Pierre Zakrzewski was a ‘free spirit’ who was adored by his family, say brothers

Irish journalist killed in Ukraine was loved to help people and was proud of his roots

Two brothers of Fox cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski have spoken of their free spirited brother who loved his job and believed that it was important to reveal the truth of the conflicts he covered.

Nick and Greg Zakrzewski told RTÉ radio's Today with Claire Byrne show that Pierre was very proud of being Irish and the access that gave him. His Irishness was a very important part of his moral make-up.

They explained that Pierre was the only one of the siblings not born in Dublin as he was born prematurely when their French mother was on a trip to Paris. All the siblings went to school and college in Ireland.

With a Polish father and French mother, they regarded themselves as “a UN family.”


Born in August 1966, Pierre was the second-eldest of six children: four boys and two girls. The family lived in Leopardstown, Co Dublin. He attended St Conleth's College in Ballsbridge and studied arts in UCD for a time.

Pierre was killed by Russian shelling in Ukraine on Monday.

The family first suspected their brother might have been in difficulty when they heard that another Fox journalist Benjamin Hall had been injured on Monday. On Tuesday their sister in London called to say that Pierre's body had been found in a morgue in Kyiv.

The past few days had been a rollercoaster for the family, they said. It had been heartening to see the high regard in which colleagues held Pierre and the many comments that people felt safe and confident when working with him.

After college their brother had gone travelling and it was a combination of travel and videography that led him to his career in photojournalism. The family was used to his lifestyle with all the travel and he always kept in touch with them and with his friends through WhatsApp.

“We thought it was great that he was travelling.”

It was “weird” now having these conversations about their brother. “Normally we would be bouncing off each other.”

Previously the family had not been concerned about his safety as they were confident that he was not reckless. “You don’t last 30 years in the business if you’re reckless.”

“He looked at the risks in each situation and looked at the best way of managing them.”

After years of freelancing he took the job with Fox “with mixed feelings” about the loss of “a certain amount of independence”, but he had seen the “constant pattern” of media crews being attacked. The job was increasingly difficult for freelancers who did not have security or back up behind them.

The “dodgiest scenarios”, according to Pierre, were when the frontline was not obvious. When there was a frontline he knew where he was, in Ukraine they did not know where the frontline was. Pierre had spoken to a school friend at the weekend who said he had sounded nervous.

Their brother could not do his job without being involved in helping people, he had assisted many in getting out of Afghanistan and recently he and his crew had found a baby on the street in Kyiv, the baby was alone so they brought him to a hospital.

When a Sky crew had been attacked recently the family had spoken with Pierre who said he was fine but could not tell them where exactly he was. “He was very good at keeping in contact” and could turn up anywhere at a family gathering.

His nieces and nephews all adored him. “He’s the uncle they all look up to. It wasn’t the job. He’s a free spirit, that’s what’s so attractive about him.”

The family is now co-ordinating with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Fox News and Pierre's wife Mish about getting his remains out of Ukraine. The plan is for Mish to go to Poland where a cousin will assist.