Courage in Journalism award winner Tatyana Goryachova of Berdyansk, Ukraine, and her longtime American friend, Hal Foster, talked about collaborating on journalism for years. The Ukraine conflict gave them a chance to do it. / Sergey Belousov, Hal Foster
I noticed Tatyana Goryachova because of her melancholy and because her face was as raw as an uncooked steak, as if someone had scraped a knife across it.
I quickly learned at the journalism seminar I was giving in Kiev, Ukraine, in June 2002 that the editor of the Delovoy newspaper had had acid thrown in her face for writing about corruption in her hometown of Berdyansk.
I decided I had to meet this courageous journalist. I asked her to lunch, and we hit it off.
Since then we've joked a lot about working together. It finally happened in this year's Ukrainian crisis, which the two of us have been covering for USA TODAY.
Tatyana has overcome daunting challenges to stay in the profession she loves.
Two months after we met, she called me in Florida, rattled. "There's a film growing over my left eye," she said. "I'm afraid I'm going to lose it. Could you get me to the States for treatment?"
I got lucky. An American billionaire agreed to pay for her treatment in Dallas on the condition that his identity never be revealed. She now has 97 percent vision in her left eye.
Our friendship deepened when I nominated her for two international courage-in-journalism awards and convinced the World-Herald in Omaha to give her a used press so she could do her own printing. The awards she won were from the International Women's Media Foundation and Human Rights Watch.
I hadn't seen Tatyana for several years when I decided to cover the Ukraine conflict. I found her as determined as ever to get a story, regardless of the challenges.
I spent part of May, June and July reporting from Kiev, Odessa and Berdyansk on my own. Whenever I needed contacts for a story, Tatyana came up with a fistful - so I suggested we work together.
"That would be wonderful!" she said. "It's so hard to do real journalism in Ukraine" - a reference to how many officials keep their thumbs on reporters.
Although I'm now back in the States, Tatyana and I are still collaborating on stories.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine is close to her city, Berdyansk, which has been a staunch opponent of the pro-Russia separatist movement. That has put her life in danger a second time.
The first time was in January 2002, when she crossed a government official who was using his position to promote his business interests at the expense of constituents. He was never convicted of the acid attack he ordered, a situation that's common in the former Soviet Union.
Tatyana hasn't been reporting from the war zone in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, where the fighting has raged, although she has volunteered to go. She's been gathering information from the hot spots by phone.
Now the violence has come to her.
On July 28, someone fired a rocket-propelled grenade into a state security services building in Berdyansk, which is in Zaporozhye province, adjacent to the war-zone provinces.
The attack appeared to be retaliation for the detention in that building of Yuriy Borisov, the mayor of the Luhansk province city of Stakhanov, where separatist forces are digging in after losing nearby Lysychansk. Borisov faces charges of colluding with the separatists.
In addition to being angry about Borisov's arrest, separatists despise Berdyansk because it's become a staging area for 1,500 troops fighting in the east.
No one in the city knows whether the grenade attack is an isolated incident or the start of a campaign of violence.
Whatever happens, one thing's for certain: Tatyana will continue shrugging off danger and covering stories she thinks are important.
USA TODAY special correspondent Foster has had a 12-year connection with Ukraine as a journalist, media consultant and professor.
Read the original story: Voices: Celebrating a special journalist