"Spiegel" journalist Takis Würger wins "Writing for CEE 2014" award

  • Award-winning report about guards of a Lenin statue in a provincial Ukrainian town
  • Honorary guest Vladimir Kaminer touches on Putin’s Ukraine policy at award ceremony

A reporter of German news magazine "Der Spiegel" has won the "Writing for CEE 2014” journalism prize. Takis Würger received the EUR 5,000 award in Vienna on Wednesday evening for a report from Illichivsk, a provincial town in southern Ukraine. Würger highlighted the divisions in the country with reference to the conflict surrounding a Lenin statue.
"Takis Würger not only delivered a text that was perfect in terms of structure, style and language", said journalist Cornelia Vospernik in her eulogy, explaining the decision on behalf of the jury, “He also did what is considered one of the most important tasks of us journalists: breaking the big picture down into comprehensible parts.”
Würger’s text begins with a rumour: armed men from western Ukraine are apparently on their way to Illichivsk to tear down the seven-metre-high gold statue of Lenin. Locals of the town at the Black Sea, such as 21-year-old Kristina, gathered together to protect the memorial. Great uncertainty surrounded the “guards of Illichivsk” at this time in early March. They quarrelled about the future of this deeply divided country.
The German journalist gave radical Ukrainian nationalists a chance to speak as well as those who are still nostalgic about Soviet times. The main Russian-speaking protagonist Kristina is neither pro-European nor completely pro-Russian. She wants to see a compromise between the east and west: for her, Lenin stands for multinational cooperation.
Takis Würger and his photographer Fabian Weiß travelled through Ukraine for roughly eight days. “Fabian and I simply spent a few days by the statue, drank a lot of tea, ate a lot of roasted bacon and froze”, explained Würger. “This is what I normally do. Just hang around and be quiet for a few days so that the people lose their fears.” After a few days they became “part of the family”.
During the research he discussed with his boss, Ullrich Fichtner, head of department, which way the story could go. “As a reporter I sometimes feel as if I am stuck in the undergrowth, so it is important and good if there is someone at home who keeps abreast of matters”, said the multiple-award-winning 29 year-old, who has been employed by “Spiegel” since he was 24 and is currently on a three-year journalistic sabbatical to study Political Philosophy at Cambridge and write a book about boxing.
Honorary guest at the award ceremony, Vladimir Kaminer, also talked about Ukraine. In a speech the German-Russian author spoke about Russia’s Ukraine policy. President Vladimir Putin has managed to turn the former “friendly nation” of Ukraine against himself because of the war, explained the author of "Russendisko" in an interview with APA.
The war has brought the previously divided Ukraine together. “The Russian president has succeeded in uniting a split country whose economy is on its knees.” Now, said Kaminer, the Ukrainians see “no alternative” but to move closer to Europe. The majority are in favour of joining NATO. Only in the two rebel provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk are there problems. But “these problems were brought by the Russians who entered the two regions”.
The annual "Writing for CEE" journalism award of APA - Austria Presse Agentur and UniCredit Bank Austria was given in 2014 for the eleventh time. The award aims to promote journalistic debate with issues of European integration. Articles are recognised that deal with Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), support mutual understanding and overcome barriers as well as prejudices. “The submissions from 21 countries clearly demonstrate that this message is being heard throughout CEE and beyond”, emphasised APA chief editor Michael Lang.
Former winners include Czech journalist Lubos Palata (2004), Bulgarian author Diana Ivanova (2005), Bosnian journalist Sefik Dautbegovic (2006), Austrian author Martin Leidenfrost (2007), radio journalist Anna Koktsidou born in Greece but who grew up in Germany (2008), Austrian investigative journalist and book author Florian Klenk (2009), Bosnian-born author Azra Nuhefendic who lives in Italy (2010), Slovenian journalist and photographer Meta Krese (2011) and Czech journalist Martin Ehl (2012). In 2013, French journalists Laurent Geslin and Sebastien Gobert received the award for a report on the EU’s external border with Ukraine.
In addition to Sebastien Gobert, prize winner from the previous year, members of the varying jury included Czech communications expert Milan Smid, communications consultant Ildiko Füredi-Kolarik, Polish journalist Pawel Bravo, Hungarian radio journalist Julia Varadi, Bulgarian journalist Ivan Bakalov, Austrian journalist Cornelia Vospernik, CEE press spokesman of UniCredit Bank Austria Tiemon Kiesenhofer, and as jury spokesperson, deputy head of APA Foreign Policy department Alexandra Demcisin.

Enquiries: Bank Austria Media Relations International
Tiemon Kiesenhofer, Tel. +43 (0) 50505 - 56036
E-mail: tiemon.kiesenhofer@unicreditgroup.at