This Is Where Ukraine’s Legendary Female War Reporters Are Taking a Breather

For journalists including Ukraine Warthe months of constant violence and tragedy take charge. It feels really suffocating. It’s even worse when working under pressure while constantly worrying about the people you love.

In just the first two weeks of the war, many reporters lost their homes to Russian artillery fire in cities turned battlefields. They must continue to spread the news while simultaneously seeking shelter for their parents and children.

Then our first Colleagues are killed.

Without a doubt, the war in Ukraine will last for months, we will see a lot of colleagues suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress. I asked my friend, a Ukrainian journalist and founder of Zaborona Media, Katerina Sergatskova, whether it would be helpful to take Ukrainian reporters out of the country for a short break. “If you don’t, we’ll go crazy,” she said.

With the help of independent donors, friends and a charity, I created a shelter in Portugal. In the safety of Western Europe, it is near the ocean where you can walk, breathe and relax. I call it the Breather, because I find a long walk in the fresh air the best way to recover from the stress of war reporting.

The reserve opened in March and has since hosted 16 reporters, sometimes along with their families.

One of the first colleagues to visit, Hanna Silayeva, spent the first two months of the war working in a basement in her hometown of Kharkiv. On his second day in Breather, Silayeva, a manager at the Ukrainian Broadcasting Corporation, felt guilty that he was not in his own country, unable to work and report when the missile hit his hometown. her scent. We talked a lot on the balcony overlooking the ocean or on our long hikes we shared memories, stories and ideas. She said she felt like she was facing a “dead end” in her professional life and would have to give up journalism.

We realize that we are not alone in our struggle in this war.

Yulia Mashuta

But a few weeks after she was in Portugal, Hanna sent me an inspiring letter: not only did she return to Kharkiv, but she returned to report. “The chance to get away from war for a while is priceless — it’s a time of mental and physical respite, plus an aesthetic pleasure. All in all, that convinced my brain to relax. Of course, you don’t forget about the fight even for a minute. But you get the strength, the desire to live on,” Hanna wrote to me this week. “Being in the combat zone, I couldn’t imagine a stopover like this. I charged the battery, filled up the tank, changed the tires — it was my turning point, getting me back to Kharkiv and starting a new project.”

The charity that helps the shelter, the Romulus T. Weatherman Foundation, has experience in rescuing people from devastated areas: last year, it evacuated and resettled athletes Afghanistan and music star of the National Institute of Music of Afghanistan. Its founder, Bess Weatherman, came from a family of reporters. With her background, she said, it was important for her to create a haven for Ukrainian reporters. “My parents, who chose journalism to make the world a better place, will be proud to know that we have created a place to provide much needed rest and recovery time for so many people. many journalists risk their lives and mental health during the regional Ukraine war. “

The journalists who visited Breather were women – often accompanied by their children – as most men were barred from leaving the country while the war was going on.

People stand outside a partially destroyed educational building and laboratory of a college that was hit by a rocket one day in Kharkiv on June 21.

Sergey Bobok / AFP via Getty

I was a mother when I started reporting on crises in Europe, Asia and the Middle East 20 years ago. I experienced kidnappings, interrogations, flashbacks after the bombings, nightmares, and depression. I’m not a psychologist but a crisis reporter, so I find it difficult to decide whether I should talk to my colleagues about war, devastation, and destruction — or avoid the most pressing topics, so that the women at our shelters can really breathe and not cry day and night. It turns out that every reporter has his or her own way: some need quiet, others like to talk.

I asked other women in the business if they found therapy helpful for stress-related injuries. Most of them found that the therapy helped them breathe easier. A colleague told me: “Remember that talking to anyone helps you, when you feel that way, not just withdrawing. “I think what therapy can do is give you a safe, empty space to express your feelings to someone who just listens.”

The International Women’s Media Foundation, IWMF has provided valuable inspiration and emotional support. “When female journalists put their lives and livelihoods first, they are forced to confront and internalize their trauma. It’s important for them to take the time to heal the conflicts they face day in and day out so they can continue reporting,” Charlotte Fox, IWMF’s director of communications, told me. “Regular exposure to trauma takes a toll and can have a significant impact on a person’s emotional health. Practicing self-care and building resilience allows journalists to work safely while managing and mitigating the risks they face in their professional lives. “

Journalists often help journalists figure out stories, deal with emotions — we’re a community of experts who see human troubles with our own eyes. But few have to go through the devastation that Ukrainian reporters are experiencing now, losing their homes, losing loved ones while covering the story.

Ukrainian soldiers run for cover during a shootout between Ukrainian and Russian troops in the city of Lysychansk, Donbas region, eastern Ukraine, on June 11.

Aris Messinis / AFP via Getty

In war, deadline pressure leaves little time for reflection. Our travelers are resilient, hard-working journalists who often face their grief alone. Before 2014, Yulia Mashuta and Haiane Avakian were not war correspondents but the initial invasion of Ukraine reached their homeland. The reporters, who work for Svoi City, an online store that covers the eastern regions of Ukraine, went to Breather with their children at the end of May. By then, at least 15 reporters had was killed, and many others were injured, including two Daily Beast journalists.

Yulia and Haiane’s homelands of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk were under constant attack. They must plan their lives away from their lost home and care for their children, while continuing to cover the war-torn Donbas. “For me, the shelter has become an opportunity to remember what it means to stay safe. My seven-year-old son, Tymofii, has dedicated his life to the so-called ‘demarcation line’ in eastern Ukraine, so I simply forgot what it feels like to be a place without war.” , Haiane told me As an editor, she spent all her time working with the Svoi City team, “In the bunker, I slowed down and stopped exposing myself to danger, to news I can walk on the beach with my son, eat and drink — not quickly but calmly — I have a chance to recover so I can continue working and not be silent. “.

Mashuta said she enjoyed making new friends at the shelter. “We tried Portuguese food and we welcome our new friends to try Ukrainian food, we share our struggles, we hear words of encouragement and we realize that we are not alone in our struggle in this war – that is my most serious moral support. “

The biggest success of this project is seeing the smiles of young reporters. Little Levko has a father, Photographer Maks Levinwas killed in the field, was here earlier this month.

His mother, cinematographer Inna Varenytsia, said she wished they could have stayed longer than a week, as the feeling of breathing was too short.

But she said she had to go back and report, because — no matter what — that’s her job.

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