Saturday, December 03, 2022

Pandemic and Putin turns UBC student into war correspondent

Anastasia Lapatina knows that war correspondent is not a typical side hustle for a student.

Right now she must be thinking which fourth year course to do. Maybe talking about her latest date with friends. Whatever 20-year-olds go through, it is no longer certain.

“I probably shouldn’t have done that,” she admits. “Nobody in their twenties should cover up the excavation of a mass grave near their hometown. It’s not normal. I don’t deserve it.

“None of us deserve it.”

Lapatina is a journalist who writes for Kyiv independent, She has spent the past four months studying political science full-time, covering Russia’s invasion of her homeland, Ukraine.

Like all UBC students, Lapatina had to pack up and leave campus in March 2020 when the pandemic hit. It was the end of her first year at UBC Okanagan. She went to her mother’s house in Ukraine, unsure of what would happen next.

However, she knew she wanted to write. As an English-speaking Ukrainian, she was able to secure an internship Kyiv Post, the longtime English-language newspaper of the Ukrainian capital. She became a part-time job while she was studying remotely during the pandemic year.

Then, during her third year, everything changed.

Lapatina was on exchange in France and was still writing for Post When on 8 November its owner fired all 30 journalists. A local real estate tycoon, he did not like the newspaper criticizing the Ukrainian government, while the newsroom never allowed the owner to interfere with his editorial independence. Lapatina and her colleagues knew that a newsroom was not worth the brand, but the journalists who worked.

So a few days later, they launched Kyiv independent,

“It was the worst time for Ukraine that English should not be a global voice,” says Lapatina.

The world now knows why. During 2021, Russia was increasing its military presence along the borders of Ukraine and in the southeast, where it has occupied the area since 2014. This construction intensified through the winter.

Lapatina has many friends in Kyiv who fled to the southeast after 2014. Through her network, she was able to connect with Ukrainians still in the Donbas region and report on what was happening there. On 17 February, just as there was speculation that a Russian offensive was imminent, he shared on Twitter a map of the 20 locations that had been shelled that day. American conservative commentator Ben Shapiro retweeted this Her 4.5 million followers commented, “That doesn’t look good.”

Lapatina had less than 10,000 Twitter followers at the time – four days before the invasion. Twelve days later, he had 240,000. He now has over 640,000.

Screen Shot Of Ben Shapiro'S Tweet Showing Locations Of Russian Shelling In Southeast Ukraine

between stories Independent, Lapatina lets its followers see the reality of war through their smartphones in close to real time. She retweeted images of Russian police beating protesters, civilians standing in Shell Crater, and footage of explosions captured by surveillance cameras. A few days before the invasion, she live-tweeted Vladimir Putin’s televised address. Now, she amplifies photos of older Ukrainian women clearing public parks of rocket shells.

Tweet Showing A Woman Pulling A Large Rocket Shell From A Park In Ukraine

“I don’t think I’m doing anything special,” she shrugs. “Anyone can tweet. All the hype around me and my colleagues Kyiv independent is situational. It’s only because we’re at war and we’re under attack, so everyone pays attention. ,

As the war broke out, Lapatina left France for Poland. She wanted to be closer to home. She kept in touch with her mother daily as Russian troops captured an airport 20 kilometers from her home, then flooded the forest bordering her village. Finally, and reluctantly, his mother vacillated.

Lapatina could not return home until April. By then, the Russians had retreated from Kyiv and his mother had returned to her home. Lapatina had already seen the pictures of her village and thought she was ready.

She was not

The place where she lived as a child, where her family bought their groceries, where they went to eat Saturday nights, was bombed, burned, blackened and destroyed. given. Dogs roamed the streets in search of food, their owners were either evacuated or died.

She only covered one story while she was there. mass graves. In the town of Bucha, she stood alongside dozens of other journalists and photographers as police and volunteers pulled civilians’ bodies out of the ground.

The person who buried many of those bodies was a family friend, a surgeon at Buka. He gave her an exclusive interview.

“I heard his first hand testimonials about being in the hospital when Buka was captured, seeing hundreds of dead bodies littering the street, asking the Russians to bury them and the Russians saying no, then Dozens of unidentified bodies had to bury themselves.

“I heard that all over one beer, so it was as personal as it can get.

“And also, like, I’m 20.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Assesses The Damage Left By Russian Forces In Buka

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky assesses the damage left by the Russian military in Buka. credit: Oleksandr Ratushniak, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lapatina knows she’s grown up fast over the past two years, that’s fine with her. He likes to grow. He has tattooed an evergreen tree on the inside of his forearm to remind him to keep doing it.

“Many people do nothing but school, and I think that’s the wrong way to spend their youth,” she says. “Adults like young people who do good things. You must knock on the door. There are so many doors, you just need to open them. Anyone can attend the lecture. It’s what you do after those lectures that’s really going to get you places. ,

The places she wants to visit are in the Middle East. In five years, she hopes to become a war correspondent there.

Lapatina has been away from Canada for two years now. UBC campuses are back open. She will return to the Vancouver campus in September. He will write essays about the economists of the 17th century. She will be completing her bachelor’s degree in political science.

And she will continue to work as a freelance journalist, because she can no longer stop.

Anastasia Lapatina has somewhat limited availability for interviews in English or Ukrainian from European time zones.

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