April 04, 2016
Premium stories from Worldcrunch's own network of multi-lingual journalists in over 30 countries.
Welcome to Wednesday, where 21 are killed in a school shooting in Texas, Davos focuses on Ukraine, and a vertigo-inducing world record is broken at Mont-Saint-Michel. Die Welt also offers a psychoanalyst’s perspective on how war survivors pass trauma onto their children.
This is our daily newsletter Worldcrunch Today, a rapid tour of the news of the day from the world's best journalism sources, regardless of language or geography.
• Narrowing Battles In The East Will Determine Fate Of Ukraine War: The battles taking place in eastern Ukraine could determine the fate of the war and the country, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said. According to the US think tank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russia has abandoned efforts to complete a single large encirclement of Ukrainian forces in the region and are instead attempting smaller encirclements.
— Read all the latest at War in Ukraine, Day 91—
• Texas school shooting: An 18-year-old gunman killed at least 21 people — including 19 children — in a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, making it the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. since the 2012 Newtown massacre. The gunman was shot to death by law enforcement officers. U.S. President Joe Biden called for actions on gun control, saying “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?”
• North Korea launches missiles: According to military officials in Seoul, North Korea fired three ballistic missiles, including an intercontinental missile, from the Sunan area in Pyongyang. This came just one day after U.S. President Joe Biden ended his first Asia tour.
• Report on rule-breaking “culture” in UK government: British senior civil servant Sue Gray delivered the report of her probe into 10, Downing Street lockdown parties, highlighting a culture of rule-breaking within Boris Johnson’s administration, adding that the UK government must “bear responsibility.”
• Monkeypox outbreak update: Monkeypox cases are spreading around the world, with the virus detected in three more countries: the United Arab Emirates, the Czech Republic and Slovenia after popping up in Europe and the U.S. According to the UN Health Agency, “the risk to the general public appears to be low.”
• Deadly police raid in Rio: Brazilian authorities announced that at least eleven people were shot dead during a police raid in a Rio de Janeiro favela on Tuesday night. The police operation was targeting leaders of the country’s largest drug gang Comando Vermelho and at least ten victims were gang members.
• New line in London Tube opens: London’s $25-billion new subway line officially opened after years of delays. The massive Elizabeth line — named in honor of the Queen — will connect far-reaching towns with London’s central tunnels and serve nine stations.
The Houston Chronicle depicts the horror at the school shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, a city of 16,000 inhabitants.
Nathan Paulin, a 28-year-old French slackliner, walked 2.2 kilometers (1.36 miles) on a wire suspended 110 meters in the air, between a crane and the famous Mont-Saint-Michel abbey, in northern France. Despite (safely) falling just a couple meters away from reaching the abbey, he did beat the world record for the longest tightrope walk, which he himself held with a 1.6 km tightrope crossing of the Cirque de Navacelles in the south of France back in 2017.
As a psychoanalyst, Wolfgang Schmidbauer has researched the psychological effects of war on children — and in the process, also examined his own post-war childhood in the 1940s. In this article for German daily Die Welt, he warns that parents tend to use their experiences of suffering as a method of education, with serious consequences.
🛡 Traumatized parents make their own experiences of suffering a core principle of education. They steel their children against their own past and pass this off as preparation for the future. The power of sensory impressions is almost limitless for a child. The people in their world are the only ones who exist. So if a child is brought up surrounded by stories of trauma, their childhood is snatched away. For a long time, I thought that children shared a basic feeling: To them adults were something like joyless giants who had no idea what it meant to have fun. Born in 1941, I gradually came to realize that my childhood was much more deeply marked by the war than I knew.
🖤 German war and post-war children grew up in a vacuum of values filled by educated bourgeois or religious traditions. Too much was expected of children: To heal the wounds of their parents and to compensate for their mental limitations. Parents were so preoccupied with survival and material reconstruction that they focused on caring for their children physically. Otherwise, they wanted to know them or talk to them as little as possible. Children worried the parents because they stood for emotional diversity, vulnerability and openness, qualities which aroused envy and signaled a reality that the parents had lost through mental injuries and unconscious guilt complexes.
💪 For the children of the traumatized, it does not make much difference whether their parents suffered psychological limitations in a just or a criminal war. Extreme situations such as fear of death, witnessing life-threatening injuries, hunger, thirst, dirt and cold damage the survivors' abilities to relax and enjoy themselves. Thus, a shadow falls on the next generations. It is easy to arouse hatred, to set groups against each other, but it takes a lot of effort, time and strength to go the other way. Every hour of war is one too many. It not only costs lives and destroys cities, it also poisons souls and contributes to the emotional coldness that all murderers possess.
➡️ Read the full article on Worldcrunch.com
The truth is, one nation under guns.
— In a series of tweets, U.S. poet Amanda Gorman reacted in poem form to the shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and 2 adults dead, the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. in a decade. She blamed the U.S. government’s inaction when it comes to gun control by writing, “It takes a monster to kill children. But to watch monsters kill children again and again and do nothing isn’t just insanity—it’s inhumanity.”
✍️ Newsletter by Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou and Bertrand Hauger
Let us know what’s happening in your corner of the world!
The two 90-something European-Americans spoke separately at the Davos summit this week, offering very different assessments of what the West should do in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Facing resurgent protests in several provinces, Iran's clerical regime now relies on two defenses: brute force and Western appeasement. But its days may be numbered as younger Iranians are increasingly emboldened to demand a different future.
The risk of the Kremlin launching a tactical nuclear weapon on Ukraine is small but not impossible. The Western response would itself set off a counter-response, which might contain or spiral to the worst-case scenario.
Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.
Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.
Then there is Mariupol, under siege and symbol of Putin’s cruelty. In the largest city on the Azov Sea, with a population of half a million people, Ukrainians make up slightly less than half of the city's population, and Mariupol's second-largest national ethnicity is Russians. As of 2001, when the last census was conducted, 89.5% of the city's population identified Russian as their mother tongue.
Between 2018 and 2019, I spent several months in Mariupol. It is a rugged but beautiful city dotted with Soviet-era architecture, featuring wide avenues and hillside parks, and an extensive industrial zone stretching along the shoreline. There was a vibrant youth culture and art scene, with students developing projects to turn their city into a regional cultural center with an international photography festival.
There were also many offices of international NGOs and human rights organizations, a consequence of the fact that Mariupol was the last major city before entering the occupied zone of Donbas. Many natives of the contested regions of Luhansk and Donetsk had moved there, taking jobs in restaurants and hospitals. I had fond memories of the welcoming from locals who were quicker to smile than in some other parts of Ukraine. All of this is gone.
Putin is bombing the very people he has claimed to want to rescue.
According to the latest data from the local authorities, 80% of the port city has been destroyed by Russian bombs, artillery fire and missile attacks, with particularly egregious targeting of civilians, including a maternity hospital, a theater where more than 1,000 people had taken shelter and a school where some 400 others were hiding.
The official civilian death toll of Mariupol is estimated at more than 3,000. There are no language or ethnic-based statistics of the victims, but it’s likely the majority were Russian speakers.
So let’s be clear, Putin is bombing the very people he has claimed to want to rescue.
Putin’s Public Enemy No. 1, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, is a mother-tongue Russian speaker who’d made a successful acting and comedy career in Russian-language broadcasting, having extensively toured Russian cities for years.
Rescuers carry a person injured during a shelling by Russian troops of Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine.
Yes, the official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, and a 2019 law aimed to ensure that it is used in public discourse, but no one has ever sought to abolish the Russian language in everyday life. In none of the cities that are now being bombed by the Russian army to supposedly liberate them has the Russian language been suppressed or have the Russian-speaking population been discriminated against.
Sociologist Mikhail Mishchenko explains that studies have found that the vast majority of Ukrainians don’t consider language a political issue. For reasons of history, culture and the similarities of the two languages, Ukraine is effectively a bilingual nation.
"The overwhelming majority of the population speaks both languages, Russian and Ukrainian,” Mishchenko explains. “Those who say they understand Russian poorly and have difficulty communicating in it are just over 4% percent. Approximately the same number of people say the same about Ukrainian.”
In general, there is no problem of communication and understanding. Often there will be conversations where one person speaks Ukrainian, and the other responds in Russian. Geographically, the Russian language is more dominant in the eastern and central parts of Ukraine, and Ukrainian in the west.
Like most central Ukrainians I am perfectly bilingual: for me, Ukrainian and Russian are both native languages that I have used since childhood in Kyiv. My generation grew up on Russian rock, post-Soviet cinema, and translations of foreign literature into Russian. I communicate in Russian with my sister, and with my mother and daughter in Ukrainian. I write professionally in three languages: Ukrainian, Russian and English, and can also speak Polish, French, and a bit Japanese. My mother taught me that the more languages I know the more human I am.
At the same time, I am not Russian — nor British or Polish. I am Ukrainian. Ours is a nation with a long history and culture of its own, which has always included a multi-ethnic population: Russians, Belarusians, Moldovans, Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Romanians, Hungarians, Poles, Jews, Greeks. We all, they all, have found our place on Ukrainian soil. We speak different languages, pray in different churches, we have different traditions, clothes, and cuisine.
My mother taught me that the more languages I know the more human I am.
Like in other countries, these differences have been the source of conflict in our past. But it is who we are and will always be, and real progress has been made over the past three decades to embrace our multitudes. Our Jewish, Russian-speaking president is the most visible proof of that — and is in fact part of what our soldiers are fighting for.
Many in Moscow were convinced that Russian troops would be welcomed in Ukraine as liberating heroes by Russian speakers. Instead, young soldiers are forced to shoot at people who scream in their native language.
Starving people ina street of Kharkiv in 1933, during the famine
Putin has tried to rally the troops by warning that in Ukraine a “genocide” of ethnic Russians is being carried out by a government that must be “de-nazified.”
These are, of course, words with specific definitions that carry the full weight of history. The Ukrainian people know what genocide is not from books. In my hometown of Kyiv, German soldiers massacred Jews en masse. My grandfather survived the Buchenwald concentration camp, liberated by the U.S. army. My great-grandmother, who died at the age of 95, survived the 1932-33 famine when the Red Army carried out the genocide of the Ukrainian middle class, and her sister disappeared in the camps of Siberia, convicted for defying rationing to try to feed her children during the famine.
On Tuesday, came a notable report of one of the latest civilian deaths in the besieged Russian-speaking city of Kharkiv: a 96-year-old had been killed when shelling hit his apartment building. The victim’s name was Boris Romanchenko; he had survived Buchenwald and two other Nazi concentration camps during World War II. As President Zelensky noted: Hitler didn’t manage to kill him, but Putin did.
Genocide has returned to Ukraine, from Kharkiv to Kherson to Mariupol, as Vladimir Putin had warned. But it is his own genocide against the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine.