Interview with one Ukrainian journalist about their work in wartime

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Interview with Dmytro Rayevskyi, Editor of the “Society” department, Babel.ua online, Kyiv, about how is it to be a journalist in Ukraine now in the midst of the war, how they adapt, launch new formats, organize their work and cope with everything. “We now work from Kyiv bunkers and distant villages, our journalists have been in occupied settlements and see hundreds of details about this cruel invasion every day,” Dmytro Rayevskyi told us.

 

How has your work changed since the start of the large-scale war? In what conditions do you have to work? How did you adapt your media to the war?

From the beginning of the war, had to completely restructure the work. There was no longer a single team gathered in one place. Someone were forced to leave Kyiv. Part of the editorial staff organized  temporary headquarters in the Pink Freud bar, where there were friends and a large basement. I believe that our editor-in-chief Evgeny Spirin has accomplished a real feat these days. He managed to keep the team, attract new people, and force the entire crumbling Babel system to work with renewed vigor. I worked from home, some from the other cities they’ve temporarily moved to, and some without a permanent home at all, but we all worked together.

Working in such conditions requires a different attitude towards mistakes and miscommunication. Not everything can be done on time, and this is normal. I do not remember quarrels and disputes in the editorial office since the beginning of the war. In such conditions, it is possible to work only as a single organism.

And yet, the war broke the old hierarchies. Everyone on the team is doing everything, realizing that under the new circumstances, it is no longer important who was in charge of whom before the war.

What difficult topics did you work on? What is the hardest part of the job right now? How was it when Kyiv was partially surrounded by Russian troops?

Since February 24, our main topic is the war and everything connected with it. Therefore, many stories are emotionally heavy. This week I took three interviews – with people who escaped from Melitopol, Mariupol and Izyum. These people have escaped from hell, and I need to describe this hell through them. When I was recording the story from Mariupol, we spoke on the phone with a man, he is already in Germany. But at one moment, tears rolled down from my eyes. Although I never considered myself an emotional person, and survived the outbreak of the war relatively calmly. But what they tell is beyond everything.

Interestingly, while Kyiv was partially surrounded, it was easier to concentrate on work. Probably, it was constant stress that you just stopped paying attention to. Then it was much easier to pass through heavy topics. When the situation became calmer, and the Russians were driven out of the Kyiv region, it became easier to live, but harder to work.

Are there any new projects you have launched?

In the basement of a bar, despite the missile strikes, our team launched the podcast series called Napalm about the diverse human experience of war. Conversations with journalists, musicians, volunteers, the military, just people who survived the first weeks of the war in different regions of Ukraine.

And we have significantly increased the team. A lot of new people have appeared who are ready to travel around the country, make reports, tell the world the truth about the war. This is no longer just work, this is a mission, no matter how loud it may sound.

How has your life outside work has changed? How do you manage your safety, how do you spend free time if there is any?

Life has certainly changed. Now I do not often leave the house, I devote more time to solving pressing household issues – food supplies, dog food, medicines and so on. In March, after the start of the war, I got married, and it was a very strange experience, because it was joyful and scary at the same time.

In addition, my parents came to Kyiv because the Russians burned down their house in Mariupol. They live with friends, I try to help them as much as possible. All free time is spent with my wife, parents and the dogs. Can’t complain about it, I’m surrounded by family.

How have you changed professionally? Is there anything you’ve been doing in journalism that you won’t do anymore, even when the war ends?

I think this war has not only changed me as a journalist, it has changed journalism in general. Many colleagues around the world understand that in such times, neutrality is impossible, and objectivity is to call war a war, and villain a villain. Probably, after the war, journalists around the world will be less afraid to express subjective thoughts and assessments. Directly call conspiracy theories nonsense, for example. Do not look for two points of view where there should be only one – truthful.

As for me personally, for some reason I think that if I survive the war, I will temporarily leave journalism and take up rebuilding the country. Maybe I’ll start my own non-media business.

At the office

What do you think about the world’s reaction on this war?

The reaction of the world, on the one hand, is more than we could expect, but on the other, it is still insufficient. Among Western politicians, there are many who still believe that this does not concern them, and that the internal problems of their countries are more important. They still do not understand what a tectonic shift in all world politics occurred on February 24, 2022. We are, without jokes, on the threshold of nuclear war. The Russian government is completely insane.

We in Ukraine have been talking about this since 2014, because we saw the level of Russian lies and cruelty. But they did not really want to listen to us, they were looking for two sides of this story, they continued to trade with Russia and hoped that everything would be fine. It’s already clear that it won’t. It’s time to start thinking in a new paradigm of mortal danger for the whole world.

How can Europeans learn to filter the news and not become victims of Russian disinformation?

It’s very simple. Do not read any publications and journalists that are associated with Russia. Connected in any way. If this is a media outlet with Russian money, throw it in the trash bin. A media with the Russian superiors – in the trash bin. If there are speakers and experts who worked with Russian media, they go to the very bottom of the trash bin. No handshakes with everyone who has ever appeared on Russia Today, for example.

Then honest Russian journalists, of whom there are few, will show themselves. But first, you need to get rid of them all. Before we unite, we need to decisively separate ourselves from Russian journalists.

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