Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ
22nd June, 2016
Web designer from France Kristel Nean had been following the news from Donbass, but two months ago, this brave woman decided to move to the Donetsk People's Republic. After collecting all the necessary things, along with her beloved dog Durga, in six days she traveled thousands of kilometers. Now Kristel is a journalist of the international news agency DONi, and is responsible for the French side of the website.
- What were you doing back home in France?
The last ten years I lived in Belgium, and was designing websites in a large company. In parallel, I was interested in practical preparation for life after the end of civilization - a course where people are taught how to survive in difficult conditions, to build housing, prepare supplies, weapons and so on. I had no idea that these skills would be useful to me.
- How did you know about the military conflict in Ukraine? What motivated you to come to the DPR?
I've always wondered about geopolitics and what's happening in the world. I wanted to know more than is written in the Western media. It seemed to me that the puppet media was hiding the truth. This is manifested in the example of the Maidan in winter 2014. The French newspapers asserted that in the center of Kyiv there was a peaceful demonstration with students and grandmothers, who are beaten by the police. But when I saw a patch with a Nazi symbol on the shoulder a "student", I realized how my fellow citizens had been duped.
I began to closely monitor events in Ukraine, and when I saw the poor people of Donbass, who just wanted the federalization of the country, and for this they started to shoot at them from tanks and bomb them with planes, I couldn't stand aside. I wanted to help and started to collect humanitarian help from concerned people, to transfer money to Donetsk through friends of French volunteers, and translate news of Donbass from English into French.
When the news agency DONi opened, I started to work with them as a volunteer, translating news from Donbass. I talked with the journalist Loran Brayar, and his stories made me realize that I can be useful there, in Donetsk. I have long been disappointed with what is happening in Belgium, France, Germany, as far as worsening the lives of ordinary people, so I was not sorry to leave Belgium and begin a new life in Donetsk. Believe me, democracy in the West exists in name only. Despite the war, the DPR is much more comfortable for me.
- What are your impressions of Donbass?
It's a really wonderful country, despite the war! Here live decent, brave and very strong people, and it's awesome!
- When you arrived here, perhaps you had some expectations. What were they?
I had no special expectations as I was quite informed about the situation in Donbass prior to my arrival. As I said, I followed the situation, starting from the Maidan, and studied alternative sources of information – RT and Sputnik, so believing the lie that the Western media conveys to people is simply impossible. When I arrived, everything was close to what I expected.
- Tell us about your journey to Donbass...
I came in my car with my dog. This is a big dog mixed with a wolf - his name is Durga. When I walk him, people come up to me asking about it and for a photograph. So I learn Russian (smiling). I used to live in Belgium near the French border, for over a decade. But at one point I collected my things, grabbed my dog, got in the car, and came here via Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia... then Moscow, Voronezh, Rostov and then Kharkov. A total of six days (smiles).
- Have you already been to the frontline in the DPR?
- And what are your impressions?
Quite strange, it is both terrible and curious. After all, in Zaitsevo the Ukrainian army is just a few hundred meters from us, we were in the trenches, an attack could begin or a sniper could kill. It's all weird. But it is surprising that people live so close to the front.
- How did your family react to your trip to Donbass?
At first they thought I was crazy coming here. Of course, for them it is stupid to come to the area of the civil war. But now they have changed their opinion. They saw my articles on humanitarian missions and are now saying: "We are proud of you and what you do for people. You're doing something that changes their lives, even if it's just a little help." I'm happy that they changed their point of view regarding my work and travel.
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