Editor's Picks: A Strenuous Month in Kyiv
Just before Russia invaded Ukraine, Hollie had just returned from visiting the eastern Donetsk/Luhansk portion of the country. From her apartment in Virginia, the message traffic speculated on whether the Russians would invade, and what would happen if Putin’s forces did. At the time, the posturing of the Russian military still had the aura of the mighty undefeated armies of the World War II’s Great Patriotic War and the massive tank armies of the Soviet Union facing off against NATO in the Fulda Gap. Global military analysts gave the Ukrainians little chance.
And then the invasion began. It normally takes months of preparation to set up a trip into a war zone. This was different. Kyiv had just become the epicenter of where a war correspondent had to be to cover the story. I remember one line from a phone call, “You have the skill to maneuver through a war zone line no one else has. You don’t really have a choice. You have to go.”
Independent journalist. No network. With little more than a valid passport and a plane ticket, Hollie flew back to Europe. The journey back to Kyiv would be by car driving with blacked out lights through back roads. The time in Kyiv would be reporting under constant threat of bombardment. She would see friends and colleagues lose their loves, in one highly publicised case, a US television crew ambushed at a location Hollie had reported from not more than an hour before. A crew that had been part of the family of reporters who shared common plans to flee in case the Russians succeeded in taking the capital. The exit from Ukraine was by train traveling like a refugee along with so many others fleeing onslaught. The journey would end unceremoniously back at the same apartment in Virginia.
It’s all so neatly summarized in a paragraph. It was a bit more chaotic as a series of real time Signal, WhatApp, Zoom and email messages. But for your review, here are the substack interviews that chronicled the month of March of 2022.
We begin with the transcript of the first interview I did with Hollie when she arrived back in Kyiv,
Next, on Day 11 of the war, questions about it were stacking up on the internet. So, we set up a session to answer some of them.
In these next two dispatches, Hollie gets down to the business of reporting on the war,
As more questions from the internet piled up, another Q&A interview ensued.
Another dispatch with Hollie’s signature vignettes of life inside a war zone followed,
And then this one that leads sorrowfully reflecting on the loss of friends. Beneath the professional notation in the Substack, the reality is that Hollie McKay and Pierre Zakrezewski were longtime friends who communicated constantly during that month in Kyiv.
And finally, a 40 minute interview about what it was like to leave Kyiv by train.
I’ve worked with Hollie on her journeys since 2014. March 2022 was a tough month. Stay tuned in 2023 for more.