It has been a year since the war began.

Let me tell you a story about a hero I once knew.

This is a photo stream from a photo shoot in Brighton in 2017... the last time I saw a man who believed in freedom, and decided to live it.

Janusz grew up in Poland, just like me, not far from where I lived, he was a kid from the block nearby. I do not remember much about that time. We were a bunch of kids from concrete blocks. We did not have much and our dreams did not seem to matter. About 20 years later I met him in Brighton, UK. Like many of us, we were immigrants from the generation without a future, all of us still young and looking forward to finding a purpose in life away from home. Like me and my friends, Janusz had a young family, a wife and small children. From that time I remember him as a very passionate man, open about his feelings, trying to help others, open-minded, liveable, full of energy. He was involved in helping people with addictions, which at the time seemed very progressive in a bunch of Polish immigrant families. Our husbands were drinking and he was the one who said, "Let's fight this. Then I didn't hear from him for a couple of years, lives moved on, some families didn't survive and people got divorced. We all changed jobs and moved on. I heard that Janusz had a new family, somewhere in the Ukraine. And that he had fallen in love with the country. He contacted me when I was starting my photography business and I already had a name as an artist photographer, shooting dark arts and co. He said he was starting his acting career and needed to build a portfolio.

On that day in 2017, it was hard to believe that we had once been these children, and what each of us had gone through. He told me a fascinating story about Cossacks and how he became one of them. Somewhere in Zaporoze there was a brotherhood of warriors and one of them was standing right in front of me in the studio, weapon in hand, dressed in traditional Cossack costume, so authentic it sent shivers down my spine. When we were shooting, I seriously did not know if I was on a battlefield facing this wild power, but it was just a game to show off his incredible acting skills. The shoot was absolutely epic and I could not be happier with the work that was done.

Janusz told me about the beauty of Zaporoze and the lifestyle of his friends and I felt that my artistic soul demanded that I visit the place one day. I did not. Now it is too late.

A year ago the news was full of tragedy. The invasion had begun, the war was official. I was terrified. When I thought of all those people, my heart soared and I remember me and my girls feeling very strongly that we wanted to do something, to go and fight. It was crazy. I asked Janusz if he was OK, if his family were safe, if he was there. He was not, he did not make this decision, but he was already blaming himself for not helping people in need. I told him to live. The risk was too high. A week after he posted from Ukraine. He was at war. He could not do it otherwise. The real fight for freedom began and he was there. With all his heart.

It took me months to write this.

Janusz Szeremeta died in battle in December 2022. He was my age. I hope he will never die in our memory. He was a hero to many. He was a true warrior for freedom.

Link to support his family: