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Rated: 18+ · Fiction · Death · #2269971
A journalist's view of Ukraine.
"This is Odessa Molinari reporting from Medyka, South-East Poland." I walk as I talk. "I am surrounded by refugees, fleeing war-torn Ukraine. Most have travelled here from Lviv, after long journeys across the country by road and rail." Cut from my image, continue voice only. "My camera man has just spotted a lone boy, clutching his teddy, crossing the border, seemingly on his own. The boy, aged about six, wept when welcomed by an aid worker." Cut back to me. "He is just one of hundreds of displaced children fleeing the Russian bombardment of his country."

I turn away from the camera and check my makeup. Fred Baker snaps away at the faces in the crowd. "Did you get still shots of the boy?" My editor loves these heart-rending images. But this is only a small part of the story. In an hour we move to Lviv, to get a more direct impression of what is happening. There are no reports of Russian activity along the route, but things are changing by the minute. We put on flack jackets and helmets, just in case.

The roads are good. Coming in the opposite direction are all manner of vehicles. I see a woman pushing an old man in a wheelbarrow. "Get a shot of that, Fred." We head for the railway station. Trains arrive from all parts of the country, loaded with women, children and the elderly. They will be here for only a short time before moving on to Poland. I need to grab someone and get their story. "Interpreter!"

"I am talking to Olga Oblonsky and her grandson. Where have you travelled from?" The translator does her job. "Olga comes from Mariupol." The woman talks nineteen to the dozen to the interpreter. "She watched as a missile hit the apartment block where her daughter lived. She saw her younger grandson fall from the hole left in the building." More chatter. "Her grandson, Symon here..." I point to the boy. "...had gone to buy what food he could. They left for Odessa later that day."

I thought there was no escape from Mariupol. Odessa, like my name. "Fred, where's Odessa?"

"Along the coast from Mariupol. About a hundred miles."

I turn to the translator . "Ask her how they got to Odessa." Something told me her story would be harrowing, but that was what I was here for; the truth. I turn to Fred. "Record this one, don't broadcast until I've had a look. I'll meet you back at our hotel." We have been allocated a luxury hotel. Not in the penthouse, in the staff quarters, underground, the safest place. I dine on unidentified tins.

"You'll like what I've got." Fred passes me a memory stick. I plug it into my laptop and watch the interview. Much as you would expect; walking through scenes of devastation, the odd lift. What's this?

"We hide at night. One night a Russian soldier come. We think we will die. This young man, he put down gun, hold up hands and say in Russian "Not in my name." He help us. Then he left us to travel over border to Moldova for asylum."

I was wary of broadcasting that bit. The guy could come to a sticky end. Reds under the bed and all that. "What d'you reckon, Fred?"

"Hey, I covered the Salisbury Poisonings, remember."

"Edit that bit out, but keep the footage."


As the sun comes up, Fred and I climb aboard the train to Kyiv. Not many people are going in this direction. A group of young men are heading to the frontline. Our interpreter is not with us. Who can blame her? But it means we can't talk to these brave volunteers. I must be mad, heading into the battle zone. The nearer we get to Kyiv, the more military emplacements are in evidence. "Get shots of the damaged buildings, Fred."

"Here in the centre of Kyiv it is like any other city, except that the streets are deserted." Cut to street footage we took earlier. "Those citizens who remain are living in basements. Food is in short supply. Water supplies are limited." In the distance I hear the thunder of battle. The sun is going down fast and we must get below ground. Someone has a radio, Volodymyr Zelenskyy is broadcasting to his people. A fellow journalist, who speaks some Ukrainian, tells me he is asking for courage.

I see courage all around me. Middle aged women, carrying guns, ready to defend their homeland. Children singing, raising spirits. Old men, making Molotov Cocktails or sharpening knives. This is not a nation ready to give up. I don't sleep. Images of the devastation flash before my eyes. I was in London at the time of the bus bombing. I was in Manchester just after the bombing there. None of that had the same affect on me. When we leave, and we will leave in a couple of days, I want to take some of these people with us.

"This is Odessa Molinari reporting from my holiday home in Cornwall. Olga and Symon are settling in well." I am still searching for the Russian soldier and the little boy with the teddy. They deserve a safe home as well.

878 words
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