The Irish cameraman who was killed in the conflict in Ukraine is remembered today as a truth teller, a man who brought hope and light to the world’s darkest places, and a man who threw the best and loudest parties .
Ierre Zakrzewski, 55, who grew up in Leopardstown, Dublin, was covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine when he was killed on March 14 during Russian shelling outside Kyiv.
Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova was also killed when her vehicle was hit, while American broadcaster Benjamin Hall was seriously injured.
Mr. Zakrzewski had spent his professional life covering conflicts around the world, working for Fox and Sky News in Ukraine.
He was born in Paris to a French mother, Marie-ange, and a Polish father, Andrzej, who predeceased him. Pierre was the second oldest of six children.
He has lived in London for the last 15 years with his wife Michelle, who worked as a journalist for the BBC.
At his funeral at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succor in Foxrock, South Dublin, family, friends, colleagues and neighbors gathered to celebrate his life and mourn his loss.
His brother Stas told how Pierre was born two months premature and fought. “His restless leg and boundless energy wouldn’t have waited the full nine months,” his brother said.
He shared that the garden surrounding their house was a perfect place for a pack of kids to let off their energy playing football or rugby with neighbors joining in the fun.
“As we got older, the house became famous for some of the best parties, and Pierre’s parties were by far the wildest and loudest,” he added.
Stas painted a picture of Pierre as a man who would learn through life experience rather than school and would not spend his life sitting behind a desk.
“In 1987 I was lucky enough to spend the summer with him in Copenhagen. We worked as security guards at a campsite, walked around with a friendly dog, checked on people who needed help and helped pretty Swedish girls set up their tents. He was in his element. It wasn’t a desk job. He met people from all over the world. That was his thing,” he explained.
Stas shared how Pierre got his love of travel from listening to the stories of his godfather Jean-Pierre, one of many adventurous and creative French relatives who opened their eyes to an even bigger worldview.
Jean-Pierre was particularly influential to Pierre, buying him his first motorcycle and sound system, but his greatest gift was his travel stories from around the world.
Stas quoted Pierre: “Forty-two years later, I find myself all over the world most of the year. Whether it’s work or a simple trick, I’m still as fascinated by the world and adventures as I was when I started. Thank you for inspiring me to live this life.”
He said Pierre refused to be constrained by traditional education and instead chose to travel to educate himself about the world and politics, and what it was like traveling through Europe growing up and beyond to Afghanistan and Pakistan that his interests in photography and politics began to intertwine with freelance journalism.
“And through all of that, he always had time to just call, get in touch, no matter where he was. Pierre was also very inspirational to his friends and family. He taught us to think outside the box and that nothing is impossible,” added Stas.
A school friend, Ronan Hingerty, shared how he first met Pierre when they were about 11 and Pierre was thrown into her classroom without warning and how powerful and energetic he was.
He recounted rugby adventures at school and how, in his late teens, Pierre asked him if he could drive him to Newbridge in Co Kildare where he wanted to test a new backpack he had bought by testing it to capacity of 78 kg and so it went back to Dublin.
Mr Hingerty, known as Hingo to his classmates, said Pierre had an innate ability to use his irentum and packs of cigarettes to gain entry through checkpoints in the most hostile parts of the world.
“The level of this extraordinary human being is not measured in certificates, degrees, merit, medals or awards. It’s not what he said or what he achieved professionally or personally that will stay with us. That’s how he made us feel. This was the essence, the life force of the man who brought hope and light to the darkest places on earth. We’re trying to make our world a better place by exposing bullies and tyrants,” he added.
Pierre’s colleague at Fox News, Tim Santhouse, described him as someone you wish could become a better person.
“He was better than the best of all of us combined. His qualities were endless, his altruism limitless. He lived his life for the benefit of others,” he said.
“He would help me with my expenses. He would help me fix my motorcycle. It would help improve my mood. For Pierre, any trip was better than spending time in the office.
“He was constantly on the phone, mostly very loud, because of a shaky connection to Kabul. He helped hundreds of frightened Afghans leave the country and get to safety. He never rushed her on the phone, never rolled his eyes when asked to help someone’s extended family escape from the Taliban.”
Mr Santhouse added: “Pierre is one of the main reasons I joined Fox. I wanted to work with him. I wanted to learn from him. I wanted to meet him and I got my wish. And like all of us here, I am eternally grateful for that.”
In a testimony included in the funeral booklet, Mr. Zakrzewski’s mother, Marie-ange, paid tribute to her son.
“Normal wasn’t in Pierre’s vocabulary and normal things never happened to him,” she wrote.
His mother added: “He was such a powerful influence on our family; the travels, the attraction to other cultures, his refusal to conform for the sake of conforming and always bringing everything back to basics. Not always easy to live!”
And she said: “I feel like he gave it his all, he accomplished what he set out to do in his own circle, he changed the world for his immediate family, his friends, his work colleagues and countless people who loved his help needed way. We are so touched by the honors bestowed on him, which speak of his talents, his strong values as a person and his commitment to the big picture.”
In his homily, Father Kieran Dunne said that Pierre was a lovely person, respected, friendly, trusting, loyal and family oriented. A proud Irishman who is unafraid of his roots and grounded in his ability to transcend languages, cultures, traditions and identities, seeing them not as barriers but as oceans of opportunity for human encounter, exchange and growth.
“He was a man of his generation but cross-generational and shared extensively with his nieces and nephews. Visionary, innovative in his work and in the world, a fortune teller, full of empathy, generous at heart, what we might call “humanitarian”. He opened the sails of our country, Ireland, to a wider world and a wider and richer horizon, remaining humble through it all,” he added.
Pierre is survived by his wife Michelle, mother Marie-ange, sisters Zosia and Karola, and brothers Stas, Greg and Nick.
He was an uncle to Clara, Lucie, Louise, Zoe, Juliette, Jake, Lola, Florence, Anna, Braedyn and Grayson.
Symbols brought to the altar to represent his life were a toy motorcycle representing his adventure, a dried meat Saucisson Sec and a packet of Tayto chips representing his favorite food, a camera representing his work and a Rolling Stones book depicting his love for music.
President Michael D. Higgins was represented by ADC Commander Deirdre Newell and Taoiseach Mícheál Martin by ADC Commander Claire Mortimer.
Also present were Secretary of State Simon Coveney, Ukrainian Ambassador Larysa Gerasko, Polish Ambassador Anna Sochanska, US Ambassador Claire Cronin and French Embassy Representative Marianne Barkan-Cowdy.
During the Requiem Mass, prayers were also said for the journalist killed and injured in the attack that killed Pierre, and a prayer of the faithful was dedicated to the media workers and journalists who are the voice of the voiceless and give a face to the faceless .
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/pierre-zakrzewski-the-irish-cameraman-killed-in-ukraine-remembered-as-a-truth-teller-and-humanitarian-as-he-is-laid-to-rest-41499206.html Pierre Zakrzewski, the Irish cameraman killed in Ukraine, remembers at his funeral as a truthteller and philanthropist