Evan Gershkovich marks one year imprisoned in Russia as friends can only wait for 'nightmare' to end

Friend says 1-year mark should 'sharpen people's minds' on devastating situation for Wall Street Journal reporter

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich only ever wanted to do his job and stay out of the spotlight. 

Now internationally famous as a political prisoner of Russia for exactly one year on dubious espionage charges, he's won admirers worldwide for his strength of spirit, as his family, friends and colleagues remain devastated by his plight.

"It’s been a nightmare for us. One year is such a long period that Evan has been in jail," his close friend Pjotr Sauer, a reporter at The Guardian, told Fox News Digital. "We all know these charges are completely bogus and we hope the White House will do everything it can."

The 32-year-old Gershkovich has missed a full year of holidays, birthdays, family moments and journalism as he sits in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison, only emerging for occasional token court appearances.


Polina Ivanova, another close friend of Gershkovich who works for the Financial Times, said the one-year mark feels "completely surreal."

Evan Gershkovich

The Wall Street Journal has arranged numerous events in an effort to raise awareness for Evan Gershkovich. (WSJ)

"That's 365 days that I've spent doing my job, being with friends, being with family, traveling, seeing the world, and 365 days that Evan has spent waking up every morning to the same set of gray walls, to the same routine, to the same schedule, to the same lack of basically anything vibrant or meaningful in his life, and that's horrifying and devastating," Ivanova told Fox News Digital. 

The Wall Street Journal has arranged numerous events in an effort to raise awareness of his situation. The paper coordinated a global social storm for the morning of the difficult 1-year mark, encouraging supporters to get involved. He began working for the newspaper in 2022 after stops at several other major outlets, including the New York Times and Moscow Times. 

"We are trying to raise even more visibility to his plight. So, we will have a big social media push with the hashtag #IStandWithEvan and we'd be grateful if anybody that felt so inclined would jump in and amplify that," longtime Wall Street Journal editor Paul Beckett, who pivoted from overseeing the Washington bureau to focusing solely on securing the release of Gershkovich, told Fox News Digital. 

The WSJ is asking colleagues and supporters to organize photos that can be shared in coordination with the social media storm and offered printouts featuring #IStandWithEvan. Supporters can also download a variety of social cards to display across Instagram, Facebook, X, and LinkedIn, with custom images designed to meet each platform’s specific dimensions. 


Gershkovich, the American-born son of Soviet immigrants, was detained on March 29, 2023, during a reporting trip in Yekaterinburg, the fourth-largest city in Russia, and accused of being a spy. He was accredited by Russia's Foreign Ministry to report in the country when he was arrested.

The U.S. government and Wall Street Journal have said that Russia's allegation is absurd, as have his friends and colleagues. On Tuesday, a closed Russian court once again extended the detention and Gershkovich will remain in custody until at least June 30. 

He's the first American journalist to be arrested on spying allegations since the Cold War, underscoring the rock-bottom relations between the U.S. and Russia. In the past year, Gershkovich has been on the cover of TIME Magazine and mentioned in the State of the Union address by President Biden. But he's never desired fame, friends say, and certainly not under these tragic circumstances.

Sauer is proud that Gershkovich has remained strong despite spending 365 days in Lefortovo, the site of many executions during the Great Purge under dictator Joseph Stalin. One Russian journalist who was interrogated there repeatedly before fleeing the country in 2020 told Fox News Digital it is designed to isolate and psychologically wear down its inmates.

"He’s not broken, they haven’t broken him, he keeps his hopes up, he both physically and mentally is in good spirits, so that’s incredibly inspiring to see," Sauer said. 

"He reads a lot, he keeps his mind busy, he plays chess with his father over letters. He keeps curious. He wants to know how I’m doing, how his friends are doing, [he’s] able to send gifts whenever someone has a birthday, he’s very thoughtful in sending flowers through friends," Sauer added. "He made sure I got my letter on my birthday from him. He wants to still be part of our daily lives, and he’s frankly curious. He reads articles we send him about current affairs." 

Evan Gershkovich

American Evan Gershkovich has been detained by Russia on dubious espionage charges for exactly one year on Friday. (WSJ)

Another friend, journalist Masha Borzunova, said she's aware any correspondence she has with Evan goes through Russian censorship, but she still tries to show him he's not alone. She also noted that he has remembered special events in friends' lives even during his ordeal.

"This is Evan: sometimes I feel that he takes care of me even now when he's in prison," she told Fox News Digital. "And I try to take care of him. Going through this I feel that we've become even closer."


Borzunova, who was forced to flee the country in 2022 because of possible arrest due to reports on Russian propaganda, said Evan knew the dangers of practicing journalism in Vladimir Putin's Russia and did it anyway.

"He really understands Russia, and I saw how important it was for him to tell a true story," she wrote in a message, adding he simply put too much faith in his accreditation to protect him. "Now we see that we were wrong: nothing can protect you in a country where authorities try to hide the real situation and journalism is almost banned. Evan is in prison only for doing his job."

Sauer has deep admiration for Evan’s parents, Mikhail Gershkovich and Ella Milman, who have been publicly advocating for his release. Gershkovich's fascination with Russian culture and desire to cover the country stemmed from his background, adding a cruel irony to being imprisoned by a nation he loved. 

"They left the Soviet Union and now their son is in jail in Russia, which is an incredibly difficult situation for them," Sauer said.

Ivanova said the somber anniversary is something Gershkovich’s friends are still trying to wrap their heads around. Some of his friends in Europe will gather in Berlin this weekend to toast him, while his New York City pals have similar plans. 

Ivanova said the 1-year mark of being wrongly detained by Russia should "sharpen people's minds and focus minds on the need to secure Evan's release."

"I hope that it will make them stop and think about what they've done in the past 365 days, all the life that has been lived in that time, and just how important it is to get Evan out as soon as possible, and that every single day that we add to that counter is just a day he hasn't been with his friends, a day he hasn't been with his family," Ivanova said. 

"It is a date that is important not just because it's a year," she continued. "I really hope that people stop and think what that means in terms of their own lives and try and imagine having lost that whole year of time, because they're being kept hostage by the Russian state."

The WSJ hosted a 24-hour read-a-thon for Gershkovich earlier this week in which colleagues, friends and loved ones gathered in New York City and London to read his work. On Wednesday, the paper arranged a global "Run for Evan" event and a similar "Swim for Evan" event took place last week. 

Gershkovich has appeared remarkably upbeat, often even smiling, when seen in a glass cage used to enclose him during court appearances. 


Evan Gershkovich appears in Moscow court

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich’s friends and family are working to keep his story at the forefront. (Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)


Evan Gershkovich and Jeremy Berke. (Berke)

Jeremy Berke met Gershkovich roughly 15 years ago at Bowdoin College and developed a lasting friendship. They ended up living together as roommates in New York City for nearly two years after college, and Berke is part of a close-knit group that has worked to keep a spotlight on Gershkovich’s story. He feels the notion that Gershkovich could be some sort of spy is "ridiculous," but said he was aware of risks associated with covering Putin’s regime. 

"Evan is an incredible person. He is the most gregarious, extroverted person I know… being in isolation, being in a notorious prison, notorious for the conditions in which inmates are treated. If anyone can handle that, and sort of retain their sanity throughout the process, it's Evan," Berke told Fox News Digital.

"He wasn't naive to the risk that he put himself in in order to do his job. So, you know, I think on some level, he may have been prepared for this," Berke continued. "All that being said, it's been going on for far too long, and I think his mental state, his ability to crack a smile is through sheer force of will and effort on his part, because he's been held in horrendous conditions for a year." 


Gershkovich dressed in black in Moscow court box

FOX Nation's "Prisoner of Putin" provides an in-depth look into Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich’s life and resilience while detained in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison on charges that Wall Street Journal and the U.S. government vehemently deny.  (NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images)

Gershkovich’s buddies have spent a lot of time thinking about the first thing he’ll want to do once he comes home. 

Gershkovich is a passionate fan of the New York Mets and even had a mosaic of the team he made for a middle school art project proudly displayed in their Crown Heights apartment. Berke and others have tried to keep Gershkovich informed of all-things Mets through letters.

"I think he’s going to be around all his friends, he’s going to want a cold beer, and I think he’s going to want to go to a Mets game and just be home in New York with his friends and just celebrate life in ways that he was not able to during detention," Berke said. 

Anyone interested in learning more about Gershkovich can visit WSJ.com/evan and FreeGershkovich.com.

FOX Nation recently debuted a new special "Prisoner of Putin" that details Gershkovich’s arrest and detainment in Russia.

Grim milestone approaches for Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich

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