26 Mar, 2022 @ 10:30
1 min read

THE MADNESS OF WAR: Double tragedy drives home the insanity of conflict


IN my previous column, I wrote about the continuing conflict in Ukraine. Last week, the war became a much more personal thing for me. Mainly because of the incredible bravery of the Ukrainians.

Each week since the beginning of the invasion, I have been able to go live on my radio show to former Panorama journalist John Sweeney.

Based in Kiev, John has been able to provide my listeners with a harrowing account of what life is like in Ukraine’s besieged capital. Because we conduct the interview by Zoom, he was able to bring in Evgeni, his translator and Ivan, his driver. Both in their early 20s, they pleaded for the West to impose a no fly zone over their country, to stop the Russian bombing.

Last week Natasha, a journalist who had managed to escape the devastation unleashed on Mariupol, joined them. They also mentioned that they were thankful for the humanitarian aid that they were getting from ordinary people throughout Europe. (If you want to donate to John, go to @johnsweeneyroar on Twitter. The latest donations enabled Vlad to buy ball bearings for his aging Skoda).

I also interviewed London based Ukrainian journalist Anastasiya, who had just returned from helping friends cross into Poland. She spoke about the 24 people sleeping in her parents’ apartment in Lviv, and of seeing others sleeping in supermarkets and schools. Anastasiya started crying at the end of the interview, angry and bewildered about how an unspeakable horror had been unleashed on her country.

My most personal connection is with Pierre Zakrzewski. Instantly recognisable with his bushy moustache, Pierre is a well-respected and much loved cameraman who has covered practically every major conflict in the past two decades, including Iraq and Afganistan, where he was responsible for helping get Afghans out as Kabul fell. He is married to one of my oldest friends, Michelle.

Michelle Pierre Giles On Right Unknown Cropped
Michelle, Pierre and Giles

The last time I saw them both was at my Goddaughter’s wedding in London in 2019.

Last Monday Pierre was heading to the front line with his 24-year-old Ukrainian producer Oleksandra Kuvshynova when they came under fire from Russian artillery.

Both were killed instantly, victims of an insane invasion inflicted on an innocent European nation.

My heart breaks for Michelle. Pierre and Oleksandra’s deaths are to be investigated as a war crime.

F**K Putin.


Mark Petrie
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