Meet the Fellow: Dagna Gallinger

Credit: Danny Pattersen

If I had to describe Dagna in two words those would be courage and kindness. A necessary combination in journalism.

She was born in the 80s, in a Poland still agitated by the repercussions of Martial law, through which the Jaruzelski government repressed attempts at democracy and kept the monopoly of power. These effects of brutal repression and authoritarianism on the daily lives of citizens also reached Dagna’s family. Her childhood and the need of an entire generation to express itself freely, led her to the path of journalism:

“My grandparents were children of war and there was a lot you couldn’t talk about in the country. And so my parents were obsessed with getting their hands on information and instilled in me a curiosity, a love of learning and a relentless (sometimes inconsiderate) need to tell the truth. Journalism is a profession that my parents really respected. They always felt journalism had the power to set the record straight, to bring change, to hold people accountable.”

Dagna is a global citizen. When she was almost three years old, she moved with her family to Greece. On a waiting list to get into the US the program was cancelled; the family was able to find someone who helped them come to Canada as permanent residents:“Living in two different countries before the age of five forever changed me. It tore me from my communities, fractured my sense of identity and made me feel like a guest and outsider, never quite living according to privileges and customs of the places I grew up. It also enabled me over the years to question norms, reject xenophobia, hierarchical thinking and contemplate privilege.”

By university  she became involved in community radio, and very interested in topics concerning state violence, climate, and Canada’s relations with indigenous people. She started to think more about how journalism may have the power to critique systemic issues and bring about change:

“I wasn’t sure conventional media would have space, but by my internship I had the opportunity to work for “As It Happens”, a radio show that talks about the most important, strangest and delightful events happening around the world each day. I covered the Russia-Georgia war, gang violence in indigenous communities in Alberta, uncontacted tribes in Peru and I fell in love with the opportunity to be paid to explore all the things happening in the world on any given day and find the people who are involved in these events.”
In 2015  she joined the VICE Canada’s documentary unit and began exploring the world of hackers, traveling to Europe, Israel, US and Mexico for the show “Cyberwar”. (BTW I kept watching some episodes until late last night and they helped me with the jet lag. Thanks sister!)

Today Dagna is  focused on documentary storytelling for TV , online video and sometimes radio:“I’m trying to expand my understanding of potential narrative techniques and increasingly trying to tell stories in a less formal journalistic fashion. Fairness and accuracy are still deeply important to me, but I’m eager to explore how to reach larger audiences and keep improving my storytelling.”

In a conversation about our reporting plans, during the HEFAT training, Dagna told me that she didn’t want to fall into an easy narrative in her stories. She wanted to investigate thoroughly. In the days we shared in Ciudad de Mexico I recognized in her voice and in her eyes the honesty, strength, human sensitivity and the ability to face the challenges that distinguish those who, despite difficult times, have struggled to get ahead.

“Perhaps most simply put journalism for me felt like a career that might help me leave behind the poverty I grew up in, stand up for disenfranchised people and see more of the world.”

Dagna and I have visited the same places, but in different times Greece and Berlin. The Oberbaumbrücke, the bridge where she appears in the photo, is one of my favorite places in the city where I am based now. IWMF allowed us to meet and recognize each other through our experiences and our motivations as women journalists. Thanks to Adelante Initiative there will surely be another photo in Oberbaumbrücke, but this time together. 🙂

Until then go ahead with your dreams, sister!

Vanessa Castro, 2019 Adelante Honduras Fellow