Between the lines with Andrew Waller
Thursday 7 February 2019
Kindness - in our Soviet days we might have called it comradeliness - was the essence of Andrew’s personality, as Julian Nundy has said in another post. When I arrived in Moscow in 1965 as the bureau’s journalistically untried third correspondent, he steered me through the first difficult weeks with friendly, and never condescending, guidance on how to operate in Soviet surroundings and in an office where he and chief correspondent Sidney Weiland in just over a year together had created what London deskers had dubbed Reuters’ “Gold Star” bureau. “That’s quite a team you’re going to join, laddie,” were my parting words from editor Doon Campbell.
Andrew was, as far as the constricting Soviet rules allowed, a fine reporter, like the sometimes irascible Sidney, whom he regarded as his mentor and friend - as did I in time. But Andrew, with a serenity that was difficult to match, was masterful at handling Sidney’s occasional explosions over some infelicity we had allowed to slip into our stories.
Andrew also introduced me to the fine art of “between the lines” reporting of the Soviet Union - interpreting what was really being said in, or left out from, a propagandistically verbose Pravda editorial or Kremlin speech. He also taught me to “look for the ‘Odnako’” - how to skim through a jargon-laden article full of praise for some or other aspect of Soviet communist society, to find the real news story which was usually preceded by that Russian word for “however”.
His outgoing personality, and his fine-honed Russian, captivated our Soviet translators - Alla, Lena and Robert. Secretly, I think the two ladies, who unfailingly called him “Andryusha” - the Russian endearing diminutive of his name - were somewhat in love with him. He kept in touch with them for decades after he finally left Moscow behind.
For me, those days with Andrew and Sidney are among the most memorable of my own Reuter career. And very much thanks to Andrew. ■