The "holiday" of the military journalist has been celebrated in Ukraine since 2018. In reality, it’s not a holiday at all. We remember eight years ago – on Feb. 16, 2015, when we heard that military journalist Dmytro Labutkin died near Debaltseve in Donetsk region. Since the full-scale invasion, the number of dead and wounded military journalists has grown and, according to the Institute of Mass Journalism, the total currently extends into the dozens.
I am truly proud to call myself a war correspondent. And I sincerely sympathize with each of the victims and their families.
A desire to be the world’s eyes
The war in Ukraine started when I turned 14. I’m talking about the first invasion of Ukraine in 2014, during which Russia first took our territories and killed our people. I was angry that the world was silent back then. Sometimes – but very rarely – foreign media would present stories from the Ukrainian front line.
The scariest moment for me probably happened in August 2014 – the Battle of Ilovaisk. I cried for several hours on the floor in front of the TV. Almost 400 dead Ukrainian soldiers. It was at this moment that I knew what I wanted to do most was to show the war so the whole world could see it with open eyes. I already understood by that point that one can’t keep silent about war.
However, it would be another eight years until I became a war correspondent – and after the start of the full-scale invasion which began on Feb. 24, 2022. I watched hundreds of videos, went through dozens of training sessions, and when I came under the first shelling, I stood numb, not knowing what to do. But this is normal, so they say.
On the Belarusian border
In March and April this year, I worked in the Kyiv region. I cannot possibly convey in words what I saw, what I felt and how I lived in general – especially when I returned to my empty apartment. So, I won't even try.
My most recent business trips were to the Ukrainian-Belarusian border. At present, the situation there is calm, but our defenders are ready to engage the enemy if needed. When I was there, we saw the work of sappers. They activated an anti-tank mine in front of my eyes.
Sometimes, it seems to me that I have already seen so much this year that my children will call me Baron Munchausen in the future, listening to their mother's stories. As for what lies ahead – no one knows.
The front line in Donbas
If we talk about the combat zone, the last time I was in Donbas was on New Year's Eve. Together with the gunners, we celebrated and greeted the enemy with a volley of fire. Then, I saw for the first time how artillery works. Of course, we didn't have to wait long for the Russian response, as enemy shells flew towards us. At that moment, in a state of adrenaline, I did not feel fear. Moreover, this was far from the first artillery shelling I had experienced in my life. The first was back in September in Nikopol. Then, the Russians shelled a peaceful town from the territory of Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
There were times when I mentally said goodbye to life. I cried and I felt so much anger. But every time I returned to Kyiv, I immediately wanted to go back to where the war is. It's like a drug – you try it once and you want more. When I tell my friends about it, they look at me with wide eyed confusion. But I know for sure that any military journalist will understand me. We understand the responsibility. And we cannot betray our purpose.
At first, it seemed to me that the scariest thing was to look into the lens and see roads on which shells lie every hundred meters. These became roads on which people lay and adjacent to where mass graves would be excavated.
It was hard sometimes to communicate with other people, to listen to their thoughts and emotions and write their story. The scariest thing is to know that the territory where I met the new year is now occupied and how much blood of our Heroes was spilled there. The absolute worst thing is to look into the eyes of those who are waiting for their loved ones and still not knowing if or when they will return.
We are all human. And we all have feelings which we cannot always how. But if you have already chosen a path, you must follow it to the end, for the sake of those who are no longer there.
Thank you to military journalists everywhere.
The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.
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