Evgeniy Maloletka & Vasilisa Stepanenko Accept ICFJ Knight International Journalism Award

By: 11/10/2022

Evgeniy Maloletka and Vasilisa Stepanenko took the stage Nov. 10 at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC, at the ICFJ Tribute to Journalists 2022 to accept the ICFJ Knight International Journalism Award. Along with fellow winner Mstyslav Chernov, Maloletka and Stepanenko covered Russia's brutal siege of Mariupol, Ukraine, for the Associated Press. Maloletka delivered the remarks below.


Thank you.

For me, the war in Ukraine started eight years ago, when I worked as a photographer during the Revolution of Dignity, in Crimea in March 2014, and then in Donbass. During the first two years of the war, I was in various dangerous situations, but it cannot compare to what we have seen this year.

Before the war started, the three of us decided that Mariupol was the place to be in case something happened. We arrived in the city just one hour before the invasion, as the rockets began falling in the outskirts of the city.

During our 20 days in Mariupol, we witnessed war crimes, air strikes, and atrocities against civilians committed by the Russian forces. It was important for us to show to the country and to the world the suffering, fear and pain of the Ukrainians.

I often ask myself: "Why? Why? Why?" – the same question asked by Marina Yatsko with tears in her eyes, while touching the fingers of her son Kirill, whose body lay on a stretcher. The little boy was only 18 months old. He was killed during a shelling, doctors tried but could not save his life.

Then, on March 9, an airstrike destroyed the Maternity Hospital No. 3. 

Irina, a wounded pregnant woman, was carried by rescue workers and policemen in a stretcher with a red blanket under her back. I remember she was alive. They rushed to take her to the ambulance while passing by the debris of buildings, smashed cars, fallen trees and destruction.

The next day this picture was everywhere, and the whole world knew about the maternity hospital. On March 11 we learned that Irina and her baby didn’t survive.

I had seen a lot of human suffering before Mariupol, but I have never seen so many children killed in one single place in such a short period of time. 

People wrote to us on social media, hoping that we could give them information on their loved ones. We wanted to help but we couldn’t. The security situation became worse and worse each day.

For us, the tragedy of Mariupol will forever remain like a big scar on the body and the heart, but at the same time I feel that the work we did, documenting the horror of the war, will help the world to understand what is happening in Ukraine and help bring justice to the thousands killed in a bloody war.


Vasilisa Stepanenko: Thank you so much.

It’s really important to remember that the war in Ukraine continues. We are so sorry that Mystalsav couldn’t be here today with us. He is in Ukraine right now.

On behalf of all of us, thank you so much.

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