Taras Protsyuk, killed when a US tank shell hit the Reuters office in a Baghdad hotel last week, grew up with his heart set on outer space. Instead he made his mark in the most hostile places on planet earth.
As a cameraman, editor and reporter he served with distinction in most of the recent major conflicts in Europe and central Asia, travelling to Bosnia, Chechnya, Kosovo, Macedonia, Pakistan and Afghanistan to gather fast, high-quality frontline coverage.
Taras was born in 1968 in the western Ukrainian city of Ivano Frankovsk, son of an oil company engineer. He graduated from high school hoping to join the Soviet Union’s space programme, and enrolled at the Leningrad Military Academy to study aeronautical engineering.
But the fifth and final year of Taras’s degree in 1990 coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with it much of the communist state’s interest in space.
Rather than be drafted into the new Russian army, Taras quit his studies and began freelancing as a cameraman, a bold step for someone with only basic camera skills and no news experience. But his charm and his ability to learn quickly soon saw him working regularly for major international broadcasters.
Taras joined Reuters in Kiev in 1993 and over the next decade blossomed in that most perilous of roles – the combat journalist. Roaming between front-line assignments, he quickly dispelled any doubts that it was possible for one person to research, shoot, edit and write scripts to the highest standards. In 1999 he moved to Warsaw with his wife and young son.
Speaking fluent Arabic learned in military school, Taras was an obvious choice to join the Reuters multimedia team assembled in Baghdad for the war on Iraq. For the two months before his death he had been a vital cog in the team – committed but not obsessed, brave but not reckless and unfailingly positive.
Always looking beyond the “bang-bang” story, Taras was also determined to reflect the human cost of a decade of sanctions on Iraq and of the conflict itself. Reuters coverage was all the richer for his efforts.
We are devastated by the death of Taras, who had distinguished himself with his highly professional coverage in some of the most violent conflicts of the past decade.
Distraught colleagues remember Taras as “full of life – the most enthusiastic, inexhaustible friend”.
Duncan Pitcairn, Reuters