

GT: Do you have any hope that Rus­sia might become a real democ­ra­cy one day?
Arleta: I have nev­er been think­ing about it as a hope. I hope that Rus­sia will always be pre­dictable and stop­pable. Democ­ra­cy? Maybe there will be more free­dom, but I can­not imag­ine Rus­sia being ruled as Switzer­land for exam­ple.

GT: Pop­ulism has spread all over Europe in the past decade. Also in your coun­try Poland. And now also in the USA. Are you actu­al­ly afraid for the future of Europe and the world?
Arleta: Yes, I am. The world is becom­ing less pre­dictable and that makes us feel less safe. I am afraid not only of pop­ulism. I am also afraid of the ongo­ing war with ISIS and repeat­ed ter­ror­ist attacks in all Europe. To be hon­est I feel we are liv­ing in a time when Europe is going more towards firm-hand lead­er­ship and prob­a­bly we need years to reverse it.

Arleta in 2015, win­ning the award “Jour­nal­ist of the year 2014”

GT: Let’s talk about your time in AEGEE. What was your anten­na, when and how did you join the asso­ci­a­tion? Is there a fun­ny sto­ry about it?
Arleta: I am from AEGEE-Poz­nań – and there is noth­ing fun­ny about how I joined I’m afraid. When I was start­ing study­ing, I want­ed to work for a stu­dents’ orga­ni­za­tion. I read about AEGEE in a book­let we received and went to the meet­ing. That’s it!

GT: You are best remem­bered for mak­ing great AEGEE pub­li­ca­tions. You made the Key to Europe twice and also the News­Bul­letin. What are your best mem­o­ries of this time?
Arleta: It was a beau­ti­ful time. Even sleep­less nights were fun. Some peo­ple hat­ed me when I asked them to cor­rect an arti­cle for the third time but we were all proud in the end. My AEGEE time is some­thing I often recall. I made great friends from all over the Europe, went hitch-hik­ing, worked a lot and par­tied a lot. Friends from my uni­ver­si­ty were always sur­prised when they saw me in lec­tures because I was spend­ing more time on AEGEE than on study­ing actu­al­ly.

Ori­gins of Arleta: at Ago­ra Tori­no in 2004, togeth­er with fel­low AEGEE leg­ends Gosia Kruszy­na (left) and Tine Schkoz (néé Bad­er)

GT: In what way did mak­ing these pub­li­ca­tions help you in your career?
Arleta: It helped me because I had an expe­ri­ence in project man­age­ment, in deal­ing with dif­fer­ent peo­ple, with stress, with unex­pect­ed sit­u­a­tions. It was a jour­nal­is­tic expe­ri­ence which always counts. When I show these pub­li­ca­tions to my col­leagues, they are always sur­prised that I did such pro­fes­sion­al pub­li­ca­tions dur­ing my uni­ver­si­ty time.

GT: What else did you do on Euro­pean lev­el?
Arleta: I was a train­er on Pub­lic Rela­tions Euro­pean Schools and man­ag­er of the PRES2 in Kraków in 2009. I also worked for AEGEE TV a bit. I was PR Respon­si­ble of Shoot­ing Europe, a short film fes­ti­val in Karl­sruhe in 2005. In was also in the board of Inter­na­tion­al Pol­i­tics Work­ing Group, organ­ised obser­va­tion mis­sion to the Alban­ian elec­tions and gave work­shops dur­ing Ago­ras.

Arleta in the gym of Ago­ra Napoli 2006

GT: How active were you on local lev­el?
Arleta: I was quite active on local lev­el as well. I was one of the main orga­niz­ers of two con­fer­ences and PR Respon­si­ble of a Reg­Met in Poz­nan. I was also train­er on the local lev­el.

GT: When did you quit AEGEE?
Arleta: Hmmm… It was a process rather than a deci­sion. When I start­ed work­ing, there was unfor­tu­nate­ly less and less time for AEGEE. It was around 2010.

GT: Are you still in con­tact with AEGEE some­times?
Arleta: I am in con­tact with peo­ple who were active mem­bers at my time. Lots of them are still impor­tant peo­ple in my life.

One of two Keys by Arleta

GT: What are you doing now as next job, after fin­ish­ing the book?
Arleta: I still work in Pol­ish Tele­vi­sion. Now a bit less as a reporter, more as an anchor. But I love trav­el­ing and I’m sure I will come back to this kind of work when my fam­i­ly life will allow me!

GT: How can inter­est­ed peo­ple buy your book?
Arleta: Oh, it can be bought via Inter­net or in a book­store. I’m sure, Pol­ish speak­ing peo­ple won’t have prob­lems.

GT: Will there also be a trans­la­tion soon?
Arleta: Hmmm… Would be great if it was so good to deserve a trans­la­tion but I don’t think so high of myself as a writer. It’s still my first book…

GT: Any­thing you would like to add?
Arleta: It’s so great to see even old friends are inter­est­ed in what you do. The sup­port I received after pub­lish­ing an infor­ma­tion about the book on Face­book was some­thing real­ly mov­ing for me.

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