CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – Two journalists were killed in Kyiv, Ukraine this week when their vehicle came under fire – demonstrating how dangerous this war has become for people living there, including the reporters who cover it.
Terrell Jermaine Starr, an American freelance journalist who once called Champaign-Urbana home, is in Lviv now. He said the first three days after the conflict broke out were the hardest.
Starr never planned to be a war correspondent, but now – he’s committed to telling people’s stories.
“This is my first war as a reporter. And it’s hell. It’s inhumane,” he said.
Starr has been living in Ukraine part-time for about 12 years. When he most recently flew there, it was to start a tourism business.
Now, every day – he’s reporting on the ground, sometimes helping refugees escape Russia’s invasion.
“Obviously, the war has reconfigured my my activities here. Fortunately, no one I know has died. I’ve seen people get killed. I’ve seen the airstrikes – I missed one by 200 meters.”
Starr graduated from the University of Illinois with master’s degrees in Journalism and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies in 2009. He said documenting what’s happening in Ukraine has become part of his mission.
“It’s just awful to look at people’s anguish, and there’s, you know, people’s lives being destroyed. And you’re just there covering it.”
Starr said when the conflict first broke out, he was paranoid. He had trouble eating. But, he pushed forward, and tries bringing as much dignity as possible to a dark reality we can’t understand from half a world away.
“I don’t think anyone should be able to comprehend what it’s like to be in a warzone, because it’s not humane… Part of my day is waking up in the morning and hoping that none of my friends died.”
The rest of his day is full of writing, interviewing on the street and helping people leave the country whenever he can. He posts his experiences on social media and has grown a considerable following.
“Being independent has really been an immense benefit in how I’ve been able to show this war Ukraine. And the more independent journalists you have out there, telling their story, the better people will have a more in-depth understanding of what was happening,” Starr said.
Starr is also the host and founder of the “Black Diplomats” podcast. He posts updates to his Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. He plans to release a newsletter called “Ukrainian Warship” starting the week of March 21.
He said monetizing his social media pages has helped support his independent reporting. For those interested in helping out from overseas, he posts links to organizations he has donated to.