Abandoned Factory Used as Azov Base May Fall Into the Wrong Hands

The short drive from the armed checkpoint to the assigned parking area reveals large abandoned buildings and sidewalks overgrown with grass. Several cars are parked in the area overlooking a training course, a fenced off area and large building with no windows. Another guarded checkpoint offers access to the living area.

Soldiers, trainees and volunteers work digging holes, cooking meals and reconstructing a building. Rubble mixed with glass and wires fill the three-story building where men work to improve their living conditions. A little boy wearing a red helmet helps his father by moving discarded stones into a pile. Right now the group of 50 live in tiny temporary housing with 8 men per room, sleeping in bunk beds and one shared bathroom with limited water.

The new kitchen is almost complete and the temporary kitchen is outdoors and happy to accept food donations. Mechanic volunteers are also welcome to help reconstruct vehicles damaged in the war zone. One section of the old factory is designated for vehicle repair while others act as training rooms for combat, strategic operations and gun handling. Civilians and even other battalions are also welcome to come and participate in training.

Former metalworking factory ATEK has played a significant role since the beginning of the conflict on November 21st 2013. It housed weapons and titushki at the beginning of 2014 before it was leased to the Azov Battalion in December 2014.

The infantry military unit consists of volunteers with right-wing ideals. They belong under the branch of the National Guard of Ukraine and have around 1,000 men. They participate in ATO operations and have participated in many battles in Eastern Ukraine.

Since December 2014 Azov members have worked to transform the abandoned factory into a base where they could live, train and help the Ukrainian military. They also agreed to pay off Atek’s debt in exchange for use of the space. But since July 2015 the state-own Fiscal Service of Ukraine has been trying to quietly hand the factory over to a Russian company KVV. KVV have been affiliated with separatists of the self-proclaimed Donbass People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.

AZOV has staged protests to keep the lease. They do not want the space that they been working hard to renovate to fall into the wrong hands. Especially when the new potential owners could use the space to create military equipment that could then be used against the Ukraine military.

This is especially crucial right now because Atek is the birth place of what is being referred to as the most advanced tank in the world. It is being built by Nikolay Stepanov, a well known chief Engineer and former Head designer for the Malyshev Tank Factory, and his son. If mass-produced, it could play an important part in the war in Eastern Ukraine.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olena-kagui/abandoned-factory-used-as_b_8129054.html

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How to Get More out of Your Trip to Prague

Prague is one of the most visited destinations in Europe and has tourists coming from all over the world to discover this beautiful city. Understandably the city is littered with souvenir stores and people offering walking tours, Segway tours and free tours. The typical tours will check off the top few sites and will often lead you into tourist traps – overpriced restaurants or souvenirs that are commonly bought in Prague but are not actually Czech.

Guidilo and Local Artists are two newly opened companies that were born out of passion for the tourism industry but with the goal of doing things a little differently. They have changed the way that people act and feel as tourists and have inspirational goals and stories. They are impressive not only because they are successful startups but because they took tourism, something that is overabundant, and did it differently and arguably better.

Started up in 2014, Guidilo is an on-line marketplace that connects travelers with Prague’s locals to share their interests in a unique way that goes beyond the traditional tourist concept. It is a place where travelers can find and book tours with like-minded local insiders who are eager to share insights and give travelers a chance to explore the local life and experience the authentic spirit of the city.

Local Artists opened their store on the 19th of March in 2015. They believe in creating a new dimension for souvenir sales. The thoughts behind the store are that local artists breathe soul into every product they create which enables the buyer to experience the stories and traditions of true craft production.

Guidilo differs from other tours by gathering interesting locals who want to share the passion for their hobbies and the city. The ‘guides’ are local people with intimate knowledge of the sites, customs and attractions to ensure that travelers get the most out of their visit. There are similar companies operating worldwide but Guidilo is the first of this kind in the Czech Republic.

Local Artists differ from other souvenir in three areas: people, presentation and locally made products. All Local Artists employees bring added value to the atmosphere of the store. They create a certain kind of atmosphere with the way they set up the store and in the way that they make the brands visible. Finally all of their products are made in the Czech Republic and are connected to Czech culture and craft tradition.

The owners of both businesses are very friendly and ambitious, taking part in tours and spending time at their store. Their positive attitudes and personalities resonate in what they have created and are part of the memories that tourists take back from Prague with them.

As a frequent traveler with a collection of both good and bad experiences as a tourist, I was hoping to find out more about these two new businesses and conducted the following interview.

Question: What gave you the idea to start Guidilo and Local Artists?

Guidilo: We came to the idea, when we realized how many of our foreign friends called us in advance to ask about the best places to stay, visit and eat. We always took them to our favorite coffee shops, introduced them to our local friends and to the beauty of the city of Prague. Not everyone is lucky enough to have some friends here, so we created this website to help others experience the magnificent Czech capital from the local’s perspective.

Local Artists: Certainly it was the long-lasting situation in the historical center of Prague. It is full of shows that offer products with no connection to any Czech tradition or custom – which we think is a shame. Prague has a unique atmosphere and when tourists want to take home a memory from Prague – they always find the same soulless souvenirs in every store. ‘Local Artists’ offers a wide selection of authentic and quality Czech products with tradition and a complete story about how and whom they were crafted by.

Question: Why are you passionate about tourism?

Guidilo: We love to discover hidden places and meet new people, discover their culture (especially compare cultural differences and similarities) and share experiences together. Traveling is the best education ever! We prefer to collect moments, not things. Because things can disappear one day, but memories live in our minds forever.

Local Artists: We all love travelling and discovering new countries in their culture. If you run a shop like Local Artist s in the center of Prague, you meet a lot of people from various countries every day. When you speak to them you can learn a lot about their homes – so for us it is a kind of traveling even when staying in your home place.

Question: What are your current goals?

Guidilo: We plan to increase the number of experiences in Prague and expand to other cities in the Czech Republic as well. Speaking from experience – we know that Czechs are friendly people who want to show the best of their towns because they are very proud of them. This is one possibility of how to attract foreign visitors. If you have something special or unique in your town, wouldn’t you want to let other people know about it?

Local Artists: We are creating an oasis in the sea of several full stores downtown. A base for those who seek something really connected to Prague and the Czech Republic and for those who just feel good while visiting.

Question: Has running Guidilo/Local Artists influences the way you act as a tourist?

Guidilo: Totally! Now we are looking for local activities and sustainable travel. Hanging out with locals is always the best way to explore the city. No guidebook can give you all the insider tips and hidden gems that the people living there ever day can offer. From our years of travelling, we’ve learned that a good guide can make the difference between an unpleasant walk and a wonderful lifelong memory.

Local Artists: Definitely. Not only that you cannot be a regular shopping tourist anymore, but you also start to ask for the story behind more things. It just comes naturally!

Globalism has opened up the world and made travel accessible and affordable. Tourism has seen a boom and many businesses have gotten their foot in the door and shaped our expectations for what traveling looks like. However Guidilo and Local Artists have proven that it’s still possible to improve and change the way we travel. Tourists traveling to the Czech Republic now have a wider spectrum of experiences to choose from to make their trip more special and authentic.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olena-kagui/how-to-get-more-out-of-yo_1_b_7760278.html

15 Breathtaking Photos of the Charles Bridge

The oldest bridge in the very heart of Prague, Charles Bridge, is the top stop on every tourist’s “must-see” list. Rumored to use beer in it’s construction, the bridge was finished in the 15th century by King Charles IV, who brought Prague into the Golden Age. Charles IV made Prague the capital of the Holy Roman Empire and lay the foundations that made Prague the city it is today.

After living in Prague for almost two decades, I am still as fascinated with the Charles Bridge as tourists are seeing it for the first time. During these many years, I have discovered the best spots to photograph the Charles Bridge. Some much less-known than others.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olena-kagui/15-breathtaking-photos-of-charles-bridge_b_7103598.html

Patriots Punished in Northern Cyprus: A Modern Day Political Occupation

Koray Basdogrultmaci and Cinel Senem Husseyin, a Turkish-Speaking Cypriot couple, were charged for hanging the Cyprus Republic’s flag outside their home and shop in Famagusta in June 2013. They were arrested and put in jail on June 21st 2013 and their original trial was postponed until June 11th 2014.

“Northern Cyprus is legally part of the Republic of Cyprus and the whole world recognizes it this way,” explains Oz Karajan from LINOBAMBAKI organization, “but in 1974 Turkey illegally occupied the area and declared a de facto government that is recognized only by Turkey.”

According to Karajan, there are 70,000 Turkish-speaking Cypriots living in Cyprus and 300,000 living in United Kingdom. “This number shows that Turks made them leave the island,” says Karajan, “Turks are getting rid of Turkish-speaking Cypriots who are owners on the island to achieve full control of the occupied areas.”

Karajan explains that the Turkish occupation is affecting people’s daily lives and this specific case shows their misuse of legislative power.

On June 20th 2013, Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister of Turkey, had flown the Cypriot flag during the opening ceremony of the Mediterranean Games in Mersin, Turkey. There was no problem with him doing this so the couple wanted to protest his hypocrisy so they hung up three flags.

“Why is it free to open Republic of Cyprus flags in Turkey but not in my own country?” says Cinel Senem Husseyin who is outraged by the hypocrisy. “By doing this demonstration we wanted to remind Turkey’s role here,” Hysseying explains.

According to Karajan, the area where the couple lives and works, Turkish-speaking Cypriots were forced to move into the Northern area of Cyprus to show that the occupation is legitimate. “But these people aren’t ethnically or culturally Turk,” says Karajan, “they don’t like to live under Turkish authorities and they want to reunify with the Republic of Cyprus again.”

Karajan refers to the situation as, “systematic and well engineered oppression in 40 years and leave their homeland to illegal occupation authorities and their illegal settlers.”

“We believe that the island is one and can’t be divided and it can’t be joined to another country,” says Husseyin speaking for her husband and herself, “We believe that the Republic of Cyprus belongs to all Cypriots and the landscape belongs to all Cypriots.”

The court hearing keeps getting postponed for a different reason each time. On April 9th in 2014, a new judge asked the couple to apologize and in turn they would only receive a small fine. However they refused, facing a greater fine and potential imprisonment. The most recent hearing was postponed because of a missing witness. The next court hearing will be held on April 13th 2015.

The couple and their friends, including Tina Adamidou, have tried to contact authorities in Cyprus and the European Court of Human Rights with the plea to dismiss the charges of public disorder. They sent letters to:

– EU Parliament President, Martin Schultz
– EU Parliament Social & Democratic Leader, Hannes Swoboda
– EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood, Stefan Fule
– EU Parliament co leader of the Green Party, Daniel Cohn-Benit
– Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Ahmet Davutohlu
– Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon
– President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasides
– Leader of the Turkish Cypriot Community in Cyprus, Dervis Eroglu

None of these people responded and the couple continues to fight fort their cause with little support. They have an online petition and hope to gain at least some support. Koray and Cinel truly believe that they have done nothing wrong and worry about what will happen to their two young children if they get charged with time in prison.

The Petition.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olena-kagui/patriots-punished-in-nort_b_6993574.html

November 17th 2014 – Romanians and Czechs Choose Democracy

In London, Madalina stood yesterday in the queue outside the Romanian Embassy for eleven hours and was among the last group of ten voters to be allowed into the Embassy to vote – with thousands left outside who were not able to vote…

“A minor miracle occurred yesterday,” wrote Frank Fischer in an email on November 17th, “(it) marked a significant victory for democracy and justice in Romania’s long march from the end of the Communist regime.”

Fischer is an Englishman who transferred to work in Romania as a Regional Sales Manager for Central and Eastern Europe in 2003. Before that he spent most of his career working in senior positions in the hydropower and wind power industries. He lived in Romania for the past 11 years and married a Romanian woman three years after moving there. Since he retired in 2009 he has become increasingly interested in Romanian culture and politics.

Romania is indeed a little-known country. But especially with the political events going on in Europe right now, this event was very important. November 17th was an important day in the Czech Republic too. It was a national holiday and the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolutionwhere Czechoslovak students, led by playwright and later renowned president Vaclav Havel, gathered to stand up against Communism. This fueled a series of events that toppled the regime and changed the country. During the celebration, there was a speech by the current Czech president Milos Zeman. He is a former Communist and he has been known for leaning towards the East. Thousands of Czechs held out red ‘penalty’ cards in protest as he spoke, and the peaceful protest turned into booing and boiled-egg throwing as he said the following three things:

– The revolution that was being celebrated had not played a role in ending Communism, nor was there any violence from the side of the police on November 17th, 1989.
– Tibet is part of China.
– There is no Russian involvement in Ukraine.

His speech was considered very insulting to many people, especially on the day that ultimately gave the Czech Republic and Slovakia freedom. But people united against him in the same spirit that they united against their non-representative government in 1989.

The Romanian presidential elections are also important in relation to Ukraine. Everyone has heard about the situation. Just over a year ago, on November 21st, 2013, Ukrainians stood up to make a change away from the East. They showed the world that they wanted democracy, rule of law and trade with Western partners. Since then they have shown that they are willing to die for these ideals as well as to protect their country. This seemingly small victory in Romania gives a lot of hope to East European countries who are trying to develop and move forward (Westward). It also creates a great example for Ukrainians – it shows them that democracy can be achieved if people come together, no matter how unlikely it may seem.

Below is the letter that Fischer sent to his family members, including his wife’s daughter, Madalina. Madalina then contacted me with the request to spread this information that brings a very important and positive message: change for the better is always possible.

Hello to you all!

Yesterday marked a significant victory for democracy and justice in Romania’s long march from the end of the Communist regime in 1989 towards the accepted values of Western Europe and North America. Against all expectations and despite the truly Machiavellian machinations of the ruling party, the underdog candidate, a Romanian from the Saxon minority and a Lutheran to boot, in a staunchly Orthodox country, won the second and final round of elections for the new President of Romania by a substantial majority. I realize that for most of you Romania is a little-known country more than a thousand miles away in a remote corner of south-eastern Europe, where events are generally of little interest to the inhabitants of the British Isles. But Romania is important to Europe. With a population of around 22 million, it is the third largest country in Eastern Europe (excluding Russia, which my father always said was an Asian country!) after Ukraine (55 m., and going down rapidly) and Poland (48 M.). This means it is an important trading partner. Its proximity to Moldavia and Ukraine give it major strategic importance in the current political situation of those two countries. In this context, Romania also has significant international value through its membership of the European Union and of NATO.

The favorite to win the elections that ended yesterday was Victor Ponta, the current prime minister and president of the ruling PSD (the Socialist Democratic Party, formerly the Communist Party). He is an accomplished liar, cheat and fraud. In the two and a half years since he became prime minister, he has supported the passage of numerous laws aimed at curbing the freedom of the media, promoting the interests of the oligarchs, facilitating vote-rigging in favour of the ruling party, and re-orientating the country away from Western Europe and towards Russia and China: all indications of a return to the country’s totalitarian past. Yet PSD has a strong following, based mainly on a system of patronage that makes local administrators beholden to the central government and therefore obliged to ensure that at election time, votes are steered towards the PSD.

In the first round of the elections, earlier this month, there were 14 candidates, partly because the parties of the center and right were unable to agree on a single candidate to oppose the left-wing Ponta. After that vote, the two leading candidates were Victor Ponta and the candidate put forward by an unholy alliance of the PNL (National Liberal Party) and the PDL (Democratic Liberal Party), who until recently were sworn enemies, but decided that opportunism was more important than principles. Their candidate was Klaus Iohannis, the mayor of Sibiu (formerly Herrmanstadt, once a large Saxon settlement). He is a dour, rather humorless and slow-witted but seemingly decent man who claims to be more interested in deeds than in words, which would be a refreshing contrast with Ponta. In the first round, Ponta won about 40% of the votes and Iohannis 30%. Ponta famously said that the second round of voting was not important for him, as the result was clearly predictable, so he would stay at home and eat popcorn in front of the television on election night. So Ponta and Iohannis faced each other in the final, second-round elections yesterday.

How wrong Ponta was. A minor miracle occurred yesterday. The people of Romania turned out to vote in numbers not seen since the 1990s and emphatically voted against Ponta. That’s really the point: people did not vote so much for Iohannis as to ensure that Ponta did not become president. All the numerous tricks employed by the government to ensure that they won the election (which included, for instance, bagging poverty relief aid from the European Union and distributing it as gifts from the PSD!) failed because of this surge of anti-Ponta sentiment. People had simply had enough of Ponta’s despicable trickery. Against all the odds, Iohannis won.

We were amazed and delighted by this result. The scenes of exuberance and jubilation in the major squares of central Bucharest as the election results became known were quite extraordinary, unlike anything I have ever seen anywhere else. In the run-up to this election, Gabi and I had seriously discussed selling up in Romania and moving to perhaps the south of France if Ponta won. Now the situation is different. Our move may still happen, but not under the pressure of political events.

A major part in Ponta’s failure was played by the Romanian Diaspora. Roughly three and a half million Romanians live and work outside the country. They generally tend to vote massively for right-wing candidates, so the left-wing PSD government did everything it could to limit the voting at polling booths in other countries. They were so successful that thousands of Romanians in many European countries, including the UK, were unable to cast their votes. This also affected Madalina, who stood for many hours in the cold and rain on 2 November in London but didn’t get to vote. This result caused widespread indignation and major protest meetings in most big cities in Romania. It was probably the spark that ignited the fury that compelled people who might otherwise not have done so to go out and vote against Ponta. After the debacle of the failed first-round vote outside Romania, the responsible minister was forced to resign. His replacement said that the second round of voting would not have the same result, but he lied. In London, Madalina stood yesterday in the queue outside the Romanian Embassy for eleven hours and was among the last group of ten voters to be allowed into the Embassy to vote – with thousands left outside who were not able to vote.

So – a historic event occurred, one that I will remember for a long time as a superb example of how close hubris and nadir can be in the world of politics! As the television pointed out, while Ponta was at home eating popcorn, his rival was being received in royal style in Piata Unirii, Bucharest’s biggest public square. I hope Ponta’s popcorn stuck in his craw.

A great day for democracy. Now it will be truly interesting to see what happens next!

Much love to you all – Frank & Gabi

Originally published here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olena-kagui/november-17th-romanians-a_b_6213870.html

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

November 17th – Romanians and Czechs Choose Democracy

“A minor miracle occurred yesterday,” wrote Frank Fischer in an email on November 17th, “(it) marked a significant victory for democracy and justice in Romania’s long march from the end of the Communist regime.”

Fischer is an Englishman who transferred to work in Romania as a Regional Sales Manager for Central and Eastern Europe in 2003. Before that he spent most of his career working in senior positions in the hydropower and wind power industries. He lived in Romania for the past 11 years and married a Romanian woman three years after moving there. Since he retired in 2009 he has become increasingly interested in Romanian culture and politics.

Romania is indeed a little-known country. But especially with the political events going on in Europe right now, this event was very important. November 17th was an important day in the Czech Republic too. It was a national holiday and the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution – where Czechoslovak students, led by playwright and later renowned president Vaclav Havel, gathered to stand up against Communism. This fueled a series of events that toppled the regime and changed the country. During the celebration there was a speech by the current Czech president Milos Zeman. He is a former Communist and he has been known for leaning towards the East. Thousands of Czechs held out red ‘penalty’ cards in protest as he spoke; and the peaceful protest turned into booing and boiled-egg throwing as he said the following three things:

– The revolution that was being celebrated had not played a role in ending Communism, nor was there any violence from the side of the police on November 17th 1989.
– Tibet is part of China.
– There is no Russian involvement in Ukraine.

His speech was considered very insulting to many people, especially on the day that ultimately gave Czech Republic and Slovakia freedom. But people united against him in the same spirit that they united against their non-representative government in 1989.

The Romanian presidential elections are also important in relation to Ukraine. Everyone has heard about the situation. Just over a year ago, on November 21st 2013, Ukrainians stood up to make a change away from the East. They showed the world that they wanted democracy, rule of law and trade with Western partners. Since then they have showed that they are willing to die for these ideals as well as to protect their country. This seemingly small victory in Romania gives a lot of hope to East European countries who are trying to develop and move forward (Westward). It also creates a great example for Ukrainians – it shows them that democracy can be achieved if people come together, no matter how unlikely it may seem.

Below is the letter that Fischer sent to his family members, including his wife’s daughter, Madalina. Madalina then contacted me with the request to spread this information that brings a very important and positive message: change for the better is always possible.

Hello to you all!

Yesterday marked a significant victory for democracy and justice in Romania’s long march from the end of the Communist regime in 1989 towards the accepted values of Western Europe and North America. Against all expectations and despite the truly Machiavellian machinations of the ruling party, the underdog candidate, a Romanian from the Saxon minority and a Lutheran to boot, in a staunchly Orthodox country, won the second and final round of elections for the new President of Romania by a substantial majority. I realize that for most of you Romania is a little-known country more than a thousand miles away in a remote corner of south-eastern Europe, where events are generally of little interest to the inhabitants of the British Isles. But Romania is important to Europe. With a population of around 22 million, it is the third largest country in Eastern Europe (excluding Russia, which my father always said was an Asian country!) after Ukraine (55 m., and going down rapidly) and Poland (48 M.). This means it is an important trading partner. Its proximity to Moldavia and Ukraine give it major strategic importance in the current political situation of those two countries. In this context, Romania also has significant international value through its membership of the European Union and of NATO.

The favourite to win the elections that ended yesterday was Victor Ponta, the current prime minister and president of the ruling PSD (the Socialist Democratic Party, formerly the Communist Party). He is an accomplished liar, cheat and fraud. In the two and a half years since he became prime minister, he has supported the passage of numerous laws aimed at curbing the freedom of the media, promoting the interests of the oligarchs, facilitating vote-rigging in favour of the ruling party, and re-orientating the country away from Western Europe and towards Russia and China: all indications of a return to the country’s totalitarian past. Yet PSD has a strong following, based mainly on a system of patronage that makes local adminstrators beholden to the central government and therefore obliged to ensure that at election time, votes are steered towards the PSD.

In the first round of the elections, earlier this month, there were 14 candidates, partly because the parties of the centre and right were unable to agree on a single candidate to oppose the left-wing Ponta. After that vote, the two leading candidates were Victor Ponta and the candidate put forward by an unholy alliance of the PNL (National Liberal Party) and the PDL (Democratic Liberal Party), who until recently were sworn enemies, but decided that opportunism was more important than principles. Their candidate was Klaus Iohannis, the mayor of Sibiu (formerly Herrmanstadt, once a large Saxon settlement). He is a dour, rather humourless and slow-witted but seemingly decent man who claims to be more interested in deeds than in words, which would be a refreshing contrast with Ponta. In the first round, Ponta won about 40% of the votes and Iohannis 30%. Ponta famously said that the second round of voting was not important for him, as the result was clearly predictable, so he would stay at home and eat popcorn in front of the television on election night. So Ponta and Iohannis faced each other in the final, second-round elections yesterday.

How wrong Ponta was. A minor miracle occurred yesterday. The people of Romania turned out to vote in numbers not seen since the 1990s, and emphatically voted against Ponta. That’s really the point: people did not vote so much for Iohannis as to ensure that Ponta did not become president. All the numerous tricks employed by the government to ensure that they won the election (which included, for instance, bagging poverty relief aid from the European Union and distributing it as gifts from the PSD!) failed because of this surge of anti-Ponta sentiment. People had simply had enough of Ponta’s despicable trickery. Against all the odds, Iohannis won.

We were amazed and delighted by this result. The scenes of exuberance and jubilation in the major squares of central Bucharest as the election results became known were quite extraordinary, unlike anything I have ever seen anywhere else. In the run-up to this election, Gabi and I had seriously discussed selling up in Romania and moving to perhaps the south of France if Ponta won. Now the situation is different. Our move may still happen, but not under the pressure of political events.

A major part in Ponta’s failure was played by the Romanian Diaspora. Roughly three and a half million Romanians live and work outside the country. They generally tend to vote massively for right wing candidates, so the left-wing PSD government did everything it could to limit the voting at polling booths in other countries. They were so successful that thousands of Romanians in many European countries, including the UK, were unable to cast their votes. This also affected Madalina, who stood for many hours in the cold and rain on 2 November in London, but didn’t get to vote. This result caused widespread indignation and major protest meetings in most big cities in Romania. It was probably the spark that ignited the fury that compelled people who might otherwise not have done so to go out and vote against Ponta. After the debacle of the failed first-round vote outside Romania, the responsible minister was forced to resign. His replacement said that the second round of voting would not have the same result, but he lied. In London, Madalina stood yesterday in the queue outside the Romanian Embassy for eleven hours and was among the last group of ten voters to be allowed into the Embassy to vote – with thousands left outside who were not able to vote.

So – an historic event occurred, one that I will remember for a long time as a superb example of how close hubris and nadir can be in the world of politics! As the television pointed out, while Ponta was at home eating popcorn, his rival was being received in royal style in Piata Unirii, Bucharest’s biggest public square. I hope Ponta’s popcorn stuck in his craw.

A great day for democracy. Now it will be truly interesting to see what happens next!

Much love to you all – Frank & Gabi

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olena-kagui/november-17th-romanians-a_b_6213870.html

THE BLOG ‘This Place’ Exhibition in Prague in DOX

This Place is the name of an International exhibition currently shown in the DOX gallery in Prague. The DOX Center for Contemporary Art, Architecture and Design has been organizing and hosting exhibitions for six years now. It has presented over 120 exhibition projects and is ranked among the most progressive artistic institutions in the Czech Republic.

The exhibition shows the photographs of twelve artists, each with a unique angle of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The exhibition of over 500 photos opened on October 24th and will be on display until March 2nd 2015. After Prague the exhibition will move to Tel Aviv for six months. After that it will be exhibited in the Norton Museum of Art followed by the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The exhibition will officially end on June 5th 2016. There are also thirteen original books produced for the exhibition – one with photos of each individual photographer and one comprehensive catalog. On Saturday October 25th, I saw four of the artists talk about their experience of creating This Place.

“I can’t call it Israel,” says photographer Gilles Peress while referring to flying to the location, “I call it Israelstein. It’s a combination of the two.” Peress’s photos are very clear; they show the different perspectives of one community. He remarked that in Israel and Palestine everything happens meter by meter, room to room. “You see stores disappearing one by one, I return to the same place again and again,” Peress explains his process of watching the changes. His pieces in this exhibition try to explore the reason why people don’t see the similarities between each other – “Desperate lives,” he sighs, “looking for differences.”

The content of Wendy Ewald’s project differed greatly from those of her colleagues. She explored what different communities in the area considered most important. Ewald had a total of fourteen different mini-projects exploring the lives of groups that ranged from women attending an orthodox military school to elderly villagers. She taught them seminars on photography and observed “how education forms the country.” Ewald taught these groups of people to take photos of what impacted their lives and taught them to use metaphors. Then she compared what different groups concentrated on in their photography.

Fazal Sheikh, like all the other photographers, had issues with photographing in the region. “I prefer an open perspective,” said Sheikh, “Israel is extremely constricting.” His project was about the transformation of the land. He visited a village that is now unrecognizable. It was transformed into a forest and the people who once lived there became displaced around the country. He decided to fly over the desert after spending time in a protest tent overlooking the dry barren land that would become a dense forest. He coupled taking photographs from a helicopter with listening to stories from combatants on both sides.

Joseph Koudelka, a Czech photographer, talked about originally denying Frederic Brenner’s invitation to cooperate with this project. “I bought my own ticket,” said Koudelka, “to avoid having any obligation.” He was born in 1938 and experienced the German occupation of his village. Later he witnessed the Russians first liberating the Czechs and then occupying them. “I grew up behind the Iron Curtain and always wanted to see the other side,” Koudelka expressed his sympathy for the people in the area. His book doesn’t always show the people, but you can see the impact of mankind in every photograph.

The subject of the title came up in the discussion. All the books and the project itself avoid naming the area that has had so many in its past. Art can be a tool of propaganda and the Israel-Palestine topic is a sensitive one with extremists on both sides. A name that didn’t lean to either side of the conflict seemed the most appropriate and most objective to allow the viewers to interpret the meaning.

More information can be found on their website: http://www.dox.cz/cs/vystavy/this-place

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olena-kagui/this-place-exhibition-in-_b_6095398.html