The Local Lens from Ukraine to Naperville

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“As local journalists, sometimes we may be called to cover news stories halfway around the world, or sometimes in our own backyard. But what NCTV17 does is find a local connection to these global stories and look at them through a local lens,” said Stefan Holt.

Earlier this year, Aurora’s Jim Gamache spent four weeks aiding communities throughout Ukraine. He was determined to help after an impactful meeting during a solo hiking trip in September 2022. He met a mother and her five-year-old son at the Ukraine-Polish border and learned about how she had just seen her husband for the first time in five months.

As Gamache says, “Ukraine is a democracy, freedom-loving people, and they’re fighting for their freedom. And certainly by being able, physically able to go and help. I felt that I was doing my part.”

Holt asked, “I think we were all horrified when we saw the images on TV of what was going on in Ukraine. But I want to know why you felt it was important to be there.”

“There comes a time in our lives when you have to stand up to evil. And it really struck me when I spoke with that mother and or her young son and what they were going through. It affected me deeply,” said Gamache. “And I said after I met them, I’ve got to figure out a way to go back. And so it took me a couple of months. But in May, I spent four weeks in Ukraine, as the video showed. But most recently, I went back, and if I would describe my first visit in May as a 100-level college course, this was an advanced degree working on my doctorate.” concluded Gamache.

Throughout his time in Ukraine, Gamache traveled with journalist Joe Lindsley. Together, they met and interviewed a wide variety of people, including artists, musicians, politicians, clergy, and the chief rabbi of Israel.

As Gamache says, “They love their freedom and are willing to fight for it, and they know what freedom is. They can define it. A soldier once asked me, ‘How do you define freedom?’ It made me think how each one of us would respond to that question.”

Gamache answered, “Well, freedom of speech, freedom to choose your elected officials, freedom of movement, and freedom of religion. And they are practicing that every day. It was a very special time, and it moved me deeply. You’re meeting all these people half a world away from Naperville.”

Holt asked NCTV17 reporter Will Payne to talk about the story he told about Gamache’s efforts in Ukraine. “When I first met Jim and heard about his story, I heard about a husband. I heard about a father who is part of the Naperville/Aurora community who decided to take a leap of faith. He has this powerful moment with a woman on the Polish-Ukrainian border. And he decides to go to Ukraine not only once but twice. Something that most people can never even fathom doing. And it takes an incredible amount of bravery to do something like that,” said Payne. “So when I first heard about this story, we thought it was something too good to pass up.” he continued.

Holt asked, “What did it mean for you, Jim, that people back here at home were not only hearing what you were doing, but I think, cheering you on?”

“It was tremendous. And certainly, NCTV17 with their professionalism from the organization and especially from Will and what he has done. It expanded my audience. It helped me do some fundraising for the different humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. I can’t thank them enough.” answered Gamache.

Holt, “Are you heading back any time soon?”

Gamache responded, “I will head back. There’s more to be done there.”