A BOURNEMOUTH University student was confronted by a gunman after getting caught up in the chaos engulfing Ukraine.
Aspiring documentary maker Edward Lawrence, 19, travelled to Ukraine last week with fellow-student Anna Pujol-Mazzini, 18, seeking first-hand experience of a conflict zone.
The pair started off in Kiev where they spoke with pro-European protestors in Independent Square, but were later confronted on a bus while travelling through the pro-Russian east of the country.
Mr Lawrence, from Beaminster, said they were stopped at a militia-held checkpoint near Sloviansk when a man with a balaclava, pistol and machete tied to his leg got on.
“Sloviansk is a no-go area for westerners,” he said.
“We realised there was quite a large risk we would get stopped and detained. It was terrifying but I felt as if it had to be done.
“Maybe it was slightly stupid.”
The checkpoint guard was asking for passports and approached Mr Lawrence and his friend, but he feigned being asleep until he left and the bus continued on to Kramatorsk.
“I thought I was going to die at that point. Anna thought I was a gonner. It was easily the scariest experience of my life but the most exciting too,” he said.
The pair, who were warned not to travel to the Ukraine by the university, had made safety plans including regular check-in calls back home. Mr Lawrence said in Kiev there was a marked contrast between the ‘business as usual’ residents and the Euromaidan (pro-European) protestors and their camps.
“It's such a strong contrast, people doing their shopping and there's a tank there,” he said.
Although he would not encourage others to do what they did, he said the experience had only strengthened his resolve to document conflict as a profession.
“All it's done is make me want to do this even more,” he said.