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Stories and ideas

Nothing but a Curtain

I travelled 7325 km across the former Eastern Bloc to document post-communist gender identity.

December 30, 2021 - Zula Rabikowska

Lithuania fumbles with 4,200 migrants, pushing human rights aside

As of September 28th 2021, 4,163 migrants have illegaly crossed Lithuania’s border with Belarus. To deter migrants – now and for good – Lithuania has pinned its hopes on a fence along the frontier.

Rudninkai, a sleepy Lithuanian settlement of 500 inhabitants in the Salcininkai district along Lithuania and the EU’s border with Belarus, has been in both the local and international media spotlight this summer. Over 700 illegal male migrants had been placed for nearly three months in a makeshift tent camp, which is now eerily empty. All the migrants, mostly Iraqis, Kurds, Afghans and Sri Lankans, have been moved from the settlement to a former correctional facility in Kybartai, in the south-western district of Vilkaviskis near the Russian border. At the same time, around 400 vulnerable migrants have been moved to a refugee reception centre in Rukla, which is located in the central Jonava district. Some others are still living in municipal shelters, mostly crumbling dormitories in municipalities located along the 680 kilometre border with Belarus.

December 1, 2021 - Linas Jegelevicius

Russia’s young generation and the Soviet myth

Young people in Russia today generally possess a complicated relationship with the Soviet past. Having no direct experience of the communist state, this group continues to inhabit an uncertain middle ground with regards to historical understandings. The government makes everything more confusing as it continues to offer no clear alternative with regards to national identity.

September 2021 was marked by the elections to the State Duma in Russia. Of the 14 parties on the ballot, only five actually overcame the minimum five per cent threshold to gain representation in parliament. The country’s traditional “party of power” United Russia (UR) scored a record low of 49.82 per cent. Previously, the party had easily gained more than half of the votes and was for a long time the only party in a position to independently push through new bills in the Duma. Despite this recent shift, it does not seem like the situation has changed a lot in Russian politics. UR still achieved a greater number of votes than any other party and, consequently, the most seats in the Duma.

December 1, 2021 - Victoria Odissonova

History never ends

People never know exactly how to change history. But they should try, and try hard. This is because history is very much unpredictable, it loves to surprise and is often ironic, sometimes in a bitter or even cruel way.

Forty years ago, when I was two, a young artist named Arthur Fredekind did something unusual in my native city of Dnipropetrovsk (modern Dnipro). Together with his colleague, he produced a couple of flyers with only one word and a question mark on them: Solidarni? It was a clear allusion to the Polish social and political movement that started in Gdańsk. Arthur scattered several flyers in the mailboxes of various blocks in the neighbourhood. It happened in a closed Soviet city under special KGB surveillance far away from the Polish border. Despite this, some newspapers from then socialist Poland were available. Even these served in some way as a window to the West… Pretty soon, Arthur was arrested and convicted on defamation charges.

December 1, 2021 - Andriy Portnov

The Thalerhof internment camp and its legacy for the Rusyns of Eastern Europe

Lemko-Rusyn intellectuals, community leaders, and villagers would perish at the camp established by Austrian authorities on the site of the modern-day Graz Airport.

September 15, 2021 - Starik Pollock

A female voice from Sarajevo

In post-war Sarajevo a war is waged to win the future which had been taken away by the living ghosts of the past. The frontlines are nonetheless changing and now different people are pushed underground, stigmatised and treated as if they do not belong to the community. The ethnic and religious war has been replaced by a new culture war.

Some time ago, when the bloody Balkan war was still raging in Sarajevo, poet Izet Sarajlić, editor Čedo Kisić and professor Zdravko Grebo were explaining their world to me. None of them is alive anymore. Neither is Isak Samokovlija, a prominent Bosnian Jewish writer, whose stories took me to the most hidden corners of Sarajevo’s historical centre, Baščaršija, as well as the Grbavica and Bentbaša districts. I was listening to the stories of the writers and artists who had left Sarajevo, but who were still under its influence. They included Dževad Karahazan in Graz, Josip Osti in Ljubljana, Miljenko Jergović in Zagreb, and Nino Žalica in Amsterdam…

September 12, 2021 - Krzysztof Czyżewski

The living and the dead

A conversation with Grzegorz Kwiatkowski, a Polish poet, and Trupa Trupa, songwriter, vocalist and guitarist. Interviewer: Jacek Hajduk

JACEK HAJDUK: During the 2019 SXSW Music Festival you dedicated the performance of your group, Trupa Trupa, to the memory of the late Gdańsk mayor, Paweł Adamowicz. Let us then start with Gdańsk. How much of this city is with you today? And how was it before? Which faces of this multi-layered urban centre are close to your heart?

GRZEGORZ KWIATKOWSKI: Today, Gdańsk is a big part of me, unlike in the past. Back then I was more interested in self-isolating myself and creating a kind of enclave in one of its districts – Gdańsk Wrzeszcz. This actually is still my ideal, but now I also understand the impact that this city has on me and my poetry. This is mainly because of my family stories.

September 12, 2021 - Grzegorz Kwiatkowski Jacek Hajduk

Supolka – Belarusian diaspora in Italy

Supolka is a diaspora group that operates in Italy. The group was born as a consequence of the political crisis and along with the democratic movements rising in Belarus. It aims to inform the Italian public about the situation in Belarus.

September 7, 2021 - Antonio Scancariello

Education on prejudice today and during the interwar period

How far along have we really come in tackling discrimination and ‘othering’ since the interwar period?

June 30, 2021 - Sára Bagdi

Female drug addicts in Volhynia – vulnerable and exposed

In Volhynia, women experience more stigma regarding substance abuse than men.

June 24, 2021 - Iryna Musii

Odesa’s growing mismanagement

Odesa has faced many challenges in recent years. However, the ongoing pandemic and the reduction of land available for construction have brought the issue of ineffective management back. It is linked to the lack of an adequate response from the authorities as well as corruption.

On Saturday morning, several dozen people picketed the construction of an alleged yacht club and residential complex being built on the sea coast in Odesa. The protests were led by Vitaliy Ustimenko, an activist from Odesa who is the leader of a grassroots organisation called the AutoMaidan. “We will not allow dumb and insolent oxen capture the sea coast of Odesa,” Ustimenko said as he was speaking into a microphone.

June 23, 2021 - Maxym Przybyszewski

Streamlining soft power

Over the last five to seven years, there has been a growing understanding in the West that engagement in the post-Soviet area needs to be differentiated. As much as we need to keep communication channels open in order to prevent the emergence of new divisive blocs, we must not forget about our values and what stands behind them. Therein lies the potential to build, to improve and to unite. A positive agenda is all the more important given what the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed.

We will all remember 2020 as the year when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. The rapid spread of the virus brought significant changes to our lives: closed borders, businesses closing and limited social interactions. More importantly, it forced us to rethink the present and the future – an exercise that is increasingly needed as the scale of challenges continues to overwhelm us. At the dawn of 2021, the world’s attention has been drawn to the first steps to sort things out – namely, the vaccination process.

June 23, 2021 - Miłosz Zieliński

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