She Died Helping Tell the World About Russia’s Brutal Invasion of Her Ukraine

I did not know Sasha Kuvshynova.

And I never will.

She was a young, energetic Ukrainian woman helping Fox News recount the unprovoked Russian invasion of her country to the world. What Vladimir Putin calls a “special military operation,” one of a number of deadly takeovers he may countenance. And she was one of at least three foreign journalists killed already in Ukraine.

In a village about 20 miles outside Kyiv, Oleksandra Sasha Kuvshynova died last week along with veteran Fox cameraman, Pierre Zakrzewski, in an ambush during the Russian encirclement of Ukraine’s capital. Kuvshynova was a lively 24, who by all accounts, loved music, local nightlife, and her cat Zephyr.

She liked to take cell photos, often playing with light, flowers, shining waters. Her selfies on Instagram show a soft face, rarely smiling, usually with her long hair falling across one eye.

Alexandra Kuvshynova (Credit: Alexandra Kuvshynova Instagram)

On a visit to Italy last year, alone it seems, Sasha was taken with the country’s beauty and its foods, craving pasta for breakfast with photos of it cooking. “Falling into harmony,” she told herself. And then, “If I ever had a daughter, I will definitely call her Florence.”

In February Sasha’s posts suddenly turned political. She said she wanted to tell Ukraine’s story to the world. “It’s not about Ukraine wanting to be with Russia,” she said, “but about Putin wanting to be with Ukraine.”

Online she called herself “self-employed.” But for the past several weeks Sasha was what Fox News calls a consultant, a local hired for knowledge of a country, city, and language skills to help foreign correspondents navigate and gather news in yet another deadly foreign place they’ve parachuted into.

Almost every U.S. news organization has these “consultants” abroad. They’re invaluable colleagues in the sometimes dangerous business of reporting from foreign lands.

I’ve known a number of Sasha Kuvshynovas over the years elsewhere in the world. Readers and viewers of American news don’t hear much about these faceless, dedicated professional guides, translators, scouts, and friends who risk their lives for people they’ve just met and foreigners they’ll never know.

But these folks are vital, often lifesaving, off-camera journalistic accomplices in the dangerous world that Americans watch safely from our couches free of artillery and sniper fire, remote control in-hand should the scenes on-screen get too scary. There are no remote controls to change channels on the violent, strewn streets of Ukraine.

American diplomats and military also employed thousands of these folks in the 20-year agony that was the allied experience in Afghanistan. They interpreted, guided, advised, and protected the foreigners for not that much pay but the eventual chances to escape to the fabled country these foreigners came from and took for granted.

Some of them were safely evacuated by conscientious organizations, news operations, and colleagues before the Taliban quickly took over the country to wreak revenge and impose its brand of harsh faith.

Joe Biden prominently promised to evacuate all Americans and allies who wanted out. He didn’t, of course. He pulled the evacuation prematurely a second time. And that Biden promise joined the mounting volume of lies that U.S. media don’t bother to tally for this Democrat president because he’s not the loathed Republican Donald Trump.

So, Biden betrayed thousands of these loyal locals and their families who had put their faith into hard work, loyalty, shared danger, and explicit or implied promises from their American and allied co-workers. They’re still there, these unarmed souls, likely in hiding, because this president and his media have moved on to more important, timely, and colorful tales that aren’t such a stain on America’s national honor.

Unless they’ve already been captured.

Malcolm on the Right
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America and Americans have a good and generous heart. But we let our massive government screw up and that screws up the lives of too many others out of sight. The same thing happened in South Vietnam where the U.S. ambassador, fearing panic, put off evacuation plans until it was too late. That caused even worse panic, and ended up leaving too many behind.

We abandoned thousands of allies there too, to be sent to Communist re-education camps. Or worse.

My news organization had two ‘Sashas’ in its Saigon bureau. They alternated days accompanying correspondents into the field to chronicle the crumbling security and heartbreaking human situations. It was very dangerous because the Vietcong did not want their story told and the South Vietnamese military felt betrayed by Americans such that they might accidentally misdirect you into danger.

On a Sunday, we flew to Camranh Bay. We came upon a chaotic situation with thousands of refugees fleeing from the north. My interpreter wrangled a car from the airport manager in return for flying his wife and daughter to Saigon that night. We spent the day interviewing people, gathering details on the panic unknown back in Saigon about 200 miles away.

One family calmly described its 300-mile trek on foot as the third in recent years. But on this one, their baby died the second day out from Danang. With sounds of enemy firing just behind, do they leave the little body in the woods to wander alone in eternity or take time to bury him for the guaranteed journey to Heaven?

At one point, I suggested we interview some soldiers. My Sasha knew better. Turns out they were marauding deserters, who soon were firing automatic weapons in the air to convince refugees to surrender their meager valuables.

In Thailand, I hired a local driver-interpreter for the day’s drive to peek into Cambodia where the Khmer Rouge was on a killing spree. En route, I told him to pick a restaurant and I’d buy him lunch. He chose one my wife would not approve, the roofless shell of a roadside house.

As he described the family and future job hopes, his noodle soup arrived. He continued talking while spooning from the broth a couple of silverfish swimming around.

At the border, we could hear gunfire in Cambodia, but our biggest danger were working elephants blithely walking on the highway. Another day, he drove me to an American air base where the family of our local assistant in Cambodia had been evacuated with no belongings.

My helper found clothing stores and negotiated prices. My first time buying underwear for Asian women.

In Guam later, more than 120,000 Vietnamese refugees had settled in a tent city so massive it had its own Zipcode. Besides covering that news, my job was to find our displaced Saigon Sashas and their two dozen family members to return their hospitality by expediting them on to new lives and jobs in the U.S.

But after an all-day search, I’d not located them. Interviewing officials later at the immigration clearing center, I heard familiar voices. There they were, needing no help from me. They had used their bilingual skills and knowledge of American ways to ingratiate themselves into the work life of harried officials addressing the human chaos.

To my employer’s immense credit, he took great care of these displaced local assistants, giving them jobs, apartments, and even counseling when the pressures and freedoms of a shocking new culture generated strains among men and women. But those were generally success stories.

This Ukraine invasion is not. Over the years, I’ve found solace and perspective in recounting for readers I’ll never meet the small details of individual lives caught up in larger events. The inner feelings of surrogate mothers who loaned their wombs to enable childless couples to become parents. A child’s awe upon seeing Mount Rushmore. A Belgian farmer mixing paint in an old Nazi helmet explaining what it’s like to raise dairy cows on an immense field that streams of tourists traipse across because the Battle of Waterloo was fought there.

The stunned look on the faces of curious Vietnamese refugees who’d just innocently asked me to explain what an Easter bunny does. A long pause. “Exactly how big are American rabbits?” one grandpa asked.

The tiny Vietnamese child squatting with her family on the roadside who said being a war refugee again did not frighten her. She smiled. Then she vomited in the dirt.

But Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova’s story is different. Over 55 professional years at home and abroad I’ve met thousands of famous and ordinary people. With few exceptions, I’m drawn to the latter.

I’ve covered first-hand a wide variety of stories – routine, revealing, bloody, exciting, happy, boring, and tragic. But I found it strangely disturbing this time to be going through the embalmed social posts of a young dead woman.

Sasha had so much energy, curiosity, and so much life ahead of her, all snuffed out in an instant by the territorial ambitions of a ruthless autocrat who fancies himself a man. He’ll never know anything about her. But now you do.

One of Sasha’s last entries was her cell photo of an open bedroom window with bright light coloring the wooden floor. “Always in Sun,” she wrote.

(Editor’s Note: “Malcolm on the Right” is usually a VIP-only column; however, out of respect for and in honor of Sasha this week’s column is available to all.)

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