The other day my very good friend Reuters’ Kosovo Albanian Journalist (VJ) Bardh Krasniqi sent me this video of Ukrainian Cameraman Taras Protsyuk and I working together in Pristina during a period when Kosovo Albanians were protesting their treatment at the hands of the Milosevic government in 1998.
The story behind the story (if you watch to the end) is that, during anti-Serb demonstrations, a young woman gets separated from her fellow Kosovo Albanian demonstrators.
Despite the presence of a threatening Kosovo Serb mob, Taras follows the Kosovo Albanian lady with his TV camera perched upon his shoulder. You can watch as another camera films Taras getting closer and closer to the action – dangerously close as it happens.
In fact, Taras gets so close that the Kosovo Serb thugs turn on him breaking his camera and kicking him to the ground in the process.
At the time I was returning from the RTS relay station (being the only Reuters crew member allowed (accredited) to use the government TV channel’s feedpoint). Having transmitted Taras’ demonstration footage to our Reuters London headquarters, I arrived on the scene with my good friend Bata Grulovic just as Taras was being set upon by Kosovo Serb thugs.
I managed to drag Taras free and Bata captured much of the scene on video including footage of what used to be our camera broken in two – if not three – pieces… (It was one of three USD $40,000 cameras ‘lost on my watch’ covering TV news – sorry about that Reuters!).
It was a long, lonely walk back to Pristina’s Hotel Grand (Grand Hotel) with the occasional Kosovo Serb thug running up to throw a punch at Taras while I tried to escort him away.
“It was the only thing I could think of to try and help her,” Taras later explained to me when I asked why he had got so close to the chaos.
Although Taras survived this particular incident, and many others in warzones around the world, he was sadly killed when a US tank shell hit the Palestine Hotel in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
I found out about Taras’ death on my first trip back to the UK since putting Cambodian TV Channel CTN on air. I had been in London just a few hours when my good friend Reuters Asia Editor Julian Rake called me to tell me the news.
It stopped me in my tracks as I strolled down the Fulham Road in the early morning chill. It shook me then – as it does now.
Taras forms the basis (albeit changed and fictionalized) for the chapter Denys in my book From Phnom Penh with Love.