Aleksander Levin, Co-chair of the EHRA Steering Committee: “Public officials who define the drug policy wear cardboard crowns from the Burger King and think that they rule the world. In the old tale, just one phrase of a small boy about the emperor with no clothes was enough for everybody to wake up”.

EHRA presents a series of interviews with people whose names and roles in harm reduction are well known in the CEECA region and beyond. They will share the best that they have with us: their experience, ideas and memories.

Aleksander (Sasha) Levin is a Co-chair of the Steering Committee of the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA), Specialist on Drug Policy & Information Officer at the Eurasian Network of People Who Use Drugs (ENPUD) and DUNews team member. He graduated from the Journalism Department of the Moscow State University. After graduation, he worked as a journalist in Russian mass media for over a decade. He has been involved in harm reduction since 2002. He held workshops and implemented informational activities in international and Russian CSOs, including the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network (now the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association), Russian Harm Reduction Network, UNAIDS, etc. In 2007, Sasha started working on awareness raising and advocacy in a Russian self-organization of drug users called Kolodets. In 2007–2008, he guided the development and drafting of the manifesto of drug users from the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia “Nothing for us without us”. He also worked in Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice (ARF) as an outreach worker in Harm Reduction Moscow project. For five years, he was a school social psychologist. In 2017, he returned into harm reduction and became a member of the ENPUD Secretariat.

– Sasha, you came into harm reduction after ten years of working in mass media. How did it happen and why?

– Firstly, there is no past. You cannot touch the past, put it in your wardrobe or take it to the dry cleaner’s. There is only a track of the past in our memory, in the memories of other people, in videos and photos, etc. However, there is no past on its own.

– Okay. So…

– Secondly, there is always a million ways to explain the turning points in our lives, and they are all basically right. They are like outfits, which one can put on depending on the occasion and situation. I will repeat again that all those ways are right. Provided that you do not have a goal to lie in order to sugarcoat your life or trick someone. There is no one line in life. It is not a train from a kids’ cartoon, which strictly follows its pre-determined route to get from point A to point B, with various stories happening with it on its way. Everything is much more complicated. Our life consists of many coincidences in each particular point and is basically a chain of events not related to each other, which finally define the fate of an individual.

– Could you maybe give an example?

– Let’s talk about the love at first sight. Do you believe in it?

– Let’s assume that I do. Don’t you?

– Sure, it exists, but people call it this way to make things easy. In fact, the first sight depends on your mood in this particular moment, in this part of the day, on how far you see, on whether you have a partner, on what you have eaten and drunk, on your body temperature and heart rhythm, on the music playing in your earphones and so on. For instance, you will hardly fall in love listening to a song commemorating the Great Patriotic War, but if you are listening to You’re My Heart, You’re My Soul by Modern Talking – the chances are pretty high. So if one element is missing, there magic will be gone and your life will take a different turn.