Report of a transgender journalist. Everyone is affected by the Russian-Ukrainian war

Still, in the front seat of a battered Jeep Cherokee, I slept. Artillery explosions and other sounds of war created a cacophony of destruction throughout the night. However, in a world where a former US president refuses to outright condemn the barbaric and terrorist actions unleashed by the tyrannical leader of Russia against a staunch ally, and a transgender journalist is on the front lines of the great European ground war in 2022, y is there anything truly inconceivable?

No.

Over six years ago, before the transition, I tried to cover the “Syrian refugee crisis”. Starting in Turkey and then heading to the Balkans, I crossed Europe, ending my journey on the shores of the English Channel spending several days in Calais, France, inside the vast migrant encampment known as “The Jungle”.

In total, I traveled overland through 11 countries following the stories of these displaced people from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as several African countries, while examining a European Union that was both unprepared and unwilling to integrate them fully into their societies. . In the end, the resulting book, In the footsteps of tearswas a woefully incomplete look at the lives of those I set out to report on, and this failure on my part to fully delve into the deepest crevices of their torment is something that has haunted me ever since.

In 2015, I eagerly accepted the opportunity to go to Syria and speak directly with some of those fleeing their home countries during the civil war there. Going so far as to cross the Bosphorus Strait and travel deep into the eastern part of Turkey, fear eventually overwhelmed me. I gave in to the fear of being kidnapped or killed and abruptly canceled my plans. Panaches of regret began to fill me the moment I turned around, weighing heavily on my work.

Another aspect of this stay that gnawed at me was living like a man during my travels. At the time, pretending to be a guy was nothing new. I had lived as one for almost 40 years by then, but the guilt of lying had begun to hamper all my endeavours, an obstacle amplified by the fact that I was given space among the majority of refugees. male Muslims who I suspect would otherwise have shunned the real me. So my publication, weighed down by these two burdens, remained well below what it could have been.

The years have passed.

Since then, a lot has happened to me personally and professionally. I published a novel, eventually made the transition, and eventually became heavily involved in Nevada politics, the latter area leading to the launch of a state-focused political and news portal.

Then in 2022 Russia invaded Ukraine and with that came the opportunity to create a sequel to my 2015-2016 coverage of the previous European refugee crisis – and this time to try to get the things.

Starting in Poland and then passing through Ukraine, before finally crossing the Ukrainian countryside, I arrived at the front, determined to discover all aspects of what the victims of the invasion endure through photography, interviews and personal observation. Along the way, I also realized that the stories I uncovered and the intertwining narratives that woven them were both much deeper and broader than I had initially understood.

That first night we hid in the dark, camouflaged against a sky that offered a vault of endless blackness because it was just too dangerous to walk through the city streets after curfew. As soon as the morning light reached its peak, we headed into the ravaged city, checkpoint after checkpoint along the streets. While in many parts of Ukraine the blocked streets are occupied by volunteers from the Territorial Defense Forces, those requesting documents in Kharkiv are full-time professional members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Although we were stopped at countless checkpoints on the more than 1,000 km drive through the nation’s heartland, the last search, the last flash of my credentials at the entrance to the center -city, was truly the most poignant. It separated me from reading about the war, and from having listened to it, from witnessing it.

After being waved in the downtown hallway, destruction enveloped me. Burned-out vehicles, blown out windows, decimated apartment buildings and deep craters all pricked the landscape. Death was also present.

And yet the people of Kharkiv moved deftly around these reminders of war crimes and terrorism, queuing to get medicine, buy food and withdraw money from banks, as life went on 24 24 hours a day under enemy bombardment and Ukrainian counter-offensives.

The apartment I bought on the front line promised to offer a broad face to the city. It didn’t disappoint me, but as I quickly learned that life in the war changed from hour to hour, I’ve spent a total of three hours in the accommodations since arriving here.

Around 6 p.m. on the second evening, the group I boarded with decided to take shelter for the evening in a restaurant, and the same for the third. Chairs, blankets, a pillow and the contagious patriotic courage of my hosts helped me get to sleep during the explosive nights.

Functioning as a center of activity for various security services, the restaurant is now where I work, eat, sleep and digest the toll the Russian invasion took on the people of Ukraine and the global community in its together.

Two weeks have passed since my arrival in Europe and 10 days since I entered a country in the midst of war. In this short period of time, an awareness has set in.

I am not the same writer. I am not the same photographer. I am not the same person.

I came to Ukraine to cover a refugee crisis, now I’m reporting on a war.

Is something really inconceivable?

No.

(Sarah Ashton-Cirillo is a Vegas journalist and author. A recovering political operative and investment analyst, she is currently in Ukraine covering the Russian invasion and subsequent war. This article was featured in LGBTQ Nation.)