Latvian Reporters in Ukraine: Ieva Vārna of TV3

In Latvian media, several reporters have become familiar voices reporting from the war in Ukraine. Ieva Vārna from TV3, Ina Strazdiņa from Latvian Television (LTV) and Indra Sprance from Latvian Radio have all filed moving and powerful reports from the front lines as well as telling stories about those behind the front lines in Ukraine. Over three days LSM will profile these excellent, brave journalists. 

Ieva Vārna

Although the majority of combatants fighting Russia's brutal war in Ukraine are men, there is no shortage of women, both at the front and among the ranks of journalists. Among them is Ieva Vārna from TV3 commercial television who makes regular visits to Ukraine and has filed a series of impressive reports.

Varna entered journalism in 2011 as the foreign affairs editor of LNT's morning news, and went to Ukraine together with cameraman Sergejs Medvedevs even before Russia's full-scale invasion. She has been interested in foreign policy since school days, and in addition to her professional duties, she is currently studying political science, international relations and diplomacy in a doctoral program at Riga Stradiņš University, but took an academic sabbatical because of the war.

"Before 2022, I went to Donbas, where the war has been going on for 10 years now. I have been close to the war, but what the war has been like since February 24 is completely different. I can say that then I had not seen war," she recounts.

Three days before the Russian invasion, Ieva returned to Latvia from a trip to Donbas. The places in Donetsk and Luhansk regions where she worked with her cameraman are now occupied, but even then there was a feeling in the air that things would not be good.

"Of course, none of us imagined that it would be like that. It seemed that there might be an effort to seize the Donetsk region – this has been Russia's goal since 2014. I really couldn't imagine that there would be bombing of Kyiv and other big cities," says Ieva.

Latvian Radio reporter Indra Sprance (left) and TV3 reporter Ieva Vārna in Kyiv
Latvian Radio reporter Indra Sprance (left) and TV3 reporter Ieva Vārna in Kyiv

On February 24, 2022, after delivering the evening news, she and her cameraman again went to Ukraine, arriving the next day.

Asked if she was afraid to be entering a country during a full-scale invasion, she replies:

"I always answer this question – everyone is afraid. The sights we saw... My grandmother had told me about it - the movements of refugees from the Second World War... You can see something like that in historical films. But when you see it with your own eyes, you just don't want to accept it."

She is adamant that accurate news reporting can make a real difference.

"What I always say is my weapon is a microphone, my weapon is a camera. At the same time as military operations, there is an information war. And there is no other option than to go there to show the truth."

In addition to doing precisely that, Ieva has opened a donation account, and when driving to Ukraine, she often sits behind the wheel of a car bought with the money of donors. Most recently this was a minibus bought for soldiers near Bakhmut to take out their wounded. Drones are also in high demand.

In the age of information, being close to the front has not become safer, admits Ieva.

"We have had a mine fall 30 meters from our feet because the Russians had worked out that we were there. It was last October in the Zaporizhzhia region. It must also be understood that if we seem to think that life goes on in Western Ukraine or Kyiv, people go to cafes, then [in reality] nowhere is safe anymore. A missile or its debris can hit wherever you are," says Ieva.

Ieva says she has met a lot of other female journalists in hot spots and that in some respects they can have the advantage of being more open and communicative, which is especially important when talking to Ukrainians, who themselves are open-hearted people. "It's not that I go there, make the story, and forget about those people. I've said it more than once – it's a family."

(l-r) LTV journalist Ina Strazdiņa, Latvian Radio  journalist Indra Sprance and TV3 journalist Ieva...
(l-r) LTV journalist Ina Strazdiņa, Latvian Radio journalist Indra Sprance and TV3 journalist Ieva Vārna in Lviv, Ukraine

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