'I believe I'm holding Mary's hand,' says Catholic journalist chronicling war in Kyiv

"Diary from Kyiv" A screenshot from the YouTube video of "Diary from Kyiv," a daily video and podcast series produced by St. Rita Radio, an EWTN affiliate in Norway.

A Catholic Ukrainian journalist is documenting day-to-day life in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of the country — and sharing her faith in God along the way.

“These days, I fall asleep with the rosary in my hands and the prayer ‘Hail Mary’ on my lips,” the journalist in Kyiv, who remains anonymous for security reasons, says in her most recent diary entry on March 3. “I believe I’m holding Mary's hand. She's nearby.”

St. Rita Radio, an EWTN affiliate in Norway, is translating and sharing the journalist's daily messages in the form of a video and podcast series titled "Diary from Kyiv." The first episode was released on Feb. 26.

The 3- to 6-minute video episodes (available on YouTube and Facebook as well as Spotify and Apple Podcasts) feature a voice-over from a translator as images or short video clips from Ukraine appear. The unidentified journalist’s poignant words shine through, providing powerful imagery and thought-provoking sentiments.

“The question arises in my head, where is Christ in this?” she asks in the Feb. 28 episode. “He loves us, the Ukrainians, as well as the Russians, the Poles, and the Americans.”

“We are all his children. However, the devil has taken possession of hearts and blinded them, so there is war, destruction, and death,” she adds. “Today my task is to pray, be converted, do good as far as I can, and go through this Golgotha with trust in the Lord who passed through it first.”

A huge following

Pål Johannes Nes, who produced the series, told CNA that the diary project “started with an idea to show the story of the people living in war.”

The 42-year-old chief editor located in Haramsoya, Norway, founded St. Rita Radio in May 2020 with his wife, Erika Eva Nes. A year later, in 2021, they started working together with EWTN. 

Even though it is a radio network, St. Rita Radio has been producing video for the last year, Nes added. He called "Diary from Kyiv" “a show made for social media.”

“The response has been almost too much, for a small Internet radio in Norway,” he said of the series’ success. “I think we are closing in on 1,000,000 views now. Every episode is shared 10-20,000 times.”

Today, Nes leads a team of four working together on the series as volunteers — including their journalist friend in Kyiv.

Nes said he knew the journalist prior to the invasion. "I asked her if she would be willing to tell her story,” he explained to CNA. “The story about how to live a life of faith during the time of war.”

Sustained by prayer

That story is unfolding in ways that neither of them ever could have imagined.

Recounting a recent attack in Zhytomyr that destroyed 10 buildings, injured 12, and killed 2, the journalist highlighted the good.

More in Europe

“We are already used to tragic news and it turns out that we often focus on it,” she said. “Or maybe we should start thanking God. For what? Even for the fact that 12 people did not die but live. For going through another night and another day.”

“Although we are failing from discouragement and despair because we want it to end sooner,” she added, “Jesus also fell but got up and continued carrying the cross.”

One of the most difficult days came on Feb. 27, when she remembered sleeping only two hours and spending the rest of her time in constant prayer. Not allowed outside, she recalled announced air strikes and shelling that hit, among other things, a children’s hospital. 

“I’m texting all my friends to pray,” she said. “Today many people spent the night on their knees with the rosary in their hands, weeping and begging God for mercy.”

Throughout the episodes, the journalist thanked listeners for their prayers and asked them to continue to pray. She asked for the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to whom Ukraine is dedicated, she said, and St. Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of Kyiv.

After a rocket fired at a Kyiv suburb just 30-35 kilometers (roughly 20 miles) from her home, the journalist realized the fragility of her own life, she said in her March 1 episode.

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“We are alive, and it's a miracle,” she said of the attack that came immediately after she watched Mass online. “It was an incredible experience to pray further, realizing that a rocket can hit at any moment and in my house, as well.”

The following day, she described the strange passage of time in Ukraine during the invasion. “Every day,” she said, “lasts like a whole year.”

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