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Weekly’s parish reporter files from Ukraine ‘frontline’

A weekly newspaper’s village correspondent stepped out of her comfort zone – to report from the “frontline” in Ukraine.

The KM Group’s Melanie Wright left the parish boundaries of the tiny Kent community she covers to interview people caught up in the tension and conflict of Kiev.

Medway Messenger editor Bob Bounds said the assignment came after Melanie discovered one of the 209 residents on her patch – Cooling – was from Ukraine.

He said: “She became friends, and when Niyole Stratford decided she needed to go back to her homeland with her English husband, Melanie went with her.

“Based in Kiev, she interviewed people caught up in the tension and conflict, protesters and many ordinary families and business, filing a report with pictures.”

Melanie Wright in Ukraine

Mum-of-three Melanie described the experience as both scary and thrilling.

She said: “People wanted to tell me their stories and I came back with several books of notes.

“It was a bit scary at times but still thrilling to be right at the heart of such an important story.”

She accompanied Niyole and her husband Mark to Kiev after Niyole felt helpless viewing on TV the bloody clashes to oust President Viktor Yanukovych.

Melanie wrote how: “Older, former military men taught the younger ones the precise art of marching and combat” adding that “floral tributes and religious objects are everywhere, as are pictures of the dead. “

She “met many of Niyole’s friends and former colleagues, some of whom were caught up that night in February.”

Some were supporting with food and money the self-defence units still camped across the Maidan (Independence Square), “where they’ll stay until the presidential election on May 25.”

Melanie described seeing units of “mainly poorly-trained men of all ages mooch around their tents; chopping wood for braziers and cooking stoves, sweeping up debris, stacking huge containers of water, and preparing food.”