Monday, February 24, 2014

heroim slava - a hero's funeral

“Slava Ukraina! Heroim slava!” These days, Ukraine’s heroes are Euromaidan’s martyrs. Among them, 48 year old Afghanistan war veteran, Oleksandr Shcherbaniuk. He was from Chernivtsi and like many others from different regions around Ukraine he went to support the revolution in Kiev’s Independence Square. And like too many others, he was killed. Shot in the heart on February 20.
For people in Ukraine and especially for people in his home town, he is a hero: a man who fought and died defending his countrymen’s rights and freedom, his children’s future and Ukraine’s honor.  That’s why thousands of co-nationals came to his wake, paying respects to his widow and two children, and thousands walked him on his final journey.
At least 77 people died in Kiev on February 20 and 21, following a short-lived truce, killed by the order of their democratically elected president. As news come from the capital, with President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing office and being dismissed by MPs on Saturday, Yulia Timoshenko released, the police having sworn allegiance to the opposition, the return to the 2004 constitution and early elections set for May 25 this year, their deaths seem not to have been in vain. Oleksandr Shcherbaniuk’s death may not have been in vain.
But the fight is not over. Euromaidan is not going home yet. With the Orange Revolution in their recent past, Ukrainians are skeptical. They do not want another revolution stolen from them. They do not want to swap the colors of politicians and end up with the same corrupted system and the same oligarchs in charge. Euromaidan is staying to oversee the establishment of a professional and fair interim government. 
The crucial phase of the Ukrainian revolution is just beginning.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

no place for the roma

This photo story was commissioned by Al Jazeera

In September 2013, local authorities in Eforie Sud, a beach town in the south-east of Romania, evicted 78 Roma from their houses. Accommodations were built illegally on a city hall property and after decades of living there the Roma lost their entire livelihood. 33 children and 45 adults were left literally standing in the rain. The Romanian Ombudsman accused local authorities of completely ignoring human rights legislation. Although the eviction itself was legal, city hall failed to provide decent accommodation for the Roma families. Eventually, the Roma took refuge in an abandoned school and an old dormitory (boarding school). Several families are still living in cottages in the field. The mayor of Eforie Sud had called the eviction a “long overdue cleanup operation, a problem that had been ignored for too long” and promises were made that the cleared land would be used to build social housing units.
Five months from the eviction, February 2014, the 78 Roma live in dire conditions that, at best, could be considered “sub-standard”. March this year, they face eviction from these facilities as well. Threats have been issued by authorities that they would be evacuated as soon as spring temperatures set in. No mentions were made about any alternative accommodation.
The story in Eforie Sud is not an exception, but rather a symptom of a bigger problem in Romania and the entire European Union. Just in June 2012, 1000 Roma from Baia Mare were forcefully evacuated from their homes and moved into a former chemical plant. 13 children and one adult suffered intoxications and needed medical care.
Estimates show that around a million Roma live in Romania and the minority faces constant discrimination. Their lives are plagued by difficult access to health care and education, high unemployment rates and general scorning. EU funds for Roma integration sum up to tens of millions of Euros, but countries like Romania fail to attract them.