“Step into the unknown? What are you talking about?” asks Volodymyr Noskov, a reporter for RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, Radio Svoboda. “They did not have to kick me out of the plane,” he says of a recent skydiving trip. “I did it myself.”
Known around the office as an enthusiast for the outdoors, 30-year-old Noskov, who lost his eyesight during childhood, has worked for RFE/RL since 2009. Based in Kharkiv, Noskov frequently covers news related to Yulia Tymoshenko but he does not consider himself a political journalist. “Talking to politicians wears me out,“ shares Noskov. “No matter what I report, I am always looking for the human angle in the news.”
Noskov’s articles on social issues
or articles related to people with disabilities
stand out. “Somehow, he can put himself in other people’s shoes
and report that feeling,” says Radio Svoboda broadcaster Maryana Drach. Noskov’s colleagues agree that he has a special gift to empathize with others. “I go from the inside to the outside,” Noskov says, discussing his writing approach. “I want to understand who these people are before I ask them what they do.”
To achieve that kind of proximity, Noskov avoids cliche questions and focuses on his subjects' individuality. He prefers feature writing that enables him to illustrate a person's complete profile. “I put human perspective in the center of every story,” he says.
Volodymyr explains that he does not want to put his disability forward. “My blindness is not an obstacle for my professional career," the radio broadcaster says. "I don’t want any undeserved favors. I need to get fair comments and criticism from my colleagues to grow professionally. I want to be treated equally to everyone else.”
Noskov pitches a tent in the woods in Ukraine's Ternopil region.
When speaking, Noskov exudes a heartfelt optimism and inspiring joie de vivre. He takes the challenges that come with working as a journalist while blind -- having to use special voice software to navigate online, for instance -- in stride, though he notes that blind people in Ukraine face a shortage of up-to-date life tools. "I have to get my advanced blind cane, watch, products and other accessories from abroad,” he says.
Still, he has opportunities to stretch his legs: in 2009, Noskov took part in an event called “The Sky For Free,” when Noskov joined a group of other blind daredevils on Ukrainian Independence Day to skydive from a height of 600 meters. “Those 25 seconds in the air felt like eternity," he says. "I sang the Ukrainian national anthem.”
The same year, Noskov participated in a hiking trip to a cave with a group consisting of both blind and non-sight-impaired people. Home to the longest cave in the world, Ukraine's unique cave systems are well known among speleologists. Spending a day and a half together in the cave, the group's seeing members and blind members were all left in the dark. “It was so exciting!” Noskov recalls. “We taught our seeing partners how to exist in this -- for them rare -- environment by using different senses to navigate themselves through space.”
When he was a young boy, Noskov dreamt of becoming an actor or director. When he realized that he could not pursue these dreams with his visual impairment, he decided to work at a radio station. “It is the only medium that gives me a chance to achieve my dreams. [Radio] is an art form, it is a school for intellectuals and I want it to keep this radio culture alive.”
-- Kristyna Dzmuranova and Larisa Balanovskaya