In memory of Arman Soldin, an AFP journalist who witnessed Ukraine’s war

Photo courtesy of Bangkok Post

As a testament to Arman Soldin’s dedication to journalism, one only needs to view his recent coverage for AFP from the embattled Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. With Russian forces progressively tightening their grip from the north, south, and east, Bakhmut appeared to be on the brink of collapse. Despite the risks, Arman braved the dangers to document the military conflict and the surrounding devastation.

In addition to capturing imagery of the intense fighting, Arman also shed light on the lives of ordinary citizens caught in the crossfire, struggling to survive amidst the turmoil. From Bakhmut residents crossing an icy river for supplies to a woman tending her garden in Chasiv Yar, where he ultimately lost his life, Arman told their stories. Back in Kyiv, he captured a tender moment between a conscripted father and his child, playing a strategy game online together.

Earlier this month, Arman even rescued an injured hedgehog from a trench and nursed it back to health, dubbing it Lucky. His extraordinary footage garnered global attention, but his work was never done. After a grueling day of reporting, he would tirelessly upload images to social media, trying to convey what he had witnessed in what he once referred to as “an old-style war, in the heart of Europe.”

Arman’s origin story played a significant part in his journalistic drive. Arman, a one-year-old, was among the first Bosnians to be evacuated to France from Sarajevo in early 1992. Consequently, stories about refugees resonated deeply with him. Arman was fluent in French, English, and Italian, yet it was his Bosnian background that aided his work in Ukraine.

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Starting as an AFP trainee in Rome in 2015, Arman quickly impressed his colleagues and was hired full-time. His first assignment as a video journalist took him to London as the Brexit drama unfolded. In 2020, during the height of the Covid pandemic, Arman returned to Rome and continued to seek out stories as everything else came to a standstill.

Upon the eruption of the Ukraine conflict in February 2022, Arman volunteered as one of AFP’s first special correspondents. As Arman’s journalistic prowess grew, so did his passion for covering the events in Ukraine. Colleagues recall being swept away by his unrelenting enthusiasm, energy, and bravery.

AFP global news director Phil Chetwynd said Arman’s exceptional work “encapsulated everything that has made us so proud of AFP’s journalism in Ukraine.” Europe director Christine Buhagiar praised his readiness to enter the most challenging situations, and his extraordinary images attracted the commendation of major clients.

Arman’s choice to film using an iPhone was not only for speed and mobility but also to create a less intimidating experience for those he interviewed. Despite his accomplishments, Arman remained eager to learn from seasoned colleagues.

On March 21, Arman celebrated his 32nd birthday with his AFP team in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine. As his friend Antoine Lambroschini recalled, Arman wore a delighted smile on his face, perhaps knowing that he was making a genuine difference in reporting the stories that needed to be told.

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With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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