A war correspondent in body and spirit

Dylan Collins
Dylan on Sunday

I stand in awe of Dylan Collins, the quiet blond kid I coached in soccer turned war correspondent. Dylan, now in his mid-thirties, has been staying in Kyiv, and posted over the weekend from the suburb of Irpin where American journalist Brent Renaud was shot and killed.

(March 21, 25 and 30 updates are at the end of this story)

Working for Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency, shooting photos and videos in combat zones is nothing new for Dylan. He’s been living in Beruit and has covered the Syrian civil war and the Israeli Palestinian conflict for a decade. He was cut by flying glass in the massive Beruit dock explosion on Aug. 4, 2020. Just a kid who grew up in West Newbury, Mass.

He’s filing some of his dispatches on Instagram where you can find a collage of his work covering conflicts in the world’s hotspots. There’s more coverage at afpphoto and on Twitter @afp and @collinsdyl

His mother Caroline now living in Vermont filed the following dispatch to me about Dylan’s status. Most mothers would shudder with children in a war zone, but not Caroline. Dylan, she understands, is doing what he loves and what he must.

“I spoke with him on Sunday, thankfully, and he was his customary calm and focused self. He was very close to the incident in Irpin and shot some footage but continues to feel that he was in more active danger when he was in Gaza than he is now. Not sure that I agree from where I sit, but I respect that’s how it feels on the ground. Yes. He has been living in Beirut which is a world of hurt in and of itself.

“Interestingly he said Sunday that living in Kyiv is easier than living in Beirut. Russians bearing down on him aside, he now has 24/7 electricity, hot water, heat and easy access to food, none of which has been true for some in Beirut! I fear that ‘calm’ will not last but he will appreciate it while he can. AFP is doing some rotating of journalists but it not quite clear when he will head out. He has combat preparedness training which some of the incoming folks don’t have so he needs to remain on the ground to orient and train. So we shall see. But what I know is that he is where he wants and needs to be. This is what he trains for and I believe his eyes and heart are where they need to be,” said Caroline Collins.

Dylan is the only journalist from New England media that I know covering the war from Ukraine. I salute all who are there along with journalists who’ve paid the ultimate price – 55 in 2021, according to the United Nations.

Twenty Five years ago, the Boston Globe would have assigned one or two reporters to war zones, but today relies on the Associated Press and New York Times for  coverage. It’s just another sign how newspapers have contracted.
“As recently as the early days of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Boston Globe and Boston Herald sent reporters to cover the conflict. Those days are over as local news organizations have pulled back to concentrate on covering regional news. So it’s great to see a courageous journalist like Dylan Collins covering the war in Ukraine,” said Dan Kennedy, a Northeastern University journalism professor.
I hope it’s not lost on Dylan that the first war modern correspondent Sir William Howard Russell covered the Crimean War and The Charge of the Light Brigade immortalized in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem. Part of Ukraine and annexed by Russia in 2014, Crimea has often found itself at the crossroads of war.
You are a witness to history, Dylan. I can’t wait for your first book.

Update March 21, 2020: Dylan was still in Kyiv where a curfew had been put in place following the Russian shelling of a shopping mall, according to Caroline Collins.

Update March 25, 2022: “Dylan has moved to Kharkiv for a few nights. Will then return to Kyiv for a few days and then, god willing exit via Lviv early next week. I think most organizations are [rotating] their crews and I am thankful for that. He has mixed emotions about leaving, not surprisingly, but I do think it’s time for a  switch,” said Caroline Collins.

Final Update March 30, 2022: After a full month in Ukraine which encompasses almost the entire invasion, Dylan is headed home to Beirut. “I wanted to let you know that he is headed out of country. He left Kharkiv yesterday and is on a train headed to Warsaw. Apparently they have been stuck at the border for some time but that’s probably not an enormous surprise. Will look forward to reconnecting with him when he finally makes his way back to Beirut,” said Caroline Collins. “He’s headed home to Beirut now to resume his job with AFP covering video desk for Syrian and Lebanon. I am sure re-entry will be a challenge and am hopeful he will be given some time to recoup and rest a bit.” 

I want to thank Caroline for sharing the regular updates on Dylan’s whereabouts and to again recognize all the brave reporters, photographers, videographers, freelance journalists and editors who risk their lives and freedom to cover this needless tragedy. Let’s all pray that it comes to a quick end and Ukrainians are allowed to bury and honor their dead, to return home and to peacefully rebuild.





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