Obituary: Pierre Zakrzewski, Irish cameraman killed in Ukraine who brilliantly covered overseas conflicts


Among the large number of victims resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the death of Pierre Zakrzewski (pronounced “Zakshefski”) at the age of 55 had a particular impact in Ireland and abroad, especially in media circles. His life came to a tragic and violent end on March 14 while covering the conflict as a Fox News cameraman.

o he and 24-year-old Ukrainian journalist and producer Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova were killed and journalist Benjamin Hall was seriously injured. The vehicle they were traveling in was reportedly attacked by Russian artillery in the village of Horenka, 30 km from kyiv.

Pierre had dual Irish-French nationality, and shortly after his death an official statement issued in France announced that a war crimes investigation into the incident would be underway. Terrorism prosecutors are to investigate potential charges of causing “deliberate harm to a person protected by international law” and a “deliberate attack on a civilian who was not taking part in hostilities”. It is common practice for French authorities to initiate proceedings following the death of their nationals in violent circumstances abroad.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, in a message of condolence to Pierre’s family two days after his death, said “the armed forces have an obligation to protect journalists in accordance with international humanitarian law” . A similar view was expressed by President Michael D. Higgins, who said in a statement, “The indiscriminate killing of civilians, including journalists, must end.”

Born August 15, 1966 in Paris, Pierre Zakrzewski was the second eldest of four boys and two girls. His mother Marie-Ange is French and his father Andrzej, who died in 1999, was Polish. Andrzej had left his native country for Scotland during World War II and later moved to Dublin where he studied architecture at University College Dublin and continued to work in this field. They met in the mid-1960s when Marie-Ange was working in Ireland as an au pair and French teacher. The couple lived in Leopardstown Road, Dublin, with their six children in a house designed by Andrzej himself.

Pierre attended St Conleth’s College, Ballsbridge in the city, as did his three brothers, and later became an arts student at University College Dublin (UCD) for a time. He was already traveling overseas with his camera when he decided to get a formal qualification and enrolled in a TV and audio operations course at Ballyfermot College of Further Education. His former teacher John Moriarty remembers him as a passionate and fun-loving adult student who embarked on a successful career in television journalism upon graduation.

Writing about his career in the 2004 St Conleth School Yearbook, Zakrzewski said: “It’s hard to explain the appeal of this way of life, but when you experience the emotional roller coaster of war, both positive and negative, as a cameraman, I feel I have a duty to tell their story.

St Conleth’s posted on its website a photograph of Pierre with his final year class of 1984 and a statement expressing “great sadness” at his tragic passing. Under the title “Pierre Zakrzewski: our man in Kabul, in Syria, in Kashmir, in Leopardstown, in Caracas, in Baghdad, in Sudan, in Liberia, in kyiv”, the website goes on to recall that he sometimes appeared in nobody for informal class meetings at Christmas. but, on other occasions, he could only establish telephone contact from a risky location that he covered as part of his job.

A friend and former classmate of Pierre’s at St Conleth, Stephen O’Dea, told Newstalk Breakfast“He was always fun, always motivated. He was fearless. When he left school he wanted to travel and climb Mount Everest and he did. He recounted how, when other climbers were in distress, Pierre went out of his way to help them: “That’s the kind of guy he was. He would prioritize others.

As recently as last December, Zakrzewski received the Fox News “Unsung Hero” award for his role in helping Afghan independents and their families leave their homeland during the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Afghanistan. For the past 15 years, his home base has been London with his wife Michelle, a BBC journalist.

In a vivid and eloquent online tribute posted on St. Patrick’s Day, Fox News Senior Correspondent Greg Palkot describes what it was like to work with Pierre: “He saved my life many times . Now he is gone and the world is poorer for it. Zakrzewski, or “Zak” as his colleagues called him, had died “doing what he loved most: chasing a story.”

“So many in the media will remember how he helped them on the pitch, selflessly, and won friendship after friendship. And he was a very dear friend. We would fight like cats and dogs over a certain angle of a story at a certain point. And the next moment we were rocking with the Rolling Stones, our favorite band.

“We have worked together for over 20 years. He had amazing videos in story after story we were covering: Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Middle East, DMZ [between North and South Korea]riots in Hong Kong, terror in Paris, earthquakes in Asia.

“He saved my life on several occasions. We were integrated into the lead marine company during the battle for Fallujah in Iraq in 2004. Three Marines were killed, 18 wounded, in our unit alone. He supported me.

The tribute continues: “We dodged bricks, bats, cobblestones and fired tear gas in riot after riot, from Hong Kong to Athens to Paris. He always knew which way to turn and get the best shots.

A French author wanted to compile an illustrated book about the colorful life of Pierre. The fatal incident outside kyiv was not the first time he had come close to death, and his colleagues said he was “like a cat with nine lives”. His friend Greg comments: “Tragically this week those lives have run out.”

The couple attended the Rolling Stones 50th anniversary concert in London, and Palkot writes: “The other day I saw the band planning a 60th anniversary concert in Hyde Park this summer. I was ready to get another set of tickets.

Speaking at the funeral, which was attended by Defense and Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney, Zakrzewski’s colleague Tim Santhouse said Pierre had done everything possible to help those affected by the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. “He was helping hundreds of terrified Afghans get out of the country and to safety.

In his homily, Fr Kieran Dunne said that Pierre was “capable of vision, innovative in his work and in the world, a true eye-opener, full of empathy, generous of heart”.

Pierre Zakrzewski is survived by his beloved wife Michelle (née Husson), his mother Marie-Ange, his sisters Zosia and Karola, his brothers Stas, Greg and Nick, his nieces and nephews Clara, Lucie, Louise, Zoe, Juliette , Jake, Lola, Florence, Anna, Braedyn and Grayson, “to whom he gave so much time and brought nothing but pleasure, joy and laughter”; as well as other parents, in-laws, colleagues and friends at home and abroad.

Her funeral mass was held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Foxrock, Co Dublin, last Tuesday. A video of the ceremony is available on the church’s website at
foxrockparisishchallenges.com/home/webcam/

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