Beyond the war, a Ukrainian journalist writes from France

After fleeing Russian weapons, Maryna Zabiyan, a journalist for the weekly “Visnyk Ch”, an independent Ukrainian newspaper, defends her country with a different kind of weapon: her pen. Portrait.

Even while being exiled, Maryna Zabiyan continues to write for her media. Foto: Elsa Woeffler / EJ

(Elsa Woeffler) – From the cellars of the town of Chernihiv to the flat above the school in Horbourg-Wihr, the transition is great. This is where Maryna Zabiyan, a Ukrainian journalist, who fled the war raging in her country, now lives. She has been in Alsace since 10 March. She stayed nine days in her war-torn country before fleeing for her children and herself. At the time of the Russian attacks, she took refuge in the basement of the city, with her two young children. “At the beginning of the war, I was already thinking of leaving, but some people told me that we were safe, that everything would be fine, but in the end it wasn’t, the bombings didn’t stop”, explains Maryna. Indeed, located north-east of Kiev, Chernihiv was one of the first cities bombed by the Russian army, destroying up to 70% of the city, according to some sources.

But the journey was long and tedious. With no humanitarian corridor, insufficient information to flee the country and destroyed roads, the journalist took more than a week to arrive in France. From Warsaw to Strasbourg, via Austria, Maryna Zabiyan had no idea of the outcome of her journey. “I was welcomed in France from acquaintance to acquaintance, my children and I were hosted by a family, then we stayed for a month in a hotel in Colmar, and now the Horbourg-Wihr town hall is lending us the staff accommodation above the school, which is really great”, she explains. Maryna, who has exceptional resilience, recalls recent memories. She hopes to be back in Ukraine in September.

Since then, she has continued to write for her newspaper from the distance. These are difficult conditions for a daring journalist like Maryna, but she is adapting: “I do everything from my phone, I mostly make calls and then I write about it”, she explains. A way for her to continue to feed the newspaper she worked for before the war, “we are an independent newspaper, we are here to restore the truth but especially to inform. Before, we used to print the newspaper and the distribution force was much greater, now it’s more complicated, everything goes through the internet”, Maryna says. Indeed, communications are difficult in a partially destroyed city, so many inhabitants do not have access to local news sources, which are so important in times of war.

Thus, the journalist had to adapt in order to provide articles to her readers. The organization of the newspaper in Ukraine has been a gradual process. Indeed, the weekly has been back in business since May, 5. Some journalists have returned to live in the country, while others, like Maryna, have remained in France for safety. This does not prevent the newspaper from running, “Maryna and I call each other regularly by videoconference to discuss subjects and themes. Because of the distance, we have found subjects for her to do from afar”, adds her editor-in-chief, Serhiy Narodenko.

But the work of journalists in Ukraine is complicated, because of the material damage, but also because of the insecurity of the bombed cities. “The work in the field is too dangerous, we almost don’t go out anymore, there are mines everywhere”, explains Serhiy. Free information is compromised, the newspaper works in the shadows in order to wipe out the Russian propaganda that continues to be published.

While for some, war is about weapons, bloodshed and destroyed cities, for others, the battle is elsewhere, readable between the lines and the radio waves. The freedom of the press in any country, whether at war or not, must not suffer from ideology and propaganda. And the ink will continue to flow, like Maryna’s, for access to free information.

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