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Spain

Sagrada Familia, A Battle For Barcelona’s Soul

The architectural icon begun by Antoni Gaudi in the late 19th century is still incomplete. Now city hall wants to end a century-old legal exception, as debate continues about protecting the original architectural vision.

A human tower in front of the Sagrada Familia
A human tower in front of the Sagrada Familia
Cécile Thibaud

BARCELONA — "It looks like a giant Easter egg!" This sentence, pronounced a few weeks ago by Barcelona's city council member in charge of urban planning, provoked outrage and shock. Who does he think he is to belittle the Sagrada Familia, the city's best-known landmark?

Each comment, each hitch, every question really, about the architectural jewel imagined by Antoni Gaudí is bound to start a fiery argument in this Spanish city. And city hall's recent announcement that it would start overseeing the longstanding work-in-progress, with new rules for checking licenses and permits, was no exception.

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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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