Refugees’ plight continues

Hungary, barbed wire and refugees

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

More than 2,000 refugees stranded at Croatian border town

Train that was due to take people west from first town after Serbian border is sitting at station, as Croatia also closes all but one of its road border crossings

Patrick Kingsley in Tovarnik

Friday 18 September 2015 08.07 BST

More than 2,000 refugees were left stranded overnight in a border town near Croatia’s border with Serbia, as Slovenia prevented hundreds of others from leaving north-west Croatia, leading to fears that the latest refugee route into the European Union may turn out to be a dead-end.

Early on Friday morning Croatia also closed seven of its eight road border crossings with Serbia after complaining of being overwhelmed by the arrival of more than 11,000 migrants and refugees.

Refugees began entering Croatia in large numbers on Wednesday, after Hungary closed its borders. Croatia’s prime minister initially said his country was ready to provide a safe passage for people trying to reach Slovenia, and the stability of northern Europe beyond.

But within hours it became clear that Croatia had underestimated the scale of the challenge it had taken on, failing to provide enough transport to speed thousands of newcomers away from Serbia and towards Slovenia. A logjam stretching west to east across northern Croatia was created after Slovenia blocked the onwards transit of refugees, stopping about 150 people from crossing in by train. On Thursday, Slovenia had said it was ready to provide immediate shelter and humanitarian care for 5,000 refugees.

At least 2,000 people were stuck in Tovarnik, the first Croatian town after the border with Serbia. While a specially commissioned train arrived to pick many of them up at about midnight, the train was still waiting in the station at 7am, its 10 carriages packed with about 1,000 restless refugees largely from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

More than 1,000 others were left sleeping on the station platforms, and in the streets of Tovarnik, a small and sleepy rural town that has no hotels. Small children slept on cold stone slabs, and a baby was placed inside a small suitcase to keep it warm. …

As Croatia considered whether to close its border with Serbia entirely, Hungary began building a fence and deploying hundreds of soldiers and police on its border with Croatia. Its prime minister, Viktor Orbán, said the fence would be finished on the 26 miles (41km) stretch of the border not divided by a river by the end of Friday.

Hundreds more refugees arrived at Tovarnik during the night, after being bussed straight from Macedonia to the Croatian border by the Serbian government. Several were not quite sure where they were. “What’s the name of this country?” asked Ali Sadoun, a 40-year-old baker who fled Iraq after receiving a death threat from the militia.

Sitting next to the train-tracks at 4am, one of the night-time arrivals, Syrian undergraduate Zahraa Daoud, spoke out at yet another obstacle being placed in her path. “They don’t want us to pass,” said Daoud, who is travelling with her mother. “Why? We are humans. We are Syrians, and there is a war in our country that even we don’t really understand.”

Zahraa Daoud

But despite her frustration, Daoud also said that she was determined to carry on, whatever the challenges Europe places in front of her – a view often expressed by the protagonists of the continent’s biggest wave of mass-migration since the second world war.

“I don’t have anything to lose, so I fear nothing,” said Daoud, a 23-year-old literature student who asked to be described as from the Ismaili faith.

Daoud added: “I’ve been thinking about leaving for two years. But for a long time I thought: there is still hope [of peace], I will wait. But when you leave home every day and you don’t know whether you’ll see your mum again at night, because you might be killed by a bomb or taken [by a militia], you have to run. So I will not go back. I will run, run, run. Even if they will not allow me to, I will keep on running.”

This video says about itself

Refugees enraged at inhumane treatment as Croatia prepares to close border

18 September 2015

Many of the people hoping to travel through Croatia have instead been taken to camps, on buses provided by the Croatian authorities. And as Mohammed Jamjoom reports from Beli Manastir, for some it has been a frustrating journey.

12 pictures that capture the chaos of Europe’s refugee crisis: here.

TURKEY HAS SPENT ALMOST $8 BILLION ON REFUGEES A Turkish deputy prime minister said the country, which has an “open-door policy” for Syrian refugees, has spent $7.6 billion on over 2.2 million refugees. [Reuters]

Refugee news update

An injured refugee carries a child during clashes with Hungarian riot police at the border crossing with Serbia in Roszke. Photo by Reuters

This photo shows an injured refugee carrying a child during clashes with Hungarian riot police at the border crossing with Serbia in Roszke.

The US journalist Richard Engel ran to the aid of a pregnant woman who collapsed in front of him as he reported on the refugee crisis at the Hungarian border. … Engel then supported her head to keep her breathing and joined aid workers who rushed her off to a makeshift tent for treatment, which was then attacked with tear gas: here.

Refugees seeking new route to safety in Europe could be forced through Croatia minefields: here.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Refugees in Croatia: Hundreds break through police lines after ‘horrendous’ crush at border

‘Everywhere you look children are crying, women are crying’

Adam Withnall

Thursday 17 September 2015

Hundreds of refugees have forced their way through a barricade into Croatia after a desperate standoff with border police.

Just a few dozen police officers had held back an estimated 2,000 refugees in blazing heat at the border town of Tovarnik on Thursday, letting in only handfuls to board buses and trains onwards.

TV news crews reported an increasingly desperate situation, with children pushed to the front of the crowd being crushed against a low metal barricade.

Sky News Stuart Ramsay reported live: “They are getting crushed, it’s a pretty horrendous scene actually now.

Read more:
Refugee crisis timeline: How the crisis has grown
Divisions leave Europe paralysed as borders close to refugees
Refugee crisis: Hunger strike starts at closed Hungarian border

“A very little girl is crying her eyes out being passed over the fence to a riot police officer, and he’s passing her down to her mother.

“Everywhere you look children are crying, women are crying, men are crying, they are all finding this very emotional.”

Moments later, reports came through that the police line had been breached and people were rushing through to heat into Croatia on foot.

People trampled and fell over each other in their rush to get through, according to the Associated Press. A photographer described seeing a man collapse on the ground and dozens injured in the melee.

“This is exactly what Croatia did not want to happen,” Ramsay said. “They just can’t cope, they simply cannot cope with this.”

Croatia has become the new route of choice for refugees desperate to reach the welcome offered to them in western Europe, after Hungary closed its borders and began prosecuting anyone who entered the country “illegally”.

But there remains a great deal of uncertainty surrounding what will happen to refugees inside Croatia itself.

The Croatian government has officially said that any who enter the country must apply for asylum there or be considered illegal immigrants.

But Croatia’s own Prime Minister, Zoran Milanovic, has said it would allow refugees to continue onwards.

“Croatia is entirely ready to receive or direct those people where they want to go, which is obviously Germany or Scandinavian countries,” he said.

Germany’s economy will grow faster because of the million refugees it is helping, study finds. Research published today suggests a 0.6 per cent GDP boost by 2020 and lower inflation: here.

The [British] government has quietly cut money to house and educate orphan child refugees living here.

Demonstrators against arms trade fair in London, England

This photo shows demonstrators against the arms trade fair DSEI in London, England. The second sign from the left points out that, apart from weapons, and torture gear, at the DSEI fair also tear gas is sold, including to the Hungarian government.

Croatian neo-nazi swastika vandalism on international football pitch

This 12 June 2015 football video is about a Nazi swastika pattern seen on the field during Croatia vs. Italy Euro qualifier.

From weekly The Observer in Britain:

Croatian president calls for swastika perpetrators to be punished

• Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic: ‘This act has inflicted immeasurable damage’
• Large symbol appeared in the turf before Euro 2016 qualifier with Italy

Saturday 13 June 2015 13.18 BST

The president of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, has called for a swift investigation and punishment for the people who imprinted a swastika cross on the pitch in Split, where Croatia drew 1-1 with Italy in a Euro 2016 qualifier on Friday.

“This act has inflicted immeasurable damage on the reputation of Croatian citizens and their homeland all over the world. Therefore, we must finally put a stop to such things,” Grabar-Kitarovic said in a statement released on Saturday. “I condemn in the strongest possible terms the swastika on the pitch. I demand an urgent investigation and a decisive response from the relevant institutions to find and process the perpetrators.”

Croatia played Italy behind closed doors at Split’s Stadion Poljud having been handed a one-match ban for racist chants by their fans in March’s 5-1 home win against Norway in Zagreb. That followed incidents during a 1-1 draw against Italy in Milan last November when flares were hurled on to the pitch.

The swastika sign impregnated in the grass through a chemical agent days earlier became visible during the match. The incident left Croatia players and the national governing body, the HNS, fearing drastic punishment from the Uefa.

“This is a clear attack on football and we will without a doubt be severely punished,” the HNS’s secretary-general, Damir Vrbanovic, said on Saturday. “We have all been slapped in the face by hooligans and it was not an accident, it was a calculated move. The cameras will identify the perpetrators, but the shame will stay,” he said.

The result against Italy left Croatia top of Group H with 14 points from six games, two ahead of Italy and four clear of Norway.

Spanish government sacrificing marine environment to Big Oil?

This video is called Endangered dusky groupers in the Mediterranean coral reef on Mijet, southern Croatia.

From Wildlife Extra:

Spanish Mediterranean to be exploited

February 2014: Nearly half of Spanish Mediterranean waters would be open to exploration and exploitation should the proposed gas and oil projects in the area gain approval, warns NGO Oceana.

This number (nearly 12 million hectares) does not include the surrounding areas that would be affected by the seismic acquisitions, which according to estimates by Oceana would increase the threatened surface area to 20 or 22 million hectares, or 65 per cent of the Spanish Mediterranean.

“It is an act of recklessness to have hydrocarbon projects, either in progress or pending approval, covering nearly half of Spanish waters in the Mediterranean,” said Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “We must not wait for a spill to occur to start regretting the damage that has been done. The projects affect fishing grounds and migratory routes of cetaceans, tuna and sharks, so that as soon as the seismic surveys begin, thousands of organisms will be seriously affected.”

The affected regions are Andalusia, with projects over approximately 550,000 hectares in the Alboran Sea, and Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, where seismic acquisition projects and initial drilling would cover an area of around 11 million hectares if the overlapping areas are excluded. The areas of some of the projects still at the approval phase partly overlap, which would mean zones that might suffer the activities of different companies.

“The determination to exploit hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean would leave Spain out of step with European environmental policy. Fortunately, the government still has time to refuse the permits. The scientific information available regarding the species inhabiting the areas that are to be opened up to oil and gas exploration is more than sufficient reason to do so,” said Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research for Oceana in Europe.

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Harsh European Union austerity in Croatia

This video says about itself:

SGH Croatia: International Workers’ Memorial Day – 28 April 2013 – Unions Make Work Safer

25 Apr 2013

Each year on the 28th April trade unions around the world organise events to celebrate International Workers Memorial Day. The purpose is to highlight the preventable nature of workplace accidents and ill health, and to promote campaigns and union organisation to improve health and safety at work. It is also a day to remember all those who have died because of their job.

By Ognjen Markovic in Croatia:

EU imposes harsh austerity on Croatia, its newest member

15 February 2014

European Union (EU) finance ministers have placed Croatia, which joined the bloc last July, in “excessive deficit procedure.” Acting on recommendations from the European Commission, the measure subjects countries with budget deficit in excess of 3 percent and debt of more than 60 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to direct economic control by the EU, and currently affects 16 other member states.

Olli Rehn, the EU commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, demanding stepped-up austerity, declared, “It will be essential for Croatia to take decisive action in order to achieve this in order to restore confidence in the economy…. This means that by April, Croatia is asked to undertake adequate and specifically specified [sic] measures to ensure progress towards the correction of its excessive deficit and debt.”

The EU will be the sole arbiter of whether the measures implemented by the Croatian government are adequate, and if deemed insufficient, the country could face possible sanctions, Rehn added.

The World Bank joined in, with its office in Zagreb stating, “The excessive deficit procedure is a good disciplinary tool for restoring macro-stability and reducing macro-imbalances. If it does not solve its economic weakness through sustainable fiscal adjustment and institutional reforms, Croatia will not fully benefit from EU membership, and the search for future prosperity may prove unsuccessful.”

The Social Democratic Party (SDP)-led coalition government is more than willing to oblige. Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic fell in line, defending the procedure in parliament as something “nearly all EU members went through last year” and adding, “the programme would help Croatia put its budget in order and implement reforms without delay.”

Since coming to power in late 2011, the SDP, in coalition with the Croatian Peoples Party (HNS) and the regional Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS), has continuously pursued anti-working class policies, cutting public spending, raising Value Added Tax (VAT) to 25 percent—among the highest rates in Europe—and further privatising state assets and companies. Defending the privatisation drive, Finance Minister Slavko Linic, also of the SDP, said, “[O]ne should send a message that privatisation is in the function of reducing our foreign debt and covering this year’s deficit, because that is what rating agencies and creditors will appreciate.”

All three major rating agencies rate Croatia’s debt below investment level, with Standard & Poor’s further downgrading it on January 24.

After drafting the 2014 budget last November, the government set about implementing a whole raft of austerity measures, including cutting farm subsidies and health spending, raising VAT on tourism and levies on gas and tobacco—claiming they would cut the deficit to 5.5 percent in 2014. The EU found the measures insufficient, triggering the “excessive deficit procedure.”

“Our aim was to avoid burdening the economy,” Linic said, trying to justify the November budget draft. He submitted right away to the new EU demands, which included a cut of a further billion euros in the deficit this year and adjusting Croatia’s deficit targets to 4.6, 3.5 and 2.7 percent of GDP for the years 2014-2016. The new measures will force an unspecified number of public employees to retire early without filling the vacancies, while others will see their allowances cut. Further cuts in subsidies, health spending and pensions, as well as new taxes on gambling, have been announced.

The austerity measures the EU is forcing throughout the continent have had a major impact on Croatia. The country has been in continuous recession since 2009, with GDP contracting by almost 20 percent by 2012. A further drop is expected in 2013. The government was forced to slash its 2014 growth estimate from the previous 1.3 percent to only 0.2 percent, as the result of the latest cuts demanded by the EU.

Official unemployment reached 21.6 percent in December 2013. Youth unemployment is well over 50 percent and “one of the highest in Europe,” according to the World Bank. The bank noted a sharp rise in poverty to over 14 percent by the end of 2012, underlining that “the profile of the poor has changed, with the educated and younger living in richer urban areas now more affected.”

The latest statistics show the average full-time monthly wage for January to November 2013 was 5,511 kunas (around €720, or US$1,030), or 1.7 percent less in real terms compared to the same period a year ago. Some 55 percent of employees receive less than 5,000 kunas (€650). Even these figures understate the real conditions, because part-time wages are not included. Widespread disillusionment with the main political parties and the EU is evident, as noted by an article in the Economist, titled “Euphoria over joining [the EU] has given way to a morose mood.”

There is a growing concern in ruling circles that the overwhelming opposition to never-ending austerity measures might erupt in violent protests, as has happened in neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina. …

The business portal carried an article last month dedicated to discussing the possibility of and strategies for controlling public protests, after the Economist put Croatia high on the list of countries at risk of social unrest in 2014.

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Singer Bob Dylan, a racist?

This Bob Dylan music video says about itself:

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (Live 1965)

Live Manchester, England, May 1965

By Norman Markovitz in the USA:

Tuesday 10th December 2013

Is Bob Dylan a racist?

NORMAN MARKOWITZ says recent claims by the so-called Council of Croats in France are not what they seem

I recently circulated a petition calling for Fifa to suspend the Croatian football team from upcoming World Cup games in Brazil because of its use of World War II Croat fascist slogans.

There’s another story relating to Croatia’s wartime role which has received greater international attention, however – people claiming to be representative of the Croatian community in France have sued Bob Dylan.

Their accusation is that this great singer, whose songs of social criticism such as Masters of War, Blowin’ In the Wind and The Times They Are A’Changin’ have made him one of the best-known and most admired US artists of the last 50 years, has made offensive and even racist remarks about Croats in Rolling Stone magazine.

Dylan’s attackers share one thing with the defenders of the Croatian football team – a desire to celebrate or deny a barbarous past.

Vlatko Maric, the secretary-general of something called the Council of Croats in France, tells Croatian daily Vecernji List that the council has decided to “file criminal charges against Robert Allen Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan, and the French publisher of Rolling Stone magazine for inciting racism and hatred against Croats and the Croatian people.”

Dylan ruffled feathers in a discourse on US politics, in which he remarked as an aside while commenting on still tense relations between African-Americans and white people: “If you’ve got a slave master or the [Ku Klux] Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that, just like Jews can sense nazi blood and Serbs can sense Croatian blood.”

The comments have seen some radio stations in Croatia such as Radio Split banning Dylan’s songs from their playlists. And Maric says they “without any doubt incite hatred against Croatians.”

But do they?

Dylan’s use of the term “blood” is clearly very inappropriate. All human blood is the same. He would have been wiser too to refer to the Ustasha or Croatian fascists rather than Croatians in general.

But there are reasons to be sceptical about his critics. The reference to “Robert Allen Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan” is reminiscent of nazi, Ku Klux Klan and House Un-American Activities Committee language when dealing with public figures of Jewish background who had changed their names.

The nazis, for example, referred to the prominent Jewish-German writer Emil Ludwig as Emil Ludwig “Cohen.”

Segregationists and racists in the US would traditionally refer to prominent Jewish figures in the arts as “Melvin Hesselberg, aka Melvin Douglas,” “Julius Garfinkle, aka John Garfield” and “David Kaminski, aka Danny Kaye,” as if simply citing a Jewish name was enough to discredit an individual.

And the crimes committed by German fascists and their allies – among whom the Croatian Ustasha was one of the most notorious – became the basis for the anti-racist laws that right-wing Croats are hypocritically seeking to invoke.

Actually similar suits have been launched in a number of countries by “rehabilitated” organisations such as Waffen-SS veteran groups in the Baltic countries against critics including Holocaust survivors.

In Germany nazi symbols, Hitlerite tracts and films such as Jud Suss and The Eternal Jew remain banned.

In the US even right-wing “tea party” Republicans do not celebrate the Klan as it was once celebrated in DW Griffiths’s silent film Birth of a Nation.

There are of course Holocaust deniers throughout the world. But Franjo Tudjman, the anti-communist Thatcher ally who became first president of Croatia when it broke away from Yugoslavia and who was implicated in many of the war crimes against Bosniaks during the ensuing conflict, is one of only two heads of state worldwide who openly joined the Holocaust deniers.

The other was former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose statements were far more widely publicised and condemned.

Bans on Dylan’s music are very much in the tradition of the US House Un-American Activities Committee which highlighted Jews, African-Americans and people born abroad in attacks on cultural figures. The committee played a role in blacklisting Pete Seeger, the Weavers and other artists who inspired Dylan’s early work, though it had lost most of its power by the time Dylan’s career took off.

Dylan doesn’t have much to worry about from this suit, or from the establishment of any Un-Croatian Activities Committee which might go after him as well as former partisans and anti-fascists while celebrating the football team.

It would be nice, though, if those who have brought this suit against him would repudiate the mass murder carried out against Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascist resistance fighters at the Jasenovac death camp, run by the Ustasha as a human slaughterhouse during the second world war.

Then perhaps Dylan might clarify his statement. Then it would be easier to separate the wartime fascist regime from modern Croatian nationalism.

Until the Croatian government faces up to this ugly chapter in the country’s history it will continue to be associated with it.

Bob Dylan talked to AARP Magazine for one of his first interviews in years.

European bird migration this spring

This video says about itself:

Swallows dance – Spring Alive

Apr 26, 2013

Swallows dance at Nature Park Lake Vrana, Croatia. Every year, in late March and early April, during their migration toward thes north thousand of swallows and martins use vast reed-beds as stopover sites for feeding and roosting.

From BirdLife:

New Spring Alive record: more than 270,000 bird observations in Europe

Thu, Jul 11, 2013

New Spring Alive record: more than 270,000 bird observations in Europe

From February to June, participants in Spring Alive, a long-term BirdLife educational programme, observed and registered the arrivals of five migratory bird species in Europe and made more than 270,000 observations of migratory birds, the highest number ever!

The people taking part in the programme, mainly children and their families represent countries across Europe, from Portugal and Ireland to Russia and from Finland to Cyprus. The Spring Alive programme increases in popularity every year and it offers a fun way to develop knowledge about migratory birds and raise schoolchildren’s awareness about nature protection. The Spring Alive website had more than 104,000 individual visitors, who recorded their observations.

The record breaking Spring Alive season in Europe ended on the 21st of June. Amongst all Spring Alive species (Barn Swallow, White Stork, Common Swift, Cuckoo and European Bee-eater), the Barn Swallow and the Common Swift turned out to be the most frequently observed birds (37% and 32% of observations respectively). The big three participating countries were: Russia, Italy and Ireland.

The success of Spring Alive is very encouraging as it shows that more and more people want to connect with nature. In September the programme is moving to Africa, as birds will leave their breading areas in Europe, where the temperature will start to decrease and head for the warmer African continent. All bird lovers are invited to follow arrivals of “Spring Alive birds” in the African continent on the Spring Alive website.

For more information: please contact Elodie Cantaloube, Media and Communication Assistant at BirdLife Europe.

European Union homophobia

This video is called STOP HOMOPHOBIA! (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia 2012).

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Anti-LGBTQ discrimination widespread

Update: Friday, May 17, 2013, 08:56

Discrimination against gay men, lesbians and transsexuals is widespread in the European Union, researchers say. About half of all respondents felt in the year before the survey that they had been discriminated against or harassed because of their sexual orientation.

Lesbians (55%), respondents aged 18-24 (57%) and people with the lowest incomes (52%) had experienced this most. 90 percent of those did not report the discrimination to the police.

The results of the survey in all EU countries and in Croatia will be discussed in The Hague today to mark the International Day Against Homophobia.

Greece: Report says gay activists and supporters are targets of ‘violence and threats from extremists and supporters of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party’: here.

French President Francois Hollande signed into law a Bill authorising marriage and adoption by same-sex couples on Saturday: here.

Britain: Youth groups in Salford staged a thought-provoking photo exhibition dubbed Don’t Assume to help promote International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (Idaho).

Britain: A string of Christian academy schools were outed today for banning in policy the “promotion” of homosexuality: here.

Following a meeting with the Lithuania Gay League, John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International, said: “It is appalling that despite domestic rulings in favour of Baltic Pride organisers, the city of Vilnius has decided to ban the Baltic Pride march, in blatant violation of the right to freedom of assembly of Baltic Pride’s organisers and other participants: here.

Clashes break out during a rally to mark the international day against homophobia in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Friday. Thousands of conservative ultra-Orthodox supporters broke through heavy police cordons, clashing with gay rights activists: here.

Russian parliament passes anti-homosexual laws: here.

Britain: A Christian bed and breakfast owner today lost her appeal against a ruling that she unlawfully discriminated against a gay couple by refusing them a double room: here.

Three schools reintroduce Section 28 style ban on ‘promotion’ of gay issues: here.

“I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven.” – Desmond Tutu: here.

Richard Cohen’s Extensive History Of Racism, Sexism And Homophobia: here.

US Methodist church convicts minister for officiating at son’s gay wedding: here.

Kidnapped for Christ” is a compelling new documentary that follows the experiences of several American teenagers after they were kidnapped from their homes and shipped to Evangelical Reform schools located in the Dominican Republic. Many of these teenagers’ parents discover their children are either gay or experience same-sex attraction, and are sent to “therapeutic Christian boarding school[s]” in order to “transform into healthy Christian adults” in an environment outside of U.S. law: here.

Croatian medieval cat discovery

Cat paws

Photo: Emir O. Filipović

From Smart News blog:

March 12, 2013 1:51 pm

Centuries Ago, a Cat Walked Across This Medieval Manuscript

While pawing through a stack of medieval manuscripts from Dubrovnik, Croatia, University of Sarajevo doctoral student Emir O. Filipović stumbled upon a familiar set of splotches marring the centuries-old pages. Years ago, a mischievous kitty had left her ink-covered prints on the book. Filipović explains the finding:

My story line follows a simple path: I was doing some research in the Dubrovnik State Archives for my PhD, I came across some pages which were stained with cat paw prints, I took a few photos of this (as I do whenever I notice something interesting or unusual on any old book I’m reading), and carried on with my work not paying too much attention to something which at that time could essentially be only a distraction.

Thanks to a frenzy of Twitter and blog coverage, a French historian picked up on the photo and decided to include it in her Interactive Album of Medieval Paleography so that other historians can utilize the unique finding, which gives insight into daily life in 14th century Dubrovnik. Filipović elaborates:

The photo of the cat paw prints represents one such situation which forces the historian to take his eyes from the text for a moment, to pause and to recreate in his mind the incident when a cat, presumably owned by the scribe, pounced first on the ink container and then on the book, branding it for the ensuing centuries. You can almost picture the writer shooing the cat in a panicky fashion while trying to remove it from his desk. Despite his best efforts the damage was already complete and there was nothing else he could have done but turn a new leaf and continue his job. In that way this little episode was ‘archived’ in history.

Filipović hopes the finding may move beyond a simple cat meme and inspire more interest in the medieval Mediterranean.

See also here.

Croatian anti-nazi women, art and fashion

This video says about itself:

Excerpt from the Artist Talk with Sanja Iveković, 16.03.2012

Sanja Iveković (*1949 in Zagreb, Croatia, former Yugoslavia) studied from 1968 to 1971 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. Her photo montages, videos, performances and installations emerging since the early 1970s have been characterized by a critical questioning of the mass media and their identity-forging potential.

By personally entering into public discourse ‒ whether in the form of photographic representations in the media, or as the actual protagonist of performances ‒ Iveković brings out into the open the collective social codes of behavior based on gender-specific standardized patterns in mass media.

As one of the first explicitly feminist artists in Croatia, she has also been the facilitator and founder of a large number of political initiatives including the Women Artists’ Center Elektra and the Center for Women’s Studies in Zagreb. Iveković participated in numerous international exhibitions including documenta 11, and 12 and Manifesta 2. In November 2011, her retrospective Lady Rosa of Luxembourg took place at the MoMA New York.

By Michal Boncza in England:

Sanja Ivekovic: Unknown Heroine

South London Gallery and Calvert 22, London SE5

Friday 04 January 2013

Six large black and white photos of eye-catching female fashion models dominate this exhibition, their names prominently spelled out across the bottom of each image.

Initially their meaning is elusive but at close quarters their poignant significance becomes apparent.

A line of text below each name gives the background of each woman’s life and death as anti-fascist fighters in 1942 Croatia.

At the time the country was an obliging ally of nazi Germany and carried out its own genocide of Serbs, Gypsies, Muslims and Jews.

Yet these are not the true images of Dragica Koncar, Nada Dimic, Ljubica Gerovac, the Balkovic sisters, Anka Butorac and Nera Safaric.

The latter was the artist’s mother who survived Auschwitz.

All, in their mid-twenties and early thirties, are contemporary Yugoslav fashion models.

Sanja Ivekovic has used this subversive juxtaposition of adverts in the popular Arkzin magazine to draw the attention of the younger generation in particular to the selfless heroism of these brave young women, now all but forgotten.

Her creative impetus in reinstating women to their rightful historical position came to prominence with her 2001 Pregnant Memory project to replace the neoclassical figure of Nike (victory) on the Golden Lady obelisk in Luxembourg, a symbol of allied victory in WWI.

Its place was to be taken by the figure of Rosa Luxemburg – murdered in 1919 for her communist beliefs – who is visibly pregnant.

The original plaque commemorating male heroism was replaced with the words “Resistance, justice, liberty, independence,” “Kitsch, culture, capital, art” and “Whore, bitch, madonna, virgin” in four languages.

Predictably sections of the media were outraged and the ensuing fierce discussion spilled over to the internet, where the most violent opposition was not to the pregnant figure but the plaque.

The displacement of ideals of male bravery by abusive terms regularly used to describe women had touched the raw nerve of social convention.

Ivekovic’s exploration of, and disdain for, the media’s role in the subjugation and manipulation of women manifests itself with particular force in Figure And Ground (2005-6) and Women’s House (Sunglasses – 2002-9).

In the latter she superimposes testimonies from women victims of domestic violence over advertisements for designer sunglasses worn by abused women to hide their bruises.

The models of the adverts stand in for battered women, laying bare what Ivekovic eloquently describes as the “complex entanglement between consumerism and exploitation.”

The Mihaela caption tells us that she’s a Serb married to a Muslim and that she finally fled domestic abuse when her nationality became “a new reason” for abuse.

“He brought home his war companions and forced me to kiss their boots while they called me a Serbian whore. After spending 12 days in the hospital I decided to take my children and leave.”

In the highly topical The Black File (1976) the stories about missing daughters cut out of newspapers are paired with porn images of young girls with “sexy” names, uncomfortably reminiscent of the sexual grooming or Savile-like abuse of the underage and vulnerable.

A further and sinister contemporary connotation is of young women lost to sex trafficking.

Although an ardent and lucid feminist Ivekovic’s work is consistently marked by a thoughtfulness and restraint that makes her work all the more authentic and engaging.

She describes her artistic practice as one that directly intervenes into a surrounding world “in which the aesthetic operates in tandem with the political.”

While she distinguishes between the roles of the artist and the activist, there is a connection between the two.

“We can see them as circles of human activity that overlap in a relatively small area and that is the area in which I try to do most of my work,” she says.

As Unknown Heroine demonstrates, she inhabits that space admirably.

Runs until February 24. Free. Opening times:

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