On September 22, 2020, author, investigative journalist, filmmaker, playwright, philosopher, and a revolutionary, Andre Vltchek, died at the age 57.
He passed away in his sleep following a long car journey with his wife Rossie from Samsun to Istanbul. While some initial reports suggested that the Turkish authorities might be investigating ‘suspicious circumstances,’ it was later stated by a close colleague that Andre had been suffering from chronic health challenges and that the cause of death was a pulmonary embolism. It was an abrupt end to an incredible life.
In a world dominated by desktop journalists and plastic pundits, he was the genuine article, our man in the field – shades of Hemmingway and Steinbeck, with some Harper Lee thrown in for good measure. Andre wasn’t afraid to insert himself and situations, and sometime push a situation and people to the limit in a way that so many great writers and artists so often do, feeling (and knowing) they have the power to reform the discourse and thus, change the way people see the world. I recall during our conversations how often Andre would so lament the noticeable disappearance of the dissident intellectuals on the scene – the poets, the composers, the artists… the dreamers, those unsettled iconoclasts whose grist has fueled the flame of revolution through the ages. Those who are ready will stand up for liberty, justice and equality, and demand the restoration of dignity for a people abused by an unforgiving Hobbesian system. Politically speaking, in our increasingly homogenized and globalised 21st century political economy, they are an endangered species . No doubt, Andre was (and still is) a keeper of that flame.
In all of my years working in media and journalism, I have never known anyone who was as passionate and as driven as Andre Vltchek. He certainly wasn’t a careerist in search of mainstream acceptance and accolades from the liberal establishment. No desire for the champagne socialist circuit; the ingratiating Guardian and Frontline Club panel discussions, the TED talks, and the usual human rights NGO junkets. He wasn’t even remotely interested in that world, which was why he was shut-out by the ‘great and the good’ manning the gates of corporate mainstream media. And yet, he stands head and shoulders above them all, having visited some 140 countries, authored some 18 books, including a collaborative work with Noam Chomsky entitled On Western Terrorism, produced and directed documentaries films, wrote stage plays, as well as penned several hundred feature articles for a variety of publications worldwide. He exuded the youthful exuberance and spirit of adventure which you’d be hard-pressed to find in any journalist half his age. Beyond his sheer talent as a reporter, he was a witness of events and people, intimately involved in his research subjects, and absolutely believed that by being there, on site, on location, could somehow help to steer events towards a more positive outcome – by virtue of his telling the story which wasn’t being told, by lending his voice to the voiceless. He wrote from the heart, and was never ashamed about it. In that sense, you could say he was journalism’s one true revolutionary.
Andre always struck me as akin to that rare breed of warrior known in lore, who preferred to die with honour on the battlefield, rather than to be showered with medals and parades post factum. If you asked Andre, he would tell you he was just doing his duty as a human being. Virtues aside, who ever wants to see a colleague, friend, or comrade, fall in battle. It surely reminds us of what a relatively ephemeral ball of fire our lives really are, along with the mourning knowing that they won’t be around for the next conflagration, or to see victory in their lifetime.
Perhaps Andre never expected to see victory in his lifetime, or maybe he believed that at the end of day, all there is, is the fight. And more often than not, it’s that spirit which defines us. Not whether we won or lost, but how hard we fought, who we fought for, and why.
Such is the way of a warrior.
RIP Andre Vltcheck (1963-2020)Telling the Untold: Remembering Andre Vltchek (1963-2020)