Under Fire: Journalists and Ukraine

24th March, 2022

On Thursday 24th March, 2022, at 11:30am a service was held at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street to remember those who have been killed or injured and support, give thanks and pray for the safety of all covering the Ukraine conflict.

Download Order of Service (pdf)

Review of the service by Simon Greaves, FT and Court Member of the Guild of St Bride


The Revd Canon Dr Alison Joyce introduced the service:

Journalists are always under fire – not only in Ukraine but throughout all the most troubled and dangerous regions of the world. It is what they do.

But the war in Ukraine has made us all sit up – and not only because that kind of conflict isn’t supposed to happen on European soil. It has also reminded us all, in a particularly stark and startling way, of the real human cost of quality journalism, and the risks taken by those reporters, film crews, technicians, and support staff, in making us aware of what is really going on.

It has never been so readily apparent how imperative it is that we not only support them in their work, but also that we value and uphold the freedom of the press – because we are also seeing how easily violence is done to the truth when an oppressive regime takes control of the media.

Shortly after the invasion of Ukraine began (exactly a month ago today), I sent messages of support to some of the correspondents covering the event – and I was deeply touched to receive messages back, thanking us for thinking of them, and asking for our prayers. What we are doing today really matters to them.

And so, at our service today, we are pledging our support and offering our prayers for all those who are covering the conflict at immense personal risk (both inside and outside Ukraine); we shall be holding in our hearts those who have been killed, injured, or taken captive – and above all we shall, of course, be remembering the people of Ukraine, whose lives have been devastated so mercilessly as a result of the war.

There will be a retiring collection after the service to support the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. Our huge thanks to the Journalists’ Charity and the London Press Club for helping make this service possible.

Finally, a few words about our service today and our contributors.

Our first reading is a lament for a city that was besieged and devastated back in the 6th century BCE – when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and exiled its people. A lament that echoes across the centuries. Our thanks to Patrick Kidd of the Times for reading this for us.

Our second reading is a poem by a Ukrainian-American poet, originally published in about 2013, which makes it heartrendingly prescient. It will be read for us by Timothy Worledge from Fastmarkets Agriculture. Fastmarkets is a publishing company just round the corner from us here, which has journalism and reporting at its heart – they have reporters based in Ukraine and very much want to express their support and solidarity for them at this difficult time. You and your colleagues are most welcome.

It is a pleasure and a delight to welcome the internationally renowned cellist Raphael Wallfisch who will be playing for us today. In addition to the two pieces by Bach listed in your orders of service, he will also be playing the Gigue from Suite No 3. The music of the solo cello really does speak to the heart, so it is wonderful to have you with us today.

And finally it is our privilege to welcome as our speaker today, Caroline Wyatt. Caroline has worked for the BBC since 1991, including as a war correspondent, and she has reported from some of the most perilous regions of the world – so she really does know what it is like to be out there. We are delighted to have you with us here today. And it was Caroline who drew my attention to the poem we shall be hearing as our second reading.

We begin with an opening prayer for the people of Ukraine. Let us pray.

Almighty God,
We remember before you this day, Ukraine and its people.
We pray for all who will spend this day in fear or in flight.
Those torn from their homes and their loved ones;
The injured, the bereaved, and those for whom hope feels in short supply.
Be present with your suffering people.
Grant your comfort to all who are in despair
Your courage to all who are losing heart,
And your protection for all who are vulnerable.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


Caroline Wyatt, former war correspondent and BBC Defence Correspondent

On a cold spring morning, on February the 24th, a new darkness fell on the world, and we knew in that instant that our world had changed. On this, day 29 of the war in Ukraine, I want to start with the words of one of the bravest of all the courageous people reporting this conflict, the video journalist Mstyslav Chernov of the Associated Press.

After 20 days of documenting the city of Mariupol’s agony, he and his colleague, photographer Yevgeny Maloletka were forced to flee to avoid capture. This is what Mstyslav wrote:

“About a quarter of Mariupol’s four-hundred-and-thirty-thousand residents left in those first days, while they still could. But few people believed a war was coming, and by the time most realized their mistake, it was too late.

One bomb at a time, the Russians cut electricity, water, food supplies and finally, crucially, the cell phone, radio and television towers. The few other journalists in the city got out before the last connections were gone and a full blockade settled in.

The absence of information in a blockade accomplishes two goals.

Chaos is the first. People don’t know what’s going on, and they panic. At first, I couldn’t understand why Mariupol fell apart so quickly. Now I know it was because of the lack of communication.

Impunity is the second goal. With no information coming out of a city, no pictures of demolished buildings and dying children, the Russian forces could do whatever they wanted. If not for us, there would be nothing.

That’s why we took such risks to be able to send the world what we saw, and that’s what made Russia angry enough to hunt us down.

I have never, ever felt that breaking the silence was so important.”

That’s how all of the teams working there will feel – even more so, the Ukrainian journalists reporting on the evisceration of their own country.

They’ll feel that the work of war reporting has never been more crucial. It was not by chance that one of the first acts of Russia’s invasion was to bomb the TV tower in Key-iv. The aim was to cut off information, to silence, and sow uncertainty.

I often wondered, in the years I spent reporting on war, how I’d feel if armed men barged into my home – with all the terror of not knowing what would happen next.

Just imagine waking up on a bright day in spring to prepare breakfast, and get the children ready for school before you head to work.

Instead, you find troops at your door: taking over your house, rifling through your cupboards, eating your food. And worse.

And then, they tell you that your country isn’t yours after all, that they’re there to liberate you from oppression.

In the absence of information, with the phone and the internet cut off, after a while you’re no longer sure quite what to believe.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the 21st Century is like this. After all, the past century was one of the most blood-soaked in human history. And perhaps the long peace that we enjoyed after 1945, and the joy of a re-united Europe after the Iron Curtain came down in 1989 were the exception – and not the rule.

Many of the correspondents reporting from Ukraine have covered conflict around the world. So have the producers, photographers and camera crews with them.

But few of those conflicts were in the very heart of Europe. Nor – even in Bosnia or Kosovo – were they truly wars in which an accidental escalation to a nuclear confrontation remains a chilling possibility. Or an escalation to chemical warfare, as we saw in Syria.

We’ve long known that good journalism — eye-witness journalism – matters. And it matters most of all when covering war, when truth is hard to pin down and facts are disputed or even weaponised.

The AP team were persuaded to leave Mariupol when it became clear that if captured, they’d be forced to claim on camera that their work was a lie: even though their images – used on front pages around the world – showed clearly that an invading army had deliberately caused the death of civilians: from children and pregnant mothers, to those old enough to have survived the famine deliberately inflicted on them by another leader in the Kremlin: Joseph Stalin.

By 1933, nearly four million Ukrainians had died of starvation in one of the most fertile regions on earth. Then, dead bodies littered the streets, as they do now in Mariupol.

While the famine was happening, news of it was deliberately silenced by Soviet bureaucrats. Party officials didn’t mention it in public, and western journalists in Moscow were instructed not to write about it.

Today, western journalists in Moscow have also been told not to mention the war, but to call it, in Orwellian New-speak: Russia’s ‘special military operation’.

But the crucial difference is that now, every major news organisation has its journalists and crews reporting from wherever they can in Ukraine. From the perilous, shifting front-lines, to the city of Lviv, where so many women and children have fled before reaching safety in Poland, the horrifying reality of what Putin has unleashed on Ukraine is being documented, and broadcast to, or read by, billions of people around the world.

Our friends — our colleagues – reporting from Ukraine are the very best of us.

We know that what they witness there may haunt them for the rest of their lives. Most of all: the people they couldn’t help; the children they couldn’t save; the mothers they couldn’t comfort; or the fathers they filmed as they had to bury their own sons.

When our colleagues come home there’ll be a sharp disconnect. Days, weeks and maybe months when their thoughts and their hearts are still in Ukraine. Days when seeing their own child will bring back thoughts of another crying outside an apartment block gutted by shells, a home turned into a nightmare doll’s house in a world turned upside down.

And the thoughts of many of our colleagues – as ours are today — will be of those journalists and crews who, in bearing witness to this conflict, have lost their own lives, leaving their friends and families asking ‘was their work really worth it?’

They should be in no doubt that it was, and it is. Ukraine is now the frontier at which the work of defending democracy has become – once again – a matter of life and death.

In Moscow, state media are creating an alternative reality in which Putin talks of patriots and traitors, where police round up protesters, and Ukraine is reported to be bombing its own maternity hospitals and kindergartens.

Our colleagues in Ukraine know that words and images matter in this war on European soil in the early 21st century.

That language matters.

That truth matters.

Especially when Putin and his troops are using the language of brute force.

Thanks to the work of reporters and photographers and local journalists in Ukraine, we cannot simply look away and tell ourselves it’s a faraway place of which we know little.

Their work means that whatever happens next in Ukraine, we can’t say we didn’t know. We can’t say we didn’t see. And I hope that thanks to them, we won’t have to look back and say we didn’t act – in whatever way we can, whether that’s by donating our money, donating our time, or perhaps even donating a room in our own home to someone who’s lost theirs.

So that in the years to come, when peace has returned to Europe, and a free and sovereign Ukraine has been rebuilt, we can hold our heads up high when our children or grandchildren ask – what did you do in the war?


Patrick Kidd, Diary Editor, The Times, read Lamentations 3: 46-60

All our enemies have opened their mouths
wide against us.
We have suffered terror and pitfalls,
ruin and destruction.”
Streams of tears flow from my eyes
because my people are destroyed.
My eyes will flow unceasingly,
without relief,
until the LORD looks down
from heaven and sees.
What I see brings grief to my soul
because of all the women of my city.
Those who were my enemies without cause
hunted me like a bird.
They tried to end my life in a pit
and threw stones at me;
the waters closed over my head,
and I thought I was about to perish.
I called on your name, LORD,
from the depths of the pit.
You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears
to my cry for relief.”
You came near when I called you,
and you said, “Do not fear.”
You, Lord, took up my case;
you redeemed my life.
LORD, you have seen the wrong done to me.
Uphold my cause!
You have seen the depth of their vengeance,
all their plots against me.

Timothy Worledge, Editorial Director, Fastmarkets Agriculture read We Lived Happily During the War by Ilya Kaminsky

And when they bombed other people’s houses, we

but not enough, we opposed them but not

enough. I was
in my bed, around my bed America

was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house.

I took a chair outside and watched the sun.

In the sixth month
of a disastrous reign in the house of money

in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,
our great country of money, we (forgive us)

lived happily during the war.

© 2013 Ilya Kaminsky


The St Bride’s Choir and the organist of St Bride’s performed the following anthems and songs:

Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts – Henry Purcell
Prelude from Suite No 1 in G major, Sarabande from Suite No 2 in D minor & Gigue from Suite No 3 in C major – Johann Sebastian Bach (performed by Raphael Wallfisch)
Many rivers to cross – Jimmy Cliff arr. Robert Jones
Spraw niech płaczę z Tobą razem from Stabat Mater Op 53 – Karol Szymanowski
Fanfare – Bohdan Kotyuk

Lord of all hopefulness
My song is love unknown

Photo: by kind permission Carlos Barria/Reuters

congregation sitting for service


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