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Switzerland

How WWF-Style Pro Wrestling Looks In The Heart Of Europe

Rock music, tight spandex bodysuits and staged maneuvers aren't just for audiences in working-class America. Wrestling is thriving in Switzerland and elsewhere across Europe, where it's seen as a different kind of performance art that even

The British Stallion (up), a key figure of Swiss wrestling
The British Stallion (up), a key figure of Swiss wrestling
Julien Burri

LAUSANNE — On a war-like soundtrack, the kind you can hear in superhero movies, an imposing figure wearing a royal-blue cape walks towards the ring. The cape falls to the ground, uncovering the muscular British Stallion, 6-foot-one, 231 pounds, in a blue, black, zebra-striped bodysuit. The soundtrack changes to hard rock. Tonight, the champion will face Japanese opponent Yoshimiro Yamada, wearing white spandex trunks and comparatively diminutive at 5-foot-7 and 198 pounds.

It's not a fight like any other. To win, one of the wrestlers will have to lock his opponent in a coffin. All this before an astounded family audience in this Lausanne community center.

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Russia

When Mom Believes Putin: A Russian Family Torn Apart Over Ukraine Invasion

Sisters Rante and Satu Vodich fled Russia because they could no longer bear to live under Putin — but their mother believes state propaganda about the war. Her daughters are building a new life for themselves in Georgia.

A mother and her daughter on a barricade in Kyiv

Steffi Unsleber

TBILISI — On a gloomy afternoon in May, Rante Vodich gets the keys to her new home. A week earlier, the 27-year-old found this wooden shed in Tbilisi, with a corrugated iron roof and ramshackle bathroom. The shed next door houses an old bed covered in dust. Vodich refers to the place as a “studio” and pays $300 per month in rent. She says finding the studio is the best thing that’s happened to her since she came to Georgia. It is her hope for the future.

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Her younger sister Satu Vodich is around 400 kilometers further west, in the city of Batumi on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, surrounded by Russian tourists, Ukrainian flags, skyscrapers with sea views and the run-down homes of local residents.

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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.

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