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Evan Gershkovich awaits trial in Russia, but his family finds hope in his letters

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It has now been more than six months since Evan Gershkovich was arrested in Russia while reporting for The Wall Street Journal. He is detained at Moscow's Lefortovo Prison, where he will remain until at least the end of November as he awaits trial on charges of espionage. Gershkovich denies those charges, and the U.S. says he is being wrongfully detained. In the meantime, he communicates with his family here in the U.S. by way of handwritten letters. And his sister is with me now, Danielle Gershkovich, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

DANIELLE GERSHKOVICH: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

KELLY: When did you last have contact from him?

GERSHKOVICH: I got a letter from him last week, and I'm hoping to get a letter from him either today or tomorrow.

KELLY: So you're hoping to hear from him kind of weekly. Is that the schedule that's developed?

GERSHKOVICH: Yes.

KELLY: How's he doing?

GERSHKOVICH: He's so strong. I'm so proud of him. I know a big part of how he's staying so strong is he's keeping very busy. He's exercising. He's meditating a lot. He's writing. He's - oh, sorry. I'm stumbling a little bit.

KELLY: That's fine. Take your time.

GERSHKOVICH: Thank you.

KELLY: I hear he complains about the food - the prison food.

GERSHKOVICH: Yeah, I think we joked about the coffee. But I know that he's being fed well. He's eating well.

KELLY: I'm sure he knows how worried you all are. I'm sure he's not wanting to add to that, but can you tell he's keeping his spirits up?

GERSHKOVICH: Yes. It's amazing how good his sense of humor is. We currently have a joke going back and forth about this framed photo of him. And I'm joking about where I should put it in the apartment, and he recently suggested, put it directly in front of the TV so you can see his face.

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: I love that, the sibling sense of humor and the inside jokes that are probably not funny to anyone else, but that will keep you all going. Yeah.

GERSHKOVICH: Yeah. I'm his older sister, so, you know, I have to keep him humble.

KELLY: You will have been watching - there was, of course, the high-profile case of American Brittney Griner, who was detained, imprisoned in Russia and is now home. I was thinking of you and your family. Very different situation, but when the Americans who have been imprisoned in Iran came home a few weeks ago - and I wondered, as you watched that, what was going through your mind?

GERSHKOVICH: I'm so happy. I'm so happy for them that they get to be home and reunited with their families. It definitely gives me hope. We just want all Americans who are detained abroad to be home and reunited with their families.

KELLY: Yeah. Without wanting to pry for any details that you are not able to go into publicly, are you and your family getting the support you need from the U.S. government, I suppose, in particular?

GERSHKOVICH: Well, the job's not done until Evan is home. But President Biden and Secretary Blinken did promise our family that they're going to do everything they can to get Evan home.

KELLY: Yeah. I have watched as you and your family have given interviews like this about Evan, and I can't imagine how difficult it is. But I have been struck repeatedly by you and your parents' optimism. And so I'll follow your lead here. And my last question is, what's the first thing you are going to say or do when you see your brother again?

GERSHKOVICH: I'm going to hug him so tight he can't breathe. I've - I try not to think about that day too much and get my hopes up too much, because it's a marathon. And at six months, I'm only now realizing how I need to pace myself. But, yeah, I'm going to give him a really big hug. Thought maybe a little noogie or something.

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: Your prerogative is as the older sister.

GERSHKOVICH: Yeah. And then we've joked that, you know, he's meditating so much in prison that he'll spend a day or two with us, and we'll destroy his peace immediately.

KELLY: (Laughter) Yeah, straight back to the sibling bickering.

GERSHKOVICH: Yes.

KELLY: I will look forward to that day along with you, and I thank you so much for taking the time to talk.

GERSHKOVICH: Thank you so much.

KELLY: That's Danielle Gershkovich, the sister of detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is currently awaiting trial in Russia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Megan Lim
Christopher Intagliata is an editor at All Things Considered, where he writes news and edits interviews with politicians, musicians, restaurant owners, scientists and many of the other voices heard on the air.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.