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Stories and ideas

Bridging global talents

As part of the “Bridging Global Talents Worldwide” initiative, doctoral students from leading institutions around the world are visiting Poland to share their expertise and discover what is being done in their field at the Cracow University of Technology (CUT).

September 22, 2019 - New Eastern Europe

The time for big ideas

In the last five years since the start of the war in Donbas, a new wave of civic engagement has risen in the post-industrial city of Sievierodonetsk. Now the civil society has to learn how to co-operate with city officials and between themselves.

In the spring of 2014 a large part of the Donbas region fell into the hands of Russian-supported separatists. Since then, the city of Sievierodonetsk became the new capital of the Ukrainian-controlled Luhansk region. It is located just 30 kilometres away from the border which separates Ukrainian-controlled territory with the separatist-held self-declared republics supported by Russian forces.

August 26, 2019 - Svitlana Oslavska

From Piața Universității to #rezist

The true goal of the 2107 protests was the fight against passivity. Many of the protesters would not have bothered to vote in the last general elections, but through their presence on the streets, they cast their vote in their own way. It was a fiesta in the truest sense.

In 2017 the Romanian government changed legal provisions which allowed for the pardoning of corrupt officials and changed the law to be more relaxed towards the abuse of power. Since they were announced, frequent anti-government demonstrations in many cities in Romania broke out as thousands voiced their concern that the country was moving away from the values of the EU. The poet, novelist and academic Ruxandra Cesereanu was involved with these protests from the very beginning, documenting them in a journal which will be published in Romania. Here are some excerpts from her writings.

August 26, 2019 - Ruxandra Cesereanu

Covering up cross-border co-operation between Lithuania and Kaliningrad

On the Eastern border of the European Union, a new stage of cross-border co-operation with Russia has begun. Yet, new joint initiatives are unravelling in a tense atmosphere.

On January 23rd this year a particularly cold morning breaks on the border between the European Union and the Russian oblast of Kaliningrad. At 8 am, Lithuanian anti-corruption officers wrapped in thick coats are conducting a search at the Jurbarkas District Municipality building. Their heavy steps wake up the provincial bureaucracy. The gossip that the search is related to Russia spreads rapidly through the building’s dark corridors and soon reaches local and national media.

August 26, 2019 - Gil Skorwid

Inside Kyiv’s co-living community

The Vilnyy co-living space in Kyiv is an example of a creative innovative space for Ukraine’s young people to commune together. It is entirely self-sufficient, not reliant on grants or support from outsider sources. Instead, it is built and designed by the community living there, adapting over time with each change of resident.

As expanding western and Asian cities face a growing housing crisis, there has been an outcry from frustrated young people to remodel the housing sector. An idea has recently emerged to fill this void: “Co-living”. It is currently making a mark in high-cost cities such as London, New York and Singapore, but surprisingly a bourgeoning market has recently sprung up in Kyiv. However, Ukraine’s adoption to the co-living model is far away from the polished-for-profit western trend, but could offer a genuine affordable alternative.

August 26, 2019 - Dominic Culverwell

Prides of the former socialist bloc

Under communism, the Romanian village of Vama Veche was a unique place of freedom, even if it was somewhat limited. It was a destination for students, artists and intellectuals, as well as a place of work for secret agents who were trying to monitor liberated minds. After the transformation the resort remained the “capital of Romania’s youth” and continues to be popular. Thus, as is often the case with such places, the natural desire to keep things as they were competes with the desire to make profit.

The train from Bucharest, which at this time of the year is heated by the sun, slowly makes its way towards the Black Sea. Outside the window, the landscape is quite monotonous – a vast and flawless flat area, which looks like it was run over by a gigantic bulldozer, is dusty and spreads out under the intensive blue sky. Endless sunflower and corn fields are only decorated with occasional poplar copses. From time to time the train passes a forgotten railway station located either beside a small depopulated town or near a post-communist industrial plant.

August 26, 2019 - Katarina Novikova and Wiktor Trybus

Life on the Sava

A journey of almost 1000 km along the Danube's greatest tributary kindling a dialogue between man, nature and neighbours.

June 28, 2019 - Dan McCrum

When bridges turn out to be walls

With all due respect to my western friends, I cannot accept calls to construct “bridges” with Russia right now, unless and until Russian proxies stop killing my fellow citizens. Only after the shooting stops and Russian troops withdraw from Ukrainian territory can we engage in any kind of dialogue.

The only bridge I remember seeing in my childhood was the railway bridge across the Styr River. It separated the city of Lutsk, where I was born, and Rovantsi, a village where I used to spend my summer holidays at my grandparents’ house. The bridge separated two banks of the river rather than connected them. I do not misuse the word. The bridge was closed for civilians and only military personnel from a small garrison nearby were allowed to cross, maintain and guard it from the high towers on both banks.

May 2, 2019 - Mykola Riabchuk

Rail Baltica strives to stay on track

The ambitious Rail Baltica project that aims to build a rail link from Helsinki to Poland has hit many hurdles and continues to face many setbacks. Despite some progress in overcoming these barriers, many questions remain unanswered – including whether the rail system will be operational in 2026, as planned.

The staggering 5.8 billion euro Rail Baltica project, to be built from the Estonian capital of Tallinn to the Lithuanian-Polish border, has become so complicated and sophisticated that the Latvian Transport Minister, Talis Linkaits, recently admitted that “Something will be built by the end of 2025, for sure.”

May 2, 2019 - Linas Linkevičius

Eastern Europe’s last tango. A journey through the interwar musical scene

The early Polish interwar music, which merged traditional folk motifs with intoxicating modern rhythms, spoke of a more technologically minded, progressive Polish musical scene where arrangements altered day-by-day as musicians skipped between bands, and new compositions could be finalised overnight. But it was the tango which often took centre stage. And this was true for many other countries in the region at that time.

C’est sous le ciel de l’Argentine, où la femme est toujours divine (It is under the sky of Argentina, where the woman is always divine), croons the absorbing refrain of the French “Le Dernier Tango” (“The Last Tango”) – a seemingly commonplace helping of the early 20th century tango-fever which had taken Western Europe by storm. Though written in 1913 by French musicians, it was still unquestionably Argentine. The melody had been pilfered from the 1903 “El Choclo” (“The Corn Cob”) by Argentine composer Angel Villoldo and the French lyrics bore those familiar flashes of delirious desire prevalent in any tango of the period.

May 2, 2019 - Juliette Bretan

The curse of perestroika

Perestroika spawned entrepreneurship and readiness to undertake independent actions. It broadened access to managing the country and created the ground for creativity and innovation from one side. However from the other side it opened the Pandora’s Box of social, ethnic, national, economic and territorial conflicts.

It became common in Russia to remember Mikhail Gorbachev only in the negative sense and to blame him for the “breakup of the Soviet Union” and further troubles of Russia. Only one person was worse than him – Boris Yeltsin – and nothing was possible to do with this stereotype. However this year has seen a new trend – on March 2nd, Gorbachev’s birthday, positive comments and wishes for long life were posted on Facebook and other blogs. He was thanked for perestroika, for the freedom he gave and the opportunities he provided. At such moments one becomes witness to how eras change: a new generation is emerging.

May 2, 2019 - Anastasia Sergeeva

Art and sex in communist Albania

Stalinist dogma called for socialist realist art that was meant to reproduce an enhanced (that is, unreal) reflection of the reality of “the people’s work and progress”. The stories of the pieces on display at a 2015 art exhibit in Tirana’s National Art Gallery demonstrate that socialist realist art was also quite prudish – but sometimes sexual, “anti-communist” art made it past the censors.

April 10, 2019 - Tomasz Kamusella

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