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Stories and ideas

Lina Kostenko and her world

Most Ukrainians today learn about Lina Kostenko during their Ukrainian literature classes at school. Her deep philosophical poetry is filled with love for her country, its people and humanity in general. As a result, it rarely leaves the reader indifferent. Kostenko belongs to the era of the “sixtiers”, a young rebellious generation that shook the world with its protests.

The generation of the 1960s has for a long time been and still is a great topic of debate for researchers. And there is nothing surprising here, as this was the generation born after the Second World War. They did not know all its horrors but they heard about them from those who survived the war. This was the period when the “hippie” movement was born in the United States. They were pacifists, loved rock and roll, took soft drugs and promoted the idea of free love.

July 4, 2023 - Oleksii Lionchuk

The abandoned homes of Poland’s most tourist-heavy region

Decades ago, Poles from the Podhale region flocked to the US in droves. But even those who never planned to return still refuse to give up their homes.

May 9, 2023 - Katarzyna Skiba

February lasts a year

Despite some popular convictions, there are Russians who do not support their country’s war in Ukraine but decided not to leave. Instead, they are creating civil initiatives that help Ukrainian refugees who ended up in Russia. They also support their fellow Russians who are against the war and need assistance.

To attend a protest in Russia is today almost akin to suicide. This is especially true since the new law on discrediting the Russian army was passed last year. It stipulates punishment in the form of imprisonment for up to three years for those who dare criticise the ongoing war in Ukraine. In addition, another new law on spreading false information or fakes about the Russian army or volunteers who signed up for the war states that a person accused of such an act might get up to 15 years of prison.

April 29, 2023 - Victoria Odissonova

Noch ist Polen nicht verloren! Germany, Poland – and Ukraine?

There seems to be a widespread inability in Germany to look at oneself from the position of others and to accept the intricacies of history and memory and their influence on the present. But it is not only the perception of place in the past that is the problem. For some in Germany everything east of the Oder river today is still lumped together as “Eastern Europe”.

February 24th 1940, the concentration camp of Hohenbruch in East Prussia: on the eve of his 50th birthday, the Polish publisher, writer and activist Seweryn Pieniężny Jr. is beaten up, forced to dig his own grave and then, in his underwear, shot by Nazi guards. According to the writer Eugeniusz Tryniszewski, who published a short biography of Seweryn in 1987, his last words, shouted in German so his executors would understand, were “Noch ist Polen nicht verloren!”, Poland has not yet perished – the first line of the Polish national anthem.

April 28, 2023 - Marcel Krueger

Bosnia’s wartime prime minister on reconciliation

Haris Silajdžić served as the minister of foreign affairs and then prime minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnian War. Through his experience he understands the horrors and pain felt during the genocidal actions of Serbs at that time and knows what it takes to finally overcome that terrible period. Today, 30 years after the Bosnian war started, he still dreams of a reconciliation between different identity groups.

A few months ago, in Sarajevo, I met up with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s wartime prime minister, Haris Silajdžić. He has a certain squint in his eyes that gives the impression that he has witnessed a lot during his lifetime, which is in fact true. He lived through the collapse of the former Yugoslavia and occupied high office during the Bosnian War and in its aftermath. To this day, the septuagenarian’s mind is still razor sharp and he has the ability to dive into political issues taking place halfway around the world

April 28, 2023 - Leon Hartwell

Azerbaijan’s helping hand to Turkey after the disaster

The earthquakes that took place in Turkey on February 6th 2023 caused a massive amount of death and injury. In response, Azerbaijan has made moves to help the Turkish people by supporting them in every way possible. The Azerbaijani assistance has only encouraged greater cooperation, and relations between the two countries have now been taken to the next level.

February 7th 2023 is a day that will forever be etched in the memory of the people of Kahramanmaraş and Hatay in Turkey’s Anatolia region. This was the day when two tragic 7.7 magnitude earthquakes struck the region, causing massive destruction and loss of life. The world watched in horror as images of the devastation and despair filled our screens. At the time of writing, the earthquake has claimed the lives of half a million people in the affected cities. Yet, in the midst of this tragedy, something remarkable happened.

April 28, 2023 - Arzu Bunyad

When the bomb turns into a metaphor

It is frustrating to hear people from outside Ukraine minimise the impact of the war. In order for the country to truly become free, however, it is important to acknowledge how such events can become mere metaphors for others.

April 3, 2023 - Natalka Sniadanko

The Alphabet of Pain: How I learned to read again

The full-scale invasion of Ukraine has changed the lives of all the country’s inhabitants. For a writer, such an event may well inspire a renewed sense of purpose. While the realities of war bring new duties, they make the power of words all the more clear.

March 27, 2023 - Oleksandr Mykhed

45,000 body bags

Before the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the military purchased 45,000 body bags. Given Moscow’s belief in a short victorious war, the question must be asked: for whom were these body bags originally intended?

March 20, 2023 - Max Kidruk

The “Middle Matchstick”: on Poland’s “Recovered Lands”

For visitors to western Poland, the region may at first glance appear just as Polish as any other in the country. However, beyond this facade lies a strange story of alienation felt by those who call these lands their home.

March 13, 2023 - Samuel Tchorek-Bentall

War at the border, protests at home: pressure mounts on Moldova

The economic and political situation in Moldova, the small country to Ukraine’s southwest, remains tenable at best. While the country’s President Maia Sandu has shown resolve and used the situation to pursue the European path, not all Moldovans support her politics – especially those directly affected by the economic and energy crisis.

On a bright Sunday afternoon this past October, protesters marched, not for the first time, down the main boulevard in Moldova’s capital city, Chișinău. Others milled around on the pavement, holding up picket signs and joining in as the marchers shouted slogans like “Resign!” and “Down with Maia Sandu!”, referring to Moldova’s president. Another sign pleaded for help, in a tone that could be taken as ironic or else completely sincere: “God save us from the idiots of the PAS,” it read. PAS is the acronym of the Party of Action and Solidarity, Moldova’s ruling party.

February 15, 2023 - William Fleeson

A Marshall Plan for Ukraine should prioritise harm done to humans, not buildings

The human cost of an armed conflict produces the most damaging and long-lasting societal consequences. Unlike residential buildings or infrastructure, which can be rebuilt through various forms of financial aid, human suffering cannot be remedied by financial assistance alone. Any discussion of a Marshall Plan for Ukraine needs to have a strong element of reparations for all those victims harmed during this past year.

A Marshall Plan for Ukraine is a recurring idea that is regularly featured in policy discussions both within Ukraine and abroad among policymakers, the media and academic circles. In many ways, this is a unique example of preparations to rebuild a war-torn country as that very war still rages on. Planning for reconstruction early is certainly the correct approach and the best evidence of a collective faith in Ukraine’s prospects to win the war.

February 15, 2023 - Maksym Popovych

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