Me and my girlfriend took a trip around Iceland in June/July 2016. Some impressions.
The UEFA EURO 2016 has a huge Eastern European dimension. It’s not only the teams from Russia to Romania, which make in total 10 out of the 24 participating countries (Turkey includet, Austria excluded). That’s about 41 percent.
But actually it is even more.
Many players from Southern, Western and Northern European teams have an Eastern background.
Born in Montenegro on the field for Sweden
The first goal for Germany during the UEFA EURO 2016 in France was shot by a defender, whose parents are part of the Albanian minority in Macedonia: Shkodran Mustafi. But there’s also a Central Eastern European influence: The former German top scorer Lukas Podolski was born in Gliwice, Poland.
The star of Sweden’s national team is Zlatan Ibrahimović. His Bosniak father had emigrated to Sweden in 1977. The forward ist backed in the middlefied by the Polo-German Swede Oscar Lewicki and Erkan Zengin who was born in Turkey. Another Swedish player with Eastern background is Emir Kujović – born in Montenegro.
The host of the games, France, can be happy that Laurent Koscielny once decided not to play for the Polish national team – as a dual citizen he had the option to.
The Austrian national team has players rooted in the East, too. The parents of defender Aleksandar Dragović are from Serbia, forward player Marko Arnautović also has Serbian roots.
A Syrian woman was hit by a bullet. Not in Aleppo. Not in Damascus. But close to the Southern Slovak town Veľký Meder at the Slovak-Hungarian border.
As far as we know now, on Monday four cars tried to cross the border. As the custom officers made three of them stop, the fourth one allegedly refused and tried to flee. The driver’s manoeuvre – the customs police says – endangered the officers who first shot in the air then made the car stop by firing at the tyres. One bullet has probably been deflected and hit the back of a 26-year old Syrian woman in the car who then got surgery in a hospital.
The president says he needs more information
That’s what we know. The Slovak authorities are investigating the incident.
The Slovak president Andrej Kiska, who is known for his agitation against the Slovak government and for his pro-refugee attitude, says he needed more information
But for many journalists it was clear what had happend in the first place. „Police shoot at woman from Syria„, „Syrian refugee shot by border guards trying to enter Slovakia from Hungary„, „Police shoots Syrian woman in the back“ or „Customs Officers Shoot Asylum Seeker in Slovakia“– theses were just some of many similar headlines after the incident.
It just fits too well in the picture of nowaday’s Slovakia as an anti-refugee country who even sues the European Council before the European Court of Justice over the refugee quota, Slovakia refuses to adopt. A country that reenforces border controls and even puts up barriers against migrants.
We should critcize Slovak refugee policy
Of course: It’s terrible that a refugee is hit by a bullet in Europe. And sure, the migration policy of Slovakia’s government can and should be criticized. But this should not distort the perception – especially not the one of the reporters and editors.
In a commentary on the news outlet Zeit Online, an editor asks: „Why does indignation stay out?“ The answer: Because the customs officers most likely did not fire at refugees, but at a car.
Many things have ben said about the current state of Poland after the parliamentary elections in late 2015. The Council of Europe voiced its concern about the conservative party PiS after its victory weakening the Constitutional Court. European politicians and Polish leftists and liberals uttered ther outrage on the country’s shift towards more authoritarianism and nationalism.
A sad yet funny contribution to the debate
On Monday several (former) important political personalities – such as the three former presidents Lech Wałęsa, Aleksander Kwaśniewski and Bronisław Komorowski – appealed to the Polish people in the Gazeta Wyborcza. They should stand up for democracy, the rule of law and the constitution in their daily lives. Furthermore the signatories of this appeal accused the PiS of „usurpation of power“.
There have been said and written so many things. But between all those loud words I found a calm, sad but yet funny contribution to the debate: an illustration of the artist Pawel Kuczynski.
It shows an old wooden toilet with a sign that says „public toilet“ in Polish. The word „public“ has been crossed out and instead someone wrote „national“.
A message – as clear as Polis Wodka
For me, this illustration hits the nail right on the head – as many of Kuczynski’s works do.
I don’t know exactly when I came across the illustrations of Pawel Kuczynski. I just know: The first time I saw them, they were pulling me down.
Their message was sometimes clear als Polish Wodka, sometimes not easy to grasp at the first glance – but always wrapped in a melancholic irony that has fascinated me ever since.
A special work for the illustrator
The Polish artists translates conflicts of today’s world into calm paintings. Many of the illustrations are a bold punsh in the face – what often goes with critizism of civilization and capitalism.
But what has been fascinating me in Kuczynski’s works was that they didn’t remain shallow or cheap critizism. They are always very calm and deep – just as the „National Toilet“ he made in February 2016.
It’s a special work for Kuczynski. It’s the „only one illustration about Polish reality“ he ever made, he wrote me in an e-mail. Normally he would try „to make the illustrations about global troubles“, that all people over the world could understand.
Wednesday, 14th of April, has made Czech history – literally. The highest state entities of the Czech Republic decided that their country would henceforth be called „Czechia“ – 22 years after the first plan to do so. What seems to be a practical solution for the whole country is in fact the last step to supremacy of one part of the Czech Republic.
The new country’s new name is – according to the authorities – an offer of a „suitable foreign-language version of the one-word term for our country, Česko“. The thing is: Česko designates Bohemia, one of the three Czech lands alongside Moravia and the Czech part of Silesia.
Wine versus beer
When they got to know that they would be also Bohemians now, Moravians and Silesians were not happy. Some might have asked the questions the song Bohemian Rhapsody starts with: „Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?“
There has been a long rivalry, especially between the Moravia and Bohemia. And there are many differences.
Moravia is a wine region and people talk in various dialects. Bohemia, land of the country’s capital Prague, is known for its beer. And its very own language: the Common Czech.
This sub-version of the standard Czech language has its special rules and pronounciations – and is overtaking. Studies find that in Bohemia Common Czech is spoken even in six out of ten formal conversations.
Due to migration inside Czech Republic the language is spreading. Even in Moravia there are more and more Bohemian He’s and She’s Meaning „von/vona“ instead of „on/ona“.
More and more spend a Bohemain week („tejden“) in the capital Prague, not a Standard Czech one („tyden“). And Prague itself, where you can find the beer bar Vokno – which would be called in Standard Czech „Okno“ (window) – follows the rules of center and periphery and functions as an incubator.
Demands to change the language
Culture and media are more and more Common-Czeched-out. The dominance is so fierce, that already Slovaks that still consume Czech theater, books, movies and media like radio, have lost their feeling for what is the right Czech language.
Even some people are confused. There already demands popping up to make the Standard Czech bend to the Common Czech’s norms.
That the Czech Republic now is to be called Czechia – thus Česko, which retranslates into Bohemia – is the last chapter of the Bohemian Rhapsody: the step to Bohemian supremacy.
„Moravia is not Czechia“
Many Moravians and Silesians rise up against this what could be Bohemia’s final victory. This saturday there will be a demonstration with the titel „Moravia is not Czechia“.
But as sung in the Bohemian Rhapsody „Anyway the wind blows“. In both Common and Standard Czech it means the same: Vítr tak či tak fouká.
The governmental crisis in Ukraine has just been solved: Volodymyr Groysman is the new Prime Minister of Ukraine. It is one of the rare Ukrainian realities agreed on.
Since early 2014 it’s more and more difficult to tell what’s true in this Ukrainian crisis – or hybrid war, or armed conflict, or Russian intervention, or struggle for freedom, or…? The pro-Urkainian side tells stories in its way, the pro-separatist one in its very own, too.
For example about the Buk rocket that took down the MH17 airplane. And what about the referendum on Crimea? And the funerals for Russian soldiers that are said to have fought in Eastern Ukraine? And the Ukrainian neo-Nazi corpses?
Ukraine is a war of information and disinformation with several aspects:
- Firstly: The sheer number of news we’re flooded which is overwhelming and sometimes drowning the attempt to focus on the important.
- Secondly: People live in their information bubbles. I talked lately to a couple from Eastern Ukraine – „of course“, they said, „people in Eastern Ukraine are having certain opinions. We’re being bombed with Russian propaganda every day.“ Others are sucked into bubbles by their Facebook newsfeed.
- Thirdly: It’s about old and deeply rooted – and thus easily to active – enemy images. Russian media speaks of the Ukrainian politicians as of the fascist devil. Western media has its black-white pattern of a mix of neo-sovjet and neo-czarist Russia.
- Fourthly: Ukraine has long not been on the map of many reporters. Suddenly people have to write about the crisis that don’t understand the country (I am at the beginning of this process), don’t understand or speak Russian (I do) or Ukrainian (I understand a little). There are not many correspondents in Ukraine now – a lot of reporting on Ukraine is done from Warsaw or Moscow.
- Fifthly: People’s trust in media is undermined – both by the „enemy’s side’s propaganda“ and a loss of claimed objectivity and – sometimes – due diligence in reporting….
Just to name some points that make it hard to build solid knowledge and opinion on Ukraine. It’s a feeling of uncertainty people left with a lot after having consumed news on Ukraine.
Like this one: The New York Times lately had a telephone interview with the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko. In the interview Poroshenko admitted to have stashed half a billion Dollars in offshore accounts and that he didn’t want to return the money to Ukraine – also for tax reasons.
Did he really just admit that? The NYT editors remained sceptical and became even more after some research.
When the call found its way to Youtube, the president’s office told the NYT that the people to post the interview were „connected to some Russian official bodies and executing their orders“.
Were Russian authorities backing this fake interview? Was it some youngsters making fun or testing the research capabilites of the NYT? What did really happen – what is the reality? It’s still unclear.
Just one thing seems to be 100 percent clear in Ukraine. The NYT editors wrote they found themselves in a „propaganda war between Russia (…) and Ukraine“.
Photos I took in the Swiss canton Ticino in early 2016.