Ukrainian journalists carve out new niche in Germany

Two months ago, Roksana Panashchuk was working as a freelance journalist in Ukraine. Now, she's a refugee in Germany, closely watching events back home from the northeastern city of Greifswald.

Ukrainian freelance journalists Germany
Senior editor of Katapult Ukraine Roksana Panashchuk, who fled Odessa recently, works at her desk, at the publication's headquarters in Greifswald on March 29th, 2022. Photo: John MACDOUGALL / AFP

“The situation is tough, of course, but everyone is doing what they can,” she told AFP.

“Soldiers are fighting, volunteers are distributing food and ammunition” — and journalists are “telling the truth… about what’s going on” in Ukraine.

Panashchuk is working as a coordinator for a network of Ukrainian journalists at home and abroad funded and organised by the German magazine Katapult, which specialises in statistics and social scientific studies.

The project is one of many such initiatives that have sprung up in Germany since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

The RTL network has launched a daily TV show hosted by Ukrainian presenter Karolina Ashion, one of more than 300,000 Ukrainians who have found refuge in Europe’s biggest economy.

In Berlin, the daily Tagesspiegel newspaper has also decided to open its doors to Ukrainian and Russian journalists by offering them work space and a monthly wage.

READ ALSO: ‘Could have been us’: Why British-German couple took in Ukrainian refugees

‘Delivering the facts’

The offices of Katapult are located in a building currently undergoing renovations in Greifswald, a windy coastal city with a population of around 60,000.

Construction workers mill past and the sound of drilling blasts through the office as Panashchuk and her colleagues translate and edit articles in Ukrainian and Russian.

“We want to fight false information by delivering the facts on the ground using reliable sources,” said Panashchuk, who is living in a hotel near the newsroom.

Since the start of the war, Katapult has added around 20 Ukrainian journalists to its staff of around 50.

“Our initial idea was to open our doors to them and give them a workspace, computers, cameras, mobile phones,” said Benjamin Friedrich, who founded the magazine.

But he and his team soon realised that many journalists were not planning to leave Ukraine, “so we thought we should hire them remotely”.

The only question was how to finance such a hiring spree by a magazine that, although it has around a million subscribers, is hardly rolling in money.

Friedrich asked his colleagues whether they would be prepared to give up part of their own wages to finance the salaries of their Ukrainian colleagues.

Some were strongly opposed to the idea. But in the end, 20 people agreed to give up between 25 and 50 percent of their gross monthly salary of €3,300 ($3,600).

In the meantime, Katapult has gained many subscribers for its Ukraine edition and collected some €200,000 in donations, meaning it has more or less broken even, according to Friedrich.

READ ALSO: ‘It feels like a dream’: The Ukrainian refugees arriving in Berlin from war zone


For Katapult, which promotes its work through the Telegram messaging app and Twitter as well as its own website, properly vetting all content from Ukraine and Russia has been crucial.

It’s important to be wary of “stories of heroism”, said Friedrich, who recently visited Ukraine himself, because “when a war breaks out, there is propaganda on all sides”.

“The Ukrainians did it in a clever way, they spread a lot of stories on social networks and we didn’t know here, as German journalists, if they were true or not,” he said.

Before coming to Germany, Panashchuk worked for 15 years as a freelance journalist in Ukraine.

Ukrainian journalists Germany

A photo of destruction in Kyiv posted on twitter by Senior editor of Katapult Ukraine Roksana Panashchuk. Photo: John MACDOUGALL / AFP

“I can see clearly if a story is Russian propaganda,” she said. But on the other hand, Ukrainian journalists can also be “too emotional”.

“I can face inappropriate things in their text, like an opinion that all Russians are our enemies,” she said.

Katapult’s Ukraine edition also aims to tell the story of everyday life in a country at war, zoning in on details such as what can still be found in the supermarkets.

“Very ordinary things have suddenly become very interesting” as a result of the conflict, according to Friedrich.

On the ground floor of the building, piles of mattresses stand alongside boxes of toys and food on the freshly laid linoleum floor.

These are the building blocks of the next Katapult project: providing temporary accommodation for around 50 Ukrainian refugees.

By Yannick Pasquet

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Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.