An Irish cameraman who was killed in Ukraine has been remembered at his funeral as a “truth teller” who was full of energy and passion for presenting people’s stories to the world.
Pierre Zakrzewski was working for US network Fox News in Horenka, on the outskirts of Kyiv, when his vehicle was hit by Russian shelling on March 14.
His colleague, Ukrainian producer Oleksandra Kuvshynova, also died and British reporter Benjamin Hall was injured in the incident.
Mr Zakrzewski’s funeral took place at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Co Dublin, on Tuesday.
A framed black-and-white photograph of the 55-year-old, sporting his distinctive thick moustache, was placed on top of the white coffin.
In his homily, Father Kieran Dunne told mourners: “Spurred on by his desire to sincerely encounter people truly and without ego to truly present their stories and their uniqueness to the world, he shone out as a story-teller.”
The priest described the journalist as “a loveable person, well regarded, maintaining friendships, trusting, loyal and family oriented”.
“A proud Irishman, unafraid of his roots and in his earthiness capable of reaching across languages, cultures, traditions and identities and seeing them not as barriers but as oceans of possibility for human encounter, sharing and growing,” he added.
“A man of his generation but cross-generational sharing deeply with his nieces and nephews.
“Capable of vision, innovative in his work and in the world – a truth teller, full of empathy, generous of heart – what we could call humanitarian.”
The Mass began with Mr Zakrzewski’s nieces and nephews laying gifts representing his life, including a camera, a toy motorbike, a Rolling Stones book, and crisps and French sausage – some of his favourite foods.
Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney attended the service, along with representatives of President Michael D Higgins and premier Micheal Martin.
The US ambassador to Ireland was there, as well as representatives from the Ukrainian, Polish and French embassies.
Tim Santhouse, a colleague at Fox News, said in his tribute that he was inspired to join the network because of Mr Zakrzewski, whose “qualities were endless, his altruism boundless”.
He said the cameraman was just as happy covering a Nato summit as a conflict – as long as he could climb a building to find the best spot to place his equipment.
He added that Zakrzewski spent much time on the phone, including to help people escape Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover last year.
Childhood friend Ronan Hingerty said this was “the essence, the lifeforce, of a man who brought hope and light to the darkest places of the world; we were at our best when we were with him”.
Mr Zakrzewski’s brother Stas recounted that the journalist was born two months premature and “came out a fighter” with “boundless energy”.
“Pierre refused to be constrained by a traditional education and instead chose to teach himself about the world and politics through travel,” he said.
On trips to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India as a young man, his interests in photography and politics started to dovetail into freelance journalism, he said.
“He has taught us to think outside the boundaries and that nothing is impossible.”
The service was interspersed with hymns and Irish music, and yellow flowers adorned the church.
Fr Dunne concluded the Mass by saying: “Truth telling is a work of love and love always comes at a price and what a terrible price.”
Foxrock Parish Dublin earlier tweeted: “We will celebrate the life of Pierre Zakrzewski in our Church on Tuesday morning at 10am. We ask our community to join with us online to celebrate a life lived with enormous courage in the pursuit of truth. As always, we stand together in solidarity with Pierre’s family.”
As a war photographer, Mr Zakrzewski covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria for Fox, according to a memo sent to employees by Suzanne Scott, chief executive of Fox News Media, after his death.
He grew up in Leopardstown, south Dublin, and held Irish and French citizenship. He was married to a former BBC journalist called Michelle.
Several other journalists, including Brent Renaud, an American documentary film-maker and another veteran of war zones, have been killed in Ukraine since the conflict began more than a month ago.