“I have given my life to war reporting: I have renounced everything”

How many wars has he had?.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
17 September 2023 Sunday 04:22
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“I have given my life to war reporting: I have renounced everything”

How many wars has he had?

Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza, Sudan, Somalia... A long dozen. Ukraine, I come from there.

What have you seen there?

I was meters from the pizzeria that a Russian missile blew up: the Ukrainian writer Victoria Amelina and more people died.

Death... very close.

I ate daily at that pizzeria in Kramatorsk, but that day I decided to change it.

Was lucky.

The journalist needs luck. Or he dies.

And the volunteer boys?

Without military preparation, 100% will die. With training, 50%.

Has Kramatorsk been your worst time?

I have been imprisoned, they have beaten me, tortured me, they burned my house in Afghanistan...


And he was at the Spanish embassy in Kabul when the Islamic State detonated a car bomb in 2015. Nine dead.

Live to tell.

It's my passion. And it's this square's fault.

Plaza Sant Felip Neri, in Barcelona.

My grandfather brought me when I was four years old, I saw these impacts. They are from a bomb, its shrapnel killed 42 people, most of them children. My grandfather told me. And he saw my interest. And over the years he told me all about his war: Huesca, Teruel, the Ebro...

Did those stories have such an impact on you?

I became obsessed with the war. And I also wanted my war.

Not very wise, that.

Being a soldier did not suit me, because I was undisciplined: I decided to be a war reporter.

And he ran to war?

And I lived in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2018. Until the police believed I was a Taliban spy and burned my house and I had to flee.

Is it worth living like this for you?

I have given my life to war reporting. I have given up on partners, having a house, a car, everything... I have nothing.

Don't they pay you?

The working conditions of freelance reporters are deplorable, if not illegal. But I don't know how to live any other way. What I can do?

I do not know.

And when I come here and hear your complaints... they seem so ridiculous to me...

Let's talk about banalities, sure.

And in the end I end up feeling like a stranger here, someone far from normality.

Humanity... what is your opinion?

We are detestable, we are a virus, we are a plague on the planet.

Have you done many crazy things?

For a photo or a story I have risked everything for everything. That's until I'm 40 years old, today I'm going with a little more caution.

But he keeps going to war.

Yes, and it costs me 500 euros to access the front line of fire: I pay it if I want the opportunity to take good photos and stories.

What's the worst thing you've seen?

I saw a Romanian NATO commander use disabled children as rag dolls in Turkey for a promotional video. I decided to stop collaborating with NATO since then.

How does he save his soul from so much fear?

I have been treated several times for post-traumatic stress, with psychologists, for my own good. But my salvation is in Africa.


In the most remote corners of the African continent, in the last wild animal sanctuaries... I feel something very special.

describe it to me

I never feel as alive as I do there.


I forget the repulsive humanity. And wild animals and nature reconcile me with my worthy essence. Elephants, especially...

What inspire you?

With the elephants I feel closer to civilization than in the city. Seeing myself reflected in an elephant's eye, I have seen their intelligence and depth: they are self-aware, they mourn their dead, they transmit memories to their offspring...

You are moved.

Yes. It's just that here I feel alone and lost. There, comforted. I have petted a rhinoceros, its rough skin...

And what have you felt?

That I was touching God. A primordial energy. I reconnect with an essence from which we are already disconnected.

What other animals fascinate you?

Lions, leopards, giraffes, chimpanzees, pangolins... In Africa they started like we started. Going back there does me good. I have nothing and I don't make ends meet, but there I perceive that there is something more in the world than my fears.

What fear of your people is the greatest?

Lose the capacity for wonder. But in Africa I always get it back.