Donbas is a special place and it's where I felt connected to the story in Ukraine. So much goes on behind the scenes of reporting the daily news. It's stressful work and will always be 'wired.' From Kyiv to Donbas or Donetsk region the landscape begins to change and people begin looking different. You suddenly start to see men with their bellies hanging fixing their vehicles in gas stations, soldiers with blood shot eyes, dirty hands, and clothes yielding their weapons across their backs. No one is wearing seat belts. Russian is spoken here and people know their land. This is the industrial heartland of Ukraine filled with fields of sunflowers. They are the ones on the fronts fighting this war.
Hanna, 35, lost her life coming back home to Pokrovesk, Donetsk region, from a Russian missile strike. My colleague and friend Inna Varenytsia is also 35. We worked together for weeks in Donbas and covered the funeral amongst many tragedies. We went back days later to speak to the mother. Inna hugged her as she wept.
I will never forget the way Hanna's mother hugged, wept and kept stroking Inna's long hair as if she was her own daughter.