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Human rights protesters pray for women and children stopped from entering the Border Patrol facility in Murrieta, CA, on July 1.
Human rights protesters pray for women and children stopped from entering the Border Patrol facility in Murrieta, CA, on July 1.
Paolo Mastrolilli

LA JOYA — Juan Castro is trying to keep it together as he tells me this story, but the tears well up in his eyes.

"There was this 11-year-old girl from Guatemala who had been raped. I had to ask her how, where, by whom, why and every single detail that could help build her case to stay in America," he recalled. "As I brought up all the terrible memories with my questions, I looked into her eyes in search of any ounce of hope or a sign that her life hadn’t been broken."

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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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