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Kelly Writers House and Perry World House, neighbors side-by-side on Locust Walk, are now connected by a writer-in-residence program for journalists who are under threat and working in crisis conditions. Credit: Kasra Koushan

The Kelly Writers House and Perry World House launched the new collaborative annual Writer-in-Residence program by bringing in Yevgenia Albats. 

Albats visited campus in November and shared her experience as a Russian opposition journalist.

During her week-long residence, Albats spoke at events both in KWH and in Perry World House. She also conversed with students individually in Communications and Russian and East European Studies classes, Penn News reported.  

Albats is an investigative reporter and editor-in-chief of a Russian independent political weekly magazine called The New Times. She won awards, including the Golden Pen Award in 1989, the Soviet Union's most prestigious journalism honor at the time.  

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One of the classes Albats visited was a course on post-Soviet Russia. A student in that class, College sophomore Kate Byrne-Slepicka, said that Albats discussed journalism and media in Russia with a “unique perspective” that wasn’t present in the class readings. 

“I was glad that she came to the class because I thought that her info was pretty relevant,” Byrne-Slepicka said. 

Al Filreis, faculty director of KWH and Kelly Family Professor of English, said programs held with Albats drew large, standing-room audiences. 

KWH Director Jessica Lowenthal said people enjoyed hearing Albats’ tales of journalism in a country that places little value on free speech, adding that Albats even received death threats as a result of her writing. 

“People were just impressed with how bold she is,” Lowenthal said. “She just seemed like the right first guest." 

The Writer-in-Residence program chose Albats before Russia became a prominent part of the United States' daily news cycle — especially in light of the Russian probe —  but it “certainly made her visit so well-timed,” Lowenthal said. 

Filreis said the program was a great way to bring the KWH and Perry World House communities together because their “perfect intersection is journalism."

“The more people in the United States are thinking about how risky it is to be a good journalist  — an honest, truth-telling journalist — the better,” Filreis said. 

The Perry World House opened in the fall of 2016 to promote international affairs and global research.  

Lowenthal and Filreis said the program is currently looking to invite a writer for next year.  

KWH and Perry World House may be located beside each other, but they are also linked by a joint purpose.

“Our missions are about drawing people together," Lowenthal said. "So we knew that if we combined forces, we could still have this same shared mission of bringing people together."

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