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‘She loved every day of her life.’ Family and friends pay tribute to Ukrainian journalist killed in Kyiv

By Rebecca Wright and Olha Konovalova, CNN

The parents of Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova say the death of their daughter, killed while reporting on the war in their homeland, has helped them to discover a lot more about her life.

Her father, Andriy Kuvshynov, told CNN they always knew Sasha was a “talented girl” with a “love of life,” but the outpouring of messages from her wide circle of friends and colleagues has enabled the family to build up a broader picture of the 24-year-old.

“Many dozens of people have reached out to us in the last week,” Kuvshynov said. “We’ve learned a lot about her that we didn’t know as parents. We’ve seen the kind of person she was.”

Among Sasha’s many passions were media and journalism, which led her to work with a team from Fox News covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

On March 14, she and veteran Irish news cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski, 55, were killed when their vehicle came under fire in a suburb of Kyiv. British correspondent Benjamin Hall was also injured in the attack; he has since been evacuated from Ukraine.

“What happened was a complete surprise, a complete horror for us,” her father, 59, said. “We couldn’t imagine that it was possible.”

Before the war Sasha led a vibrant life, immersed in the creative community of the Ukrainian capital and working on a string of diverse projects — everything from founding a music festival for up-and-coming jazz musicians to working as a DJ and writing poetry.

Sasha was also a gifted stills photographer, and developed an impressive portfolio that bridged a range of disciplines including street photography, portraits and abstract work.

“Her biggest dream was to make movies in modern formats. So she did both photography and script writing,” her father said. “She loved and wanted to make films herself and to be a producer, to learn in that direction. She had five cameras in the house.”

Fox News correspondent Trey Yingst worked with Sasha in Kyiv. He wrote a tribute post on Twitter saying: “She was talented, well-sourced and witty. She liked photography, poetry and music.”

Yonat Friling, a senior field producer for Fox, described her as “a beautiful brave woman” who was “funny and kind” and “did a brilliant job” working with their team.

‘Thousands of talents’

Growing up, Sasha loved flowers, cats, and her family; her father said she often made people laugh and did things “outside the box.” Fiercely smart, she learned how to read at the age of three, and picked up English from restaurant menus when they were on family holidays, he said.

From an early age, she developed into a “person of great self-discipline,” and “a person of great principles that she stood up for,” he said. She also became fiercely independent, he said, adding that all her success came from her own hard work and energy.

“I can describe Sasha as a very kind person with thousands of talents,” said Akim Karpach, 24, who worked with her at Fusion, a community group which supports and develops jazz musicians. “She did everything to the fullest — she was 100% immersed into every friendship, hobby, job, etc. She was never indifferent.”

“She loved every day of her life and was happy every time I saw her,” he told CNN. “It seemed that Sasha knew a lot about living in this world and was always open to everything it had to offer.”

Alongside her other projects, Sasha worked as a personal assistant at Limelite, a Kyiv production house which makes advertising and music videos for artists and brands from all over the world.

“She was one of the brightest persons I’ve ever met and she had a lot of talents actually, she was a DJ, she knew about music, she made cool film photography,” her Limelite colleague Daria Uperenko, 23, told CNN. “She was proactive, and she actually believed in everything she was doing and gave so much energy to all of that. She was really [a] very inspiring person.”

Sasha was also committed to helping others, especially those who had been suffering since the war began. She founded an organization called, bringing together volunteers from across Kyiv to deliver humanitarian aid to citizens, medical organizations and soldiers.

“It is difficult to describe our pain, it is difficult to realize that it happened,” said in a statement on its Instagram page. “It was she who gathered indifferent Kyiv citizens and created Sasha has done a lot for our country and we want to continue her work,” it said. “Thank you, our brave friend.”

One of her close friends, Ukrainian lawmaker Sviatoslav Yurash, saw Sasha just days before her death at the apartment of another friend, where they chatted and ate the traditional soup, Borscht. He said they first met 10 years ago, at an English language camp, and later dated before becoming friends.

“Her I loved. [A] decade of happiness and sadness, joy and pain, meaning and loss. Only death could have parted us,” 26-year-old Yurash wrote on Twitter.

She was “jovial, but private,” he told CNN. “She didn’t do parties … her true self was in poetry.” She had eclectic music tastes and he “always turned to her for music advice,” he added.

Yurash said Sasha went on a dream trip to Italy last summer, and “she came back very inspired, that she could live the way she wanted to live. Small towns, pizza, wine, proper dates.”

An imagined future, made impossible by the war.

‘Live for today’

“I am just one person, so many people around Ukraine are losing loved ones every single day,” Yurash told CNN, urging the outside world to pay attention to recent events in his country. “Care about Sasha, care about Ukraine, care about our struggle. Many more Sashas will happen in Ukraine if you don’t get involved in what matters.”

For Sasha’s grieving father, losing a daughter at such a young age has prompted him to send a message to other parents about their relationships with their own children.

“Appreciate every minute you have,” he said. “You have to live for today.”

“Pay attention to them,” he added. “Understand that these moments will never happen again.”

Sasha’s family and friends are now left holding onto memories of their time together — and to the enduring beauty of Sasha’s work.

Around six weeks ago, she wrote a poem in English that she posted for friends on Instagram — some of the final written words of a young woman whose talents live on for those who loved her.

This time
When there is only left
a touch between us
I see the sky in front
No words left for you
I have got thousands lifetimes
To count the steps
That I will make for us
I hold on tight every moment
Your smile
Between my heart and morning tea
Seconds blaze furiously
My heart is warm
The consonance sounds

Denys Otroshchenko contributed to this report.

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