Former war correspondent dies of breast cancer

Jackie Shymanski remembered as being 'engaged in all areas of public discourse'

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She reported on some of the bloodiest battles of the Bosnian war and lived to tell about it. But on Friday, former CNN war correspondent Jackie Shymanski died during her own personal battle with breast cancer in Winnipeg. She was 51.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/05/2016 (2398 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

She reported on some of the bloodiest battles of the Bosnian war and lived to tell about it. But on Friday, former CNN war correspondent Jackie Shymanski died during her own personal battle with breast cancer in Winnipeg. She was 51.

The Winnipegger gained local celebrity status in the 1990s as a CNN war correspondent during the early days of the first 24-hour news channel. Her work was lauded by academics and pop culture publications. She was part of a team that included Christiane Amanpour and honoured by Columbia University for having focused “the world’s eye on the former Yugoslavia, particularly on the plight of Sarajevo’s children and the elderly, soldiers and victims of war.”

Cosmopolitan magazine wrote about Shymanski in its feature The Grit and the Glory about female foreign correspondents in 1995.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Jackie Shymanski

She often returned to Winnipeg for visits and was invited to speak to journalism students at Red River College, which she had attended.

In an op/ed piece for the Free Press, she recalled one student asking her how many dead she’d seen while reporting on the butchery and horror of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. Shymanski defaulted to the most she’d seen in one place — 2,000 in a mass grave being investigated by the International War Crimes Tribunal. She said she was shocked by the shock of the students who sat in stunned silence. For Shymanski, it was years before the full impact of the war hit her. She took up gardening and eventually left journalism.

Shymanski was a Free Press contributor, writing op-ed pieces and commenting when subjects she had interviewed during the Bosnian conflict, including Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, later went on trial for for war crimes.

“You could always gauge how stressed he was by his fingernails — he chewed them down to the quick when the war wasn’t going his way,” she told the Free Press at the time. She was also a frequent Free Press book reviewer.

“She was one of those people who seemed engaged in all areas of public discourse,” former books editor Morley Walker said. “She used to go out of her way at CancerCare to identify specialists for me to review medical books. She was extremely helpful,” he said.

As the director of communications and public affairs for CancerCare Manitoba, Shymanski worked with newsrooms to raise the profile of CancerCare, managed difficult issues skillfully, “and spent many late hours managing its complex communication needs,” said president and CEO Dr. Sri Navaratnam.

As part of the Cancer Patient Journey Initiative, Shymanski was instrumental in the publication of patient-friendly resources geared to the care and treatment of Manitobans with cancer, Navaratnam said. Shymanski took a leave from her job when she was diagnosed with cancer last year. Her memorial service is Saturday, 10 a.m. at Glen Eden Funeral Home and Cemetery, 4477 Main. St.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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