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Society

Bears! The Issue Sneaking Up On Slovakia's Campaign Trail

Slovakian elections set for later this month have been shifting towards an unexpected issue. Bears have been threatening people living near the Tatra Mountains, and how to respond has been dividing politicians.

BRATISLAVA — Slovaks will be going to the polls to select a new parliament on September 30. Among other issues, they will be deciding the fate of the country’s bear populations, which have recently become one of their major political topics. A portion of these animals live along the Polish-Slovakian border.

The growing population of bears in Slovakia and worries about potential attacks on humans have now been addressed by senior politicians. These include not only parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, but also members of the government and even the Slovakian President, Zuzana Czaputova. Czaputova, a well-known environmentalist, has been especially outspoken on the matter.

When a female bear jumped out of a thick bush at a man near the village of Sučany in northern Slovakia while he was out walking his dog, he began to fear for his life. Using a legally held gun, he shot at the bear several times, which killed her. In a second publicized incident that day, a jogger near Liptovsky Hradok reported a bear attack, and had to be hospitalized with an injured shoulder and an open wound on his calf. A few hours later, a forest worker fell victim to a bear attack near the south Slovak village of Drienovo, and was forced to defend himself with a weapon held in his hand.

More incidents involving bear attacks took place in just these 24 hours in mid-July than in the entire year, bringing the total number of bear attacks in Slovakia to eight. This caused widespread public outcry, with social media being almost immediately flooded with videos and photos depicting bear encounters not only in the rural wilderness, but also in villages and cities. The bears are typically unafraid of humans while they forage for food, reports Zprawy Aktualne, and they can often be seen in residents’ backyards. Last year, a bear even made its way into a hotel in the High Tatras, a known tourist destination.

“The situation is serious,” said Environment Minister Milan Chrenko.

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After A Femicide, What Happens To The Children?

Children orphaned by domestic violence are a uniquely vulnerable kind of victim. An investigation from Romania.

NOTE: The names of the characters in the two stories featured in this article have been changed to protect the identity of the children.

A seven-year-old boy bounces out of the schoolyard towards his grandmother, who welcomes him happily and takes off his backpack. The child smiles at her and tells her that in one of his classes he got up from his desk and looked out of the window.

"You're not allowed!" the grandmother replies firmly. "Never do that again!"

The boy, Vladi, who has just started primary school, is puzzled: "Granny, do you forgive me? But I didn't know it was a rule. You didn't tell me I wasn't allowed to look out of the window."

"There are rules," the woman tells him. "Don't talk without being asked, don't interrupt class, don't get up from the bench."

"Yeah, but you didn't tell me I wasn't allowed to look out the window."

Grandma Ileana doesn't answer and hurries him towards the crossing to go to the supermarket. When he hears about the shopping, Vladi forgets the unspoken rule he had been warned about and is already thinking about what sweets to put in the basket.

The real reason for his visit to the supermarket in the center of a small town near Bucharest, Romania, where his grandma has lived for almost 20 years, is a promise from the manager to help her with a much-needed document.

Her daughter died three years ago and she wants to make sure Vladi and her sister have access to orphan allowances. To do this she needs the original work card for her daughter, who worked as a shop assistant here more than 10 years ago, when she was free and could choose where to work.

With her voice trembling, she tells the manager that her daughter worked here in 2009, and the government has been asking for her old work card. "It will be three years now, in February, since she died. I don't know, maybe you heard of the case?"

The manager doesn't reply, reads the document worriedly and then tells her that a long time has passed since 2009 and there is little chance that the original work card will be with them. She phones a colleague, asks a few questions and then explains to the grandmother that in 2011, work cards were given to employees, so the daughter probably already received it.

"Got it," the grandmother replies resignedly. She asks Vladi what they have to take, and he answers quickly, as if he had already learned the list: "Bread, milk, cereal — and I would like some sweets."

Vladi and his sister Eliza have been Ileana's top priority since February 2020, when their father killed their mother, Ileana’s daughter.

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Greta’s Andrew Tate Takedown Shines Light On Toxic American Males

Greta Thunberg dealt a knock-out blow online to self-proclaimed "misogynist" Andrew Tate. However, taming the spread of toxic masculinity online is not as simple.

-Analysis-

Two rounds, two knockouts in the all-out verbal dustup that saw Greta Thunberg win the year (or at least, the internet) in the final moments of 2022.

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Bystander Victims: Facing The Trauma Of Children Who Witness Domestic Violence

Children who live amid domestic abuse are at serious risk of long-term physical and mental health problems. It's imperative we start to look deeply at these long-term effects because violence is passed down from generation to generation. A close-up investigation from Romania.

BRASOV — “This morning, she was laughing when she told me that her tummy hurts, that her head hurts, that she feels sick." Irina, a 34-year-old mother, tells me as I sit down on the living room couch in her apartment on the outskirts of Brasov in central Romania.

She tells me about her daughter, who is in her bedroom reading an Isadora Moon book, about a half-fairy, half-vampire girl. I can feel the girl's presence through the tiny plasticine figurines around the house: dandelions, bunnies, flowers modeled in as much detail as only an eight-year-old can.

On Irina's arm, I can see a black tree tattoo, with a winding stem and vigorous, almost frightening, roots. Behind it, there is a sunset in strong shades of red and green. It's the tree of life, a tattoo Irina got this year to remind her that life has been hard for her in recent years, but she is still standing.

She's a woman who has experienced domestic violence and, six years ago, managed to get out of her abusive relationship with Maria's father. (The names of the children and mothers in the article are pseudonyms and I have used them to protect their identities.)

I came to visit them because Irina is currently looking for answers to a question that interests me too. I’m a reporter who has been documenting the impact of domestic violence for the last eight years. Irina wonders to what extent the violent incidents her daughter witnessed as a child affect and will affect her emotional and physical health.

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This Happened

This Happened—November 12: Nadia Comăneci, Perfection From Romania

Romania's Nadia Comăneci is credited with popularizing the sport of gymnastics worldwide, getting her successful start at a very young age.

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Geopolitics
Carolina Drüten

Long Neglected, Romania Could Be NATO's Achilles Heel

Since Russia's annexation of Crimea, NATO has reinforced its presence eastward — but the Baltic countries and Poland were the prime beneficiaries. But Romania, which shares the longest border with Ukraine, may be the country most directly in Vladimir Putin's path.

BUCHAREST — For many years, NATO has underestimated the importance of Romania. But the war in Ukraine means Romania is taking on a new geopolitical importance, and NATO has been stepping up its military presence in the country due to its strategic position on the Black Sea and its shared border with Ukraine.

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Now the country may be vulnerable, watching nervously to see how far Russian troops will advance in Ukraine. A visit to Bucharest last week by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris underlined NATO’s commitment to defend its southeastern flank, potentially exposed to Moscow's advances.

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WHAT THE WORLD
Clémence Guimier

Budapest or Bucharest? A Tale Of Very Lost French Soccer Fans

Let's be honest, as European capital names go, Budapest (Hungary) and Bucharest (Romania) are pretty similar. It's even slightly closer in French: Budapest and Bucarest. Still, for six French football fans who wanted to watch last week's France v. Hungary match live, we can only wonder how this geographic blooper could have gone this far.

Oui, oui...the supporters of les Bleus wound up in Bucharest, watching the game on television, rather than the stadium Budapest where France and Hungary finished in a 1-1 draw.

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food / travel
Bertrand Hauger

Not Sure About That Romanian Style

For a moment, the streets of Sibiu turned into a fashion show — and that woman didn't seem too convinced by the man's dress sense ... Was it the traditional căciulă sheepskin hat, or something else?

blog
Bertrand Hauger

Religious Romania

Romania is one of the richest countries I've set foot in when it comes to religious heritage. The central European state has history-packed cathedrals, exuberantly colorful churches — and in this case, beautifully peaceful monasteries.

food / travel
Bertrand Hauger

Wouldn't It Be Nice

The setting and timing of this shot coincide perfectly with the release, half-way around the world, of the seminal surfer album Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. But this summer in Romania was also just a year after the rise of Communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu. We didn't know it then, but he would become one of the 20th century's cruelest tyrants.

blog
Bertrand Hauger

Legendary Cathedral

Don't be fooled by the exuberant Moorish style of the Curtea de Argeș cathedral. The various legends associated with this Romanian Orthodox church tend to be, well, grim.

In one tale, the architect — to be able to finish the building — is forced to sacrifice his wife by walling her alive in the cathedral. In another, the Prince who had ordered the construction of cathedral had the masons stranded on the roof, for fear they'd build a greater church for someone else. The builders tried to escape by flying off with wings they'd made out of wood. No, this tale doesn't end well either.

blog

Slice Of Transylvanian Life

Driving around Romania during one of the hottest summers I can remember, I got to see the many faces of daily life — in both sadness and joy. These traditionally dressed locals were bringing cake to a wedding. No sign of ice cream.

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