Sign In  |  Register  |  About Menlo Park  |  Contact Us

Menlo Park, CA
September 01, 2020 1:28pm
7-Day Forecast | Traffic
  • Search Hotels in Menlo Park

  • ROOMS:

Reporter's Notebook: Ukraine war one year on, human tragedies and triumphs

Senior Fox News foreign affairs correspondent Greg Palkot reviews a year of reporting from the frontlines of Russia's war against Ukraine.

One year into Russia’s war in Ukraine and the media is full of anniversary stories detailing all the geopolitical dynamics of the situation. For me, looking back at our trips to Ukraine this past year, it’s the personal stories that stand out…as well as how my own life got intertwined with the tales of combat. 

Our first trip to Kyiv was during the tense run-up to the invasion last January and February. It was a time of mixed messages. The U.S. was declaring, including in a backgrounder we got at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, that Moscow was going to attack. Various expert analysts told us the same thing. Right to the brink though, including at a press conference we were at, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was being cagey. He’d later say he didn’t want to spook the public.

But the public was getting the message. One cold Saturday before the invasion, we spent time with dozens of locals in a woody suburb of Kyiv, learning all there was to know about crawling under barbed wire…dodging bullets…and applying first aid. Some of which they used on me after I slipped down an icy hill and smashed my glasses into my face!

Shortly after that, I would get my own chilling news. My dear father, at the grand age of 108, had passed away. This cut short my trip to Ukraine in order to get back to New York for his funeral. Maybe appropriate, though, that this happened in the midst of news-gathering. Dad long ago instilled in me a passion for current events. When I went to the den in his home, I found the latest issue of the Economist magazine open to a story about Ukraine.


Which brings me to Feb 24, 2022. No, I wasn’t on the frontline of the invasion. I was in my pajamas in the dining room of our home in London in the early hours of the morning. I was getting the latest on every amazing detail of Vladimir Putin’s attack via a What’sApp group we had started in Kyiv earlier. Most important were the messages from our local producer 24 year-old Sasha Kuvshynova. I passed them on to Fox News via a mass email group. In those early confusing days Sasha was an invaluable source of information for the network and our viewers.

Naturally, I was anxious to get back in the mix, and two weeks later I was in Lviv, Ukraine. Even though it was on the far western side of the country, it too was impacted by Moscow’s offensive actions, including a base hit by Russian missiles. It was used by the U.S. and other NATO countries to instruct Ukrainian military. Now, it was as a training center for international volunteers. Nearby residents told us how shocked they were to see rockets screaming overhead.

On the way back to Lviv, I rang my dear friend and cameraman through thick and thin for the last 20y years, Pierre Zakrzewski. He was in Kyiv working with correspondents and friends Benjamin Hall and Trey Yingst, covering the incursions by Russian forces into the suburbs of the capital. They were reporting on the first waves of death, destruction and terror heaped on the Ukrainian people by Moscow. Pierre, as always, was deep in the mix. It would be the last time we’d speak.

Because on the next day, as were preparing for live shots at our Lviv hotel, my producer Baz Davies walked into the room and said, "I’ve got some news that will change your life." Reporter Hall, cameraman Zakrzewski and producer Kuvshynova were all missing after a Russian missile attack. We would learn, the next day the first was badly injured. The other two…killed.


My sign offs during the lives that night were essentially…Sad time for Ukraine…and a sad day for Fox News. At a proper Irish funeral in Dublin for Pierre the following week…we would lift several glasses. For those we lost. And the country that was under attack.

And yes, the battle did go on. Remarkably, the Ukrainians were fighting back with clever tactics and daring deeds. Crucially pushing the Russian troops back and away from the outskirts of Kyiv and driving them across the border as Putin’s ill-planned push to topple the Ukrainian leadership stumbled.

By the time we got there on my next trip to Ukraine in late April and May, it was quieter around Kyiv, but the scars were still there and the healing hadn’t really started.


We went to Bucha, one of the hardest-hit towns by Russian fighters and saw….a long smoothed-over patch of dirt next to the main church where bodies had been buried in a mass grave. We visited a long residential street…eerily still that day…a shooting gallery for Russian mercenaries a few weeks back. And spoke with residents still breaking down in tears over the horror heaped on them.

And we went to Borodyanka. Made infamous for a long apartment building. With the middle gashed out of it by Russian shelling…a statue to a Ukrainian poet with a bullet through its tin head…shops with their fronts knocked out. In many cases, we were told it was brave locals who stood up and fended off a first wave of Russian attacks. Only to get battered by nasty revenge attacks days later.

Throughout these trips we spoke with a lot of folks. Some innocents caught in the fire. Some helping to lead this young brave democracy. People like 26-year-old Sviat Yurash. He was our local producer during the early protests and Russian attacks in 2014. He would become the youngest member of the Ukrainian Parliament. He became famous as images of his lanky frame walking patrols around Kyiv, a long gun slung over his shoulder spread around the world.

Now, he was doing duty back and forth between the front lines with a dog he rescued from the rubble of one Russian attack. His spirit intact. Confident like so many we spoke with that Ukraine would beat back the horrid Moscow land grab.


Still the war went on. Offensives and counter-offensives. By the time we returned in October and November, Kyiv had gained back more ground, but Moscow had a new tactic. It couldn’t win on the battlefield, so it would strike civilians. Or at least the infrastructure supporting regular folks. Power stations, power lines, water pumping stations, phone and internet relay stations.

That became the weekly drill. Air raid sirens. A distant or not so distant rumble. Then emergency teams racing to a site. Which we raced to. To record the damage. And hear from people recounting projectiles falling around them. And then being left without vital essentials. A one-two Putin punch.

A cemetery we visited in the heart of Kyiv also told the tale. Long rows of fresh graves a symbol of the massive toll of this war. We spoke with a mother who lost her son. A couple who lost a friend. Two others who were missing a colleague. Young and old. Black and white family photos. Teddy bears. Football scarves. Bits of life. Turned to death.

We were in Kyiv for our Thanksgiving. For all their suffering and struggle, the staffers at our hotel prepared a turkey meal that would be prized on any American table. On this day of transplanted American warmth, I thought back on my own losses. In addition to my father dying in the past year, I also lost his last remaining sibling, 92-year-old Aunt Mildred. And his long-time girlfriend, 96-year-old Alice.


Also always on our minds, the loss of Pierre and Sasha. We stopped a few times during our reporting to see the exact spot where Russian missiles stole their lives. All that’s left…some ugly divots and spray marks from shrapnel on the side of the road. Flowers and memorial cards left. What was positive, though, the remarkable recovery of Benjamin Hall from terrible wounds. We had a warm reunion upon our return from the latest trip.

And so back to this first anniversary of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. And what lies ahead. Frankly, not even us grizzled war correspondents know for sure. What seems likely is that Vladimir Putin will not give up. He has set himself on a road to a brutal take-over and until he comes close to achieving something, he’ll continue to throw his cannon fodder into the ugly mix.

So far, the U.S. and international allies don’t look like they’re giving up either. Most countries seem willing to up the ante. Though there are worrying signs, including in the U.S., of flagging enthusiasm.

As for the people of Ukraine. From what we have seen in the past year, witnessed on the ground, and heard from everyone from President Zelenskyy down to a lovely 89-year-old granny, the country and its people will not give up until the Russians are driven out. Sadly, though, that could take a lot of hard doing. 

Data & News supplied by
Stock quotes supplied by Barchart
Quotes delayed at least 20 minutes.
By accessing this page, you agree to the following
Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.
Copyright © 2010-2020 & California Media Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.