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Wilmington journalist gives first-hand look at the war in Ukraine

Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 12:36 PM EDT
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UKRAINE (WECT) - News of the war in Ukraine is everywhere, but it’s rare to hear an insider perspective from a Wilmington local.

WECT spoke with former Port City Daily photographer Mark Darrough, who recently traveled to Ukraine to report from the war zone.

“My friend here, Patrick, is a writer who covers various topics but one of them is sexual violence, so we’ve got a piece we’re working on right now for the New York Times to document how big it is, kind of a 30,000-foot perspective but also talk to the people on the ground,” Darrough said.

From bombed out structures to atrocities committed on civilians, Darrough says it’s unlike anything he’s experienced in the past. As for why he decided to take such a risky trip — his passion for photography and documenting events.

“The temptation to come over and try our hand at some freelance journalism was getting a little too strong and we decided to pull the trigger in early April and arrived in Warsaw and slowly made our way to the border town, right near Lviv, which is in western Ukraine,” he said.

The differences between the far western city of Lviv and Kyiv are stark.

“I think the first week we were in Lviv out west, it was quite the paradox to here in the capitol city. Lviv was hopping, thousands of people on the street, overall a sense of security. I think the second to last day a missile hit a train station — we woke up to see the smoke rising about the skyline,” he said.

But in the capital, things are a bit more tense.

One of the hardest things for Darrough to see was the internally displaced Ukrainians who went west escaping some of the more active fronts of the war hoping for safety, just to realize the attacks can happen anywhere, anytime.

A gun turret sits near a destroyed Russian tank on the side of a road in the countryside just...
A gun turret sits near a destroyed Russian tank on the side of a road in the countryside just north of Kyiv, where the Russians had retreated in early April.(MARK DARROUGH | MARK DARROUGH)

“Just so sad to see that story, people that had escaped to a safe haven and they get hit by a Russian missile, which more and more these days seem to be targeting civilian infrastructure,” he said.

Darrough said the anger running through the country is deep. He met a Ukrainian at a bar who told him a story about a 10-year-old girl being sexually assaulted.

“The people that we continue to talk to have an overwhelming amount of anger to their neighbors to the east,” he said.

Darrough said he plans on returning to the states in May so he can take a belated honeymoon with his wife. When asked what her thoughts are on her husband heading into a war, Darrough said she’s handled it well.

“Well, I married the right woman, I can tell you that much. She’s been remarkably supportive through all this and obviously it doesn’t thrill her to have me over here right now but she knows I’m passionate about photography and passionate about stuff like this,” he said.

A passenger boards a bus in Lviv in western Ukraine, known as the country's  "Capital of...
A passenger boards a bus in Lviv in western Ukraine, known as the country's "Capital of Culture" and a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of refugees escaping the war in the east. Its status as a refuge city was thrown in doubt when a Russian missile hit three military buildings and a car garage near a rail line on Monday, killing seven.(Mark Darrough | MARK DARROUGH)
A man holds a puppy near the World Central Kitchen tent outside Lviv's central train station.
A man holds a puppy near the World Central Kitchen tent outside Lviv's central train station.(Mark Darrough | MARK DARROUGH)
A destroyed Russian tank sits on the side of a road in the countryside just north of Kyiv,...
A destroyed Russian tank sits on the side of a road in the countryside just north of Kyiv, where the Russians had retreated in early April.(Mark Darrough | MARK DARROUGH)
People line up at a World Central Kitchen tent outside Lviv's central train station.
People line up at a World Central Kitchen tent outside Lviv's central train station.(Mark Darrough | MARK DARROUGH)

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