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Russia’s war has turned Hasidic pilgrimage site into safe haven

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has forced many to flee the country’s East. Whilst some have fled abroad, others have found shelter in settlements in other regions. One of these places is Uman, a city renowned for its rich Jewish history.

On the day Vladimir Putin gave the order to launch a “special military operation” to “denazify” Ukraine, Russian rockets fell on Uman, a city between Kyiv and Odesa famous among Hasidic Jews around the world. After more than two months of war, the Jewish quarter surrounding the grave of Tzaddik Nachman of Breslov has turned into a safe haven for people fleeing from fierce fighting.

July 14, 2022 - Aleksander Palikot

A lot at stake for Estonia as it shifts away from oil shale

Amidst rising concerns over climate change, the Estonian government has pledged to stop burning oil shale for power generation by 2035. Tallinn will also give up the fossil fuel altogether by 2040. Oil shale, however, has a long history in Estonia and is the country’s main source of electricity. Abandoning its use is not only a climate-related issue, but a geopolitical one as well.

In the weeks immediately following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Estonia’s top brass showed up, one after another, in Narva, Estonia’s third largest and overwhelmingly Russian-speaking city. This included the country’s president, prime minister and defence and interior ministers. They gathered in places never far from the “Friendship Bridge” connecting Estonia’s most eastern city with its Russian sister city Ivangorod. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that she had come to assert her government’s “commitment to the region's development”.

July 14, 2022 - Isabelle de Pommereau

The Way of the Land: a podcast sheds light on the forgotten history of Roma slavery in Romania

Romania is not the first country people usually think of when it comes to slavery. Despite this, the country possesses an almost unknown history of Roma slavery that occurred over five centuries. The Way of the Land is a podcast that shows how this hidden history bleeds into the present discriminations against the Roma community.

In the small room of Romania’s National Theatre, the public frets in their seats, waiting for the play to start. They came to see a one-woman show written, directed and staged by Alina Șerban. She is the first Roma woman to ever direct a play for the National Theatre in Bucharest. Tonight, she plays in The Best Child in the World, a play about her life. The only poster displayed remains inside the theatre, where only the spectators can see it. It features Șerban wearing a traditional Roma dress. The curly haired woman stands back to back with a grotesque figure, a symbol of the most crushing insult against Roma, the crow. Șerban smiles.

July 14, 2022 - Miriam Țepeș-Handaric

Ignorance of history? Germany’s culture of memory and response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Whilst Germany’s work to keep alive the memory of the Holocaust is commendable, its uncertainty following the invasion of Ukraine flies in the face of this historical legacy. It is high time that German society fully stood up and supported Kyiv in its struggle against Russian aggression.

July 8, 2022 - Marcel Krueger

To the country that does not exist

The war in Ukraine has highlighted the increasingly delicate situation faced by the residents of Transnistria. Whilst questions are now being asked about the breakaway region’s political future, most of its inhabitants remain eager to live as normal a life as possible.

June 13, 2022 - Tim Hartley

Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest

Ukraine’s recent Eurovision victory has shown the world its vibrant music industry. This is especially true given the ongoing Russian invasion, with the contest providing a platform for the country to promote its own unique identity.

May 19, 2022 - Arkadiusz Zając

Art during war — a voice from Ukraine

On the morning of February 24th, Kate woke up to the sound of explosions and air-raid sirens. She nudged her boyfriend to wake up and start packing: "The war had started". It felt like she had never been more afraid of anything in her life.

May 18, 2022 - Anastasia Starchenko

War diaries from Kyiv

Since the start of the war, journalist Andrey Kirillov found himself in Kyiv. He began documenting his daily experiences through his war diaries. We publish several excerpts from his diary here.

Day one
The editorial office where I am now writing this is located in a residential building. The grocery store in this building is the only one in the whole block that is open today. This is a luxurious district that used to be noisy, with crowds of citizens, young people and tourists walking around. Now, these streets are nearly deserted. Expensive clothes shops, restaurants, coffee shops and barbershops are all closed. But what is important are the people who have gathered around that open store. It is in the basement of the residential building. An old man is sleeping in the corner. Children are riding about on office chairs. Their mothers are having tea that they pour into cups. Fathers are smoking at the entrance. All of them are using this space as a bomb shelter.

April 25, 2022 - Andrey Kirillov

#UkraineUnderFire: A war diary

Imke Hansen is an international peace worker at the Sievierodonetsk field office of the Ukrainian NGO Vostok SOS. Together with her colleague Maksim, she has established a trauma-informed training system for war-affected people in the Luhansk region. She has shared her diary of the first weeks with us.

February 17th 2022
In the morning, the kindergarten in Stanytsia Luhanska was shelled. When Maksim told me, it felt like a punch in the gut. During the past two days, we had breathed a little sigh of relief; the diplomatic appeasements to Russia seemed to be working. Today's sudden shelling along the entire frontline exposed this as an illusion, as Russian disinformation policy. At noon, a school director called to request psychological help for the younger schoolchildren. There had been shelling there as well. In the past weeks, we already expected something to come.

April 25, 2022 - Imke Hansen

Bearing witness. Despite repressions and state propaganda, the anti-war movement in Russia continues

As the war in Ukraine continues, questions have been asked as to the internal situation in Russia. Whilst the country’s burgeoning anti-war movement may not live up to outside expectations, its attempts to work around the Kremlin’s restrictions are inspiring new and unique forms of protest.

International critics often view the Russian domestic anti-war movement as helpless and doomed to fail. This might seem true as it does not comply with the West and Ukraine’s main expectation that it will start large-scale street protests capable of overthrowing Vladimir Putin’s regime. What often escapes the world’s attention is that there are no such opportunities for the Russian anti-war movement in the country’s political structure. It must first evolve in more sophisticated, symbolic ways to reach a point of numerical strength over time.

April 25, 2022 - Anna Efimova

Hardship on the horizon: Armenia amid sanctions against Russia

Armenian economists, entrepreneurs and private business owners are warning about hardships that have arisen due to sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. The risks and consequences for Armenia’s economy are severe.

Russia’s war against Ukraine has gone beyond the borders of the conflict between the two states and has knocked on the doors of all countries, targeting their economies first. The invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops led to a global economic backlash against Russia in the form of additional economic sanctions. These complement the package of sanctions initiated in 2014 following the annexation of Crimea and the war in Eastern Ukraine. These restrictions are still valid and have already had significant negative impacts on the Russian economy.

April 25, 2022 - Anna Vardanyan

More volunteers than refugees: how Romanians mobilised for Ukrainians

Thousands of Ukrainian refugees enter Romania daily through the border crossings and are met by an army of volunteers. Yet, there is no central command running these humanitarian operations. They are, for the most part, happening spontaneously, with officials, refugees and volunteers finding the best solution for each case through word of mouth or on social media. Not having a plan seems to be the best plan so far.

Since Russian tanks started rolling into Ukraine on February 24th, nearly half a million Ukrainian women, children and elderly people have crossed the border into neighbouring Romania. They have arrived either directly from their country or through Moldova. Although a far cry from the more than two million that already made it from Ukraine to Poland, this influx of refugees poses a great challenge to a country that is not exactly known for its robust social services or the organisational capacity of its administration. But, at least until now, things have gone much smoother than most would have thought.

April 25, 2022 - Marcel Gascón Barberá

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