Anna Kamen­skaya was an expert at this years SURPRISE FACTORS SYMPOSIUM „Where does free­dom start and where does it end?” in Gmunden.

The Interview with Anna Kamenskaya:

I think that free­dom is a very big, a very emo­tion­al and a very pow­er­ful word. As I recall from my child­hood in Moscow, it was not a word that you would hear or use every day. In fact the word “free­dom” was a hush word. The Russ­ian word for “free­dom” is “svo­bo­da.” There was a US radio sta­tion that was broad­cast­ing to Rus­sia about free­dom and the name of the radio sta­tion was “svo­bo­da.” Peo­ple would tune in under their cov­ers at night. As kids we did not know much about it but we did know that it was out there. I think that was my first mem­o­ry of freedom.

In school, I had a very empow­er­ing expe­ri­ence of how free­dom of speech could be not only a polit­i­cal pro­nounce­ment but also a very per­son­al prac­ti­cal skill. I went to a slight­ly above-theav­er­age school with an advanced Eng­lish lan­guage cur­ricu­lum. That in itself was very excit­ing – to be learn­ing the lan­guage of the for­eign coun­tries that I had no like­li­hood of going to see for myself.

„My free­dom is def­i­nite­ly root­ed in the free­dom of speech.”

We would occa­sion­al­ly have a vis­it­ing group from the Unit­ed States or the Unit­ed King­dom. As much as it was fas­ci­nat­ing for us to see peo­ple from oth­er parts of the world, it was also a daunt­ing expe­ri­ence. Most for­eign guests seemed to be very fond of ask­ing us: “Why do you nev­er smile?” “Why do all of your clothes look the same?” “Why do you always look down?”

Those ques­tions were the sure excite­ment-killers for us, as we had no skills of how to deal with them. But there was one new girl in our class. She had spent her first years of school in Cana­da because her father was a diplo­mat. When those tough ques­tions start­ed, we all low­ered our eyes and got very qui­et, but she said, “But your under­ground is dirty!” That was it! That one phrase changed every­thing for us: Our shoul­ders spread and we looked them in the eye. We had our famous metro to be proud of. But what real­ly mat­tered then was that one of us stood up and talked back with­out fear. That’s how I learned that free­dom of speech can be empow­er­ing to each indi­vid­ual with the val­ues far beyond those words.

Now I live in Hong Kong and I make my liv­ing craft­ing „words“ for „brands“. But when I grew up in Moscow there were no brands. Milk was called „milk“ and bread was called „bread“, and the stores were sim­ply named after what they were sell­ing. Back then, no one ever talked about mon­ey. What was the point? Every­one work­ing was mak­ing about the same. Now we have infa­mous oli­garchs and a vast income gap. We’ve gone from a time when it was actu­al­ly con­sid­ered uncouth to talk about mon­ey to a soci­ety where it’s all about money.
When I was grow­ing up in the Sovi­et Union, the idea of fly­ing abroad was almost like fly­ing to the moon.

If there is more free­dom these days it comes from the new tech­nol­o­gy. Tech­nol­o­gy gives you the free­dom not only to be more self-aware but also to have more self-expres­sion. But that free­dom is not equal every­where. I do a lot of work in Chi­na and being there prompts me to remem­ber not to take free­dom of speech for grantet. Before I board my plane in Hong Kong, I do my research and „like“ my friends‘ pho­tos know­ing that I would loose my access to Face­book and Google when I get off the plane in China.

In this „free­dom“ con­ver­sa­tion I referred all the time to the free­dom of speech. I have lived to believe that free­dom actu­al­ly starts with your very own per­son­al skill to be free and how you view your­self and the world around you. And in that respect, free­dom is the oppo­site of fear.

Personal data

The Russ­ian cos­mopoli­tan spent her child­hood in Moscow, where she wit­nessed Russia’s move­ment towards free­dom in the after­math of the col­lapse of the Sovi­et Union in 1991. Pri­or to mov­ing to Hong Kong in 2000, Kamen­skaya stud­ied Eng­lish and Inter­na­tion­al Busi­ness Man­age­ment & Mar­ket­ing in Moscow.

Start­ing her career, Anna Kamen­skaya worked for Pep­si­Co, then became Man­ag­ing Direc­tor at GGK MULLEN LOWE (for­mer­ly LOWE GGK) and after­wards held senior roles with oth­er glob­al mar­ket­ing agen­cies like DDB, Rapp, Proximity/ BBDO and Wun­der­man. In Jan­u­ary 2008 she found­ed her own con­sul­tan­cy and mar­ket­ing agency UP TO IT.

In 2013 she launched a project for the Sal­im Group in the Thai mar­ket called „KidZa­nia“, which intro­duces chil­dren to the real world through role-playing.