Donetsk as seen by an American: Journalist on 'mission' in E. Ukraine city

Donetsk as seen by an American: Journalist on 'mission' in E. Ukraine city
Amid controversial reports from international media about the situation in eastern Ukraine, a Brooklyn-born journalist has armed himself with a Go-Pro and traveled to the city of Donetsk, which has been a constant war scene for months.

"My main mission here is to find the Russian army that is supposedly here," said Miguel Francis Santiago. As his journey through the war-torn city unfolded, the journalist met quite an array of characters for his new film. Santiago is also the author of 'Crimea for Dummies,' a story on the region's modern history.

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Women take center stage during Santiago's Donetsk visit quite often – from a babushka abandoned in the war-ravaged suburbs to a commander of a special group who is called Vasya – a man's name – by her fellow fighters. "She's great and she's a good cook. It doesn't matter that she's a woman. She has combat experience," the group says.

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On his "mission" at the epicenter of the conflict between Kiev and the anti-government forces, the American encounters both the local militia – including Vasya – and common citizens of Donetsk, who are trying to go on with their lives and preserve a sense of normality under the dire circumstances. The militia fighters refer to themselves as “slavic freedom fighters.”

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"Of course, everybody is [scared] to some extent. You can't get used to hearing gunfire every day. But this is our work, our home. We don't have a choice but to live and work here," Sergey Dubnitsky, Donbass Opera House conductor and soloist, told the journalist. Though the Opera House is serving as a bomb shelter, rehearsals are in full swing and Santiago receives a sneak preview of a performance which will be held no matter what, amid war or peace.

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While shots are being fired and shells explode, the American journalist witnesses people getting married and birthdays being celebrated – although sometimes in basements. After visiting Donetsk's international airport – which has been turned to ruins – and hiding from shelling in residential areas, the sight of a newborn baby and his happy mother brings tears to the man's eyes.

But did Santiago find what he was looking for? Watch the documentary 'Donetsk: An American Glance' on RT and RTD, premiering November 12.