Irish cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski, who was killed while covering the war in Ukraine, spent his life learning about the world through travel, a passion that would ultimately lead him to a celebrated career in journalism, his funeral mass heard on Tuesday.
Mr Zakrzewski (55) was killed just outside Kyiv on March 14th alongside his colleague Oleksandra Kuvshynova when the car in which they were travelling was struck by incoming fire.
His funeral remembered a man beloved by his family and colleagues alike, who had led a life shaped by adventure.
In one of three eulogies, Mr Zakrzewski’s brother Stas told the congregation how Pierre’s French godfather Jean-Pierre had been an especially important influence, regaling him with travel stories that inspired him to dream of adventures in faraway places.
“And 42 years later,” he said, quoting his late brother, “for most of the year I find myself all over the world. Whether it’s for work or a simple trek, I’m still as amazed by the world and adventure as when I started.”
Stas described how, eschewing the constraints of traditional education, his brother had learned about life during these years.
“It was here that his interest in photography and politics started to dovetail into freelance journalism,” he said. “He has taught us to think outside the boundaries and that nothing is impossible.”
The life of Mr Zakrzewski, who is survived by his wife Michelle and extended family, was celebrated at a ceremony at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, south Dublin.
It was attended by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, while President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Micheál Martin were formally represented by their aide-de-camps, Commandants Deirdre Newell and Claire Mortimer respectively.
The Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland Larysa Gerasko and US ambassador to Ireland Claire Cronin also attended, as did Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik.
A large Garda presence directed traffic outside as attendees entered the church. Mr Zakrzewski's modest, unvarnished coffin was carried in to the accompaniment of Iníon Choncúr Bán, played on the uilleann pipes by Mark Redmond.
Ukrainian pins were worn on the coats of mourners, and on the alter sat a row of handcrafted sunflowers, the national flower of the besieged country in which Mr Zakrzewski died covering the conflict.
Small Irish and Ukrainian flags were attached to the handles his coffin and the tearful nieces and nephews who followed it held more homemade sunflowers attached to straws. Some of them later placed tributes at the alter – a toy motorcycle; Mr Zakrzewski’s first and second favourite foods, a saucisson sec and Tayto crisps; a book on The Rolling Stones; and a camera.
"Spurred on by his desire to sincerely encounter people truly and without ego, to truly present their stories and their uniqueness to the world he shone out as a storyteller," Fr Kieran Dunne said in his homily.
He was “a proud Irishman, unafraid of his roots and in his earthiness, capable of reaching across languages, cultures, traditions, and identities and seeing them not as barriers but as oceans of possibility for human encounter, sharing and growing.”
St Patrick's Cathedral Grammar School Choir sang Amazing Grace.
In his eulogy, friend and Fox News colleague Tim Santhouse recalled how Mr Zakrzewski had spent many months after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan helping those trapped inside to escape.
Childhood friend Ronan Hingerty said Mr Zakrzewski would not be measured by awards or honours, but by how he made people feel.
Moments before his coffin was led out to the hymn How Great Thou Art, Fr Dunne offered a final reflection on the nature of Mr Zakrzewski’s life work.
“Truth telling is a work of love,” he said. “Love always comes at a price. And what a terrible price.”