Babushkas of Chernobyl by Holly Morris Showing in London This Weekend

Babushkas of Chernobyl by Holly Morris Showing in London This Weekend

A new film directed by Globe Trekker presenter Holly Morris and Globe Trekker director, Anne Bogart, Babushkas of Chernobyl, is screening in London this weekend as part of the Green Caravan Festival.

The documentary follows an unlikely group of rebels as they continue to go about their daily lives in the toxic and lonely environment. These women defiantly cling to their ancestral homeland in Chernobyl’s radioactive Exclusion Zone while most of their neighbours have long since fled and their husbands have gradually died off.

The film depicts the zone’s scattered ghost villages, now silent, eerie and contaminated. Many villages have eight or 12 babushkas, or babas – the Russian and Ukrainian words for “grandmother” – still living in them.

babushkas

Why do they insist on living on farms that the Ukrainian government and radiation scientists have deemed uninhabitable? How do they manage to get by, isolated, in an abandoned landscape guarded by soldiers and rife with wild animals? How has the radiation affected them these past 29 years?

“Starvation is what scares me, not radiation,” says resident Hanna Zavorotyna. That stark choice reveals the incredible journey that the women have traveled: from Stalin’s enforced famines in the 1930s, through Nazi occupation, to nuclear disaster.

Like the wolves, moose, wild boar and other wildlife not seen for decades that have come back to the abandoned forests around Chernobyl, the women of the Exclusion Zone have an extraordinary story of survival, and offer a dark yet strangely affirming portrait of post-apocalyptic life.

Directed and produced by: Anne Bogart + Holly Morris
Runtime: 72′
Year: 2015
Country: USA

The film is screening this weekend at the Frontline Club in Paddington, London as part of the Green Caravan Film Festival, a nomadic film festival focussing on environmentally and socially conscious films.

UPDATED: The world fights back with technology as Palmyra in Syria is the latest site from ancient world to come under threat from Islamic State forces

UPDATED: The world fights back with technology as Palmyra in Syria is the latest site from ancient world to come under threat from Islamic State forces

Back in May we posted an article about the ancient city of Palmyra in Eastern Syria being captured by the terrorist group who refer to themselves as IS – Islamic State (see original post below).

Since then, global fears that IS would destroy the numerous artefacts of the ancient city have been realised, with horrifying violence.

So far, amongst the artefacts destroyed are the temple of Baalshamin, a 2,000-year-old relic, the Assyrian Palace at Khorsabad, Hatra the capital of the Parthinian Empire, immense statues at Nimrud, the ancient Temple of Bel (pictured below) and ruined artefacts at the Mosul Museum, the Mosul Public Library.

The destruction has not been limited to the antiquities; Khaled al-Asaad, the 81-year old former director of the world-renowned archaeological site at Palmyra in Syria, was beheaded in August. Prior to his death, al-Asaad and his son Walid, the current director of antiquities, had been detained for a month. They had been tortured as their captors tried to extract information about where treasures were to be found. Al-Asaad devoted his life to the ancient city and worked at the archaeological site for more than 50 years, spending most of that time as its director.

Archeologists from Harvard and Oxford are fighting against the destruction by sending a a ‘flood’ of 3D cameras to the region so that people can scan and photograph historically significant buildings and artefacts to preserve them from politically-motivated obliteration. The Million Image Database Project will distribute 5,000 cameras to war zones around the world by the end of 2015 allowing some traces to remain safe from the senseless destruction.

Furthermore the Director of the IDA , Institute for Digital Archaeology in Oxford, says it’s hoped that the resulting images will contain sufficient detail so they might one day be used to recreate them using 3D printers.

A glimmer of light recently revealed by authorities was that most of the sculptures the IS members destroyed were replicas of the real artefacts, many of which are stored safely in Baghdad and outside the reach of the vandals however, at least two of the destroyed pieces were authentic.

The Temple of Bel, Bernard Gagnon

The Temple of Bel, Bernard Gagnon

Palmyra in Syria is the latest site from ancient world to come under threat from Islamic State forces

The city of Palmyra in Eastern Syria is the latest site in the ancient and classical world in the Middle East to come under threat from so-called Islamic State forces.

Palmyra is in the middle of the Syrian desert, in the north-east of Damascus and contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world.

From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences representing the epic relics of a shared human history and were of particularly special meaning to Iraqis and said to the cradle of civilization.

Check out Holly Morris’s visit there in Globe Trekker Syria and our report on other Danger Lands in the Middle East and beyond.

Holly Morris filming Globe Trekker Syria

Holly Morris filming Globe Trekker Syria

 

 

 

 

 

Image credit: Yvonnefm
For more information visit:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/23

Palmyra in Syria is the latest site from ancient world to come under threat from Islamic State forces

Palmyra in Syria is the latest site from ancient world to come under threat from Islamic State forces

The city of Palmyra in Eastern Syria is the latest site in the ancient and classical world in the Middle East to come under threat from so-called Islamic State forces.

Palmyra is in the middle of the Syrian desert, in the north-east of Damascus and contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world.

From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences representing the epic relics of a shared human history and were of particularly special meaning to Iraqis and said to the cradle of civilization.

Check out Holly Morris’s visit there in Globe Trekker Syria and our report on other Danger Lands in the Middle East and beyond.

 

The Temple of Bel, Bernard Gagnon

The Temple of Bel, Bernard Gagnon

Holly Morris filming Globe Trekker Syria

Holly Morris filming Globe Trekker Syria

 

Image credit: Yvonnefm
For more information visit:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/23

Ukraine: A Martyrs Shrine in London

Ukraine: A Martyrs Shrine in London

statue-of-st-volodymyr---Ukraine---SmallWest London has a sizeable Ukrainian expatriate community . The statue of St. Volodomyr, who founded the country in the 10th century, has long been a focus for expressions of Ukrainian nationalism for expats in the British Capital. Now, with the recent and tragic killings in Kiev, it has become a ‘martyrs shrine’ with floral  tributes to those that lost  their lives growing by the day.

Ukraine, straddling Europe to the west and Russia to the east has long had a confused identity to outsiders. Witness the conflicting allegiances now being played out on the Crimean Peninsula.

One hundred and fifty years ago the peninsula was the centre of another conflict, the Crimean War, a baffling conflict, this time between Russia and Turkey, then the Ottoman Empire. The war eventually drew in outsiders, Britain and France.

The Crimea is no stranger to East West Tensions. For several centuries it was part of the Ottoman Empire.  But by the mid 19th century The Ottoman empire was in decline.  Under the pretext of exercising its right to protect all Orthodox Christians under Ottoman rule, Russia occupied the Ottoman provinces of Wallachia and Moldavia in 1853.  The Turks, counting on the support of Great Britain and France, rejected the Tsar’s offer and declared war on Russia in October, 1853.

To find out more about the Ottomans, read our study guide by notable historian Julian Davidson.
Watch our  Globe Trekker Ukraine episode below:

Holly Morris: Why stay in Chernobyl? Because it’s home.

Holly Morris: Why stay in Chernobyl? Because it's home.

Chernobyl was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident and, for the past 27 years, the area around the plant has been known as the Exclusion Zone. And yet, a community of about 200 people live there – almost all of them elderly women. These proud grandmas defied orders to relocate because their connection to their homeland and to their community are “forces that rival even radiation.”

Globe Trekker presenter Holly Morris tells the stories of these women, called the Babushkas of Chernobyl who live in  the radioactive Dead Zone surrounding Chernobyl’s Reactor No. 4. This is a community of elderly women, defiantly clinging to their ancestral homeland. While most of their neighbours have long since fled and their husbands have gradually died off, this stubborn sisterhood is hanging on — even, oddly, thriving — while trying to cultivate an existence on some of the most toxic acres on Earth. Holly first came across these resilient women while filming Globe Trekker Ukraine

Why they chose to live here after the disaster, defying the authorities and endangering their health, is a remarkable tale—about the pull of home, the healing power of shaping one’s destiny and the subjective nature of risk.

Inspired by the people they met in Chernobyl, especially those who have chosen to stay in the ‘Dead Zone’ despite the health warnings, Holly Morris and Director of the Ukraine show Anne Bogart have launched their campaign and brand new film venture www.thebabushkasofchernobyl.com and watch Holly explain more about the film in this fascinating Ted Talk:

 

The Soul of Aleppo – The Ancient Souk

This image was originally posted to Flickr by Anas.A at http://flickr.com/photos/50471244@N06/4956886022

Originally posted to Flickr by Anas.A at http://flickr.com/photos/50471244@N06/4956886022

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, and one of the oldest in the world, is no stranger to war and destruction.  Most recently, at the end of September 2012, much of the ancient, covered souk, extending 13 kilometres long and known to many as “The Soul of Aleppo,” is now a shell of its former bustling self after a fire destroyed the medieval buildings which once housed hundreds of  shops as the armed groups of the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Arab Army fought for control of the city.

The souk, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was often recognized as being one of the most beautiful in the world and contained over 1500 shops with countless amounts of items, from spices, oils and dyes, to jewellery, silk, precious metals and everything in between.  Not only was the souk popular with the locals, but it was also a must see on many travellers’ itineraries.

Visiting Aleppo at this time is highly discouraged.  However, before the seemingly endless fighting and senseless fire that set the bazaar and surrounding monuments ablaze, the Globe Trekker team travelled to this fascinating city to film our Globe Trekker Syria show which reveals the brighter, more vibrant days of Aleppo.

Holly Morris filming Globe Trekker Syria

Holly Morris filming Globe Trekker Syria – click on the Image to watch the Behind the Scenes filming on location in Syria

Globe Trekker host and traveller, Holly Morris, was fortunate enough to have Aleppo on her Syria itinerary.  Holly experienced the rich history and exquisite beauty that the trading centre represented, first-hand.  Through the alleys, stone archways and colossal wooden doors, rows of vendors were plentiful, one selling gold, another of fresh meat, textiles and even a pharmacy were permanent fixtures here, some dating back as far as the 13th Century. Holly also explored the Citadel, an ancient landmark and one of the oldest and largest castles in the world.  She then went on to visit the city of Apamea, the Dead Cities, Saladin’s Castle and eventually makes her way to capital, Damascus.

The Ancient Citadel of Aleppo – Outside its main entrance

Although the enormous destruction in Aleppo is beyond comprehension, it is still possible to rebuild and repair what has been obliterated in the flames.  It comes at no small cost, estimated at millions of dollars, but hopefully the Souk of Aleppo can flourish again and represent the city and its rich part in history that it once did.

The Syria DVD can be found through this link to the Globe Trekker site:

DVD: Syria $29.95 includes World Café Middle East - Damascus & Aleppo)
DVD: Syria $29.95 includes World Café Middle East – Damascus & Aleppo

Bad Roads and Blue sinks

bad roads and blue sinks

After harrowing night drive over large mountain pass with bleary-eyed Kyrgyz driver who warned us against it (“roads bad!”), we arrived to no hotel.   Exhausted at 1 a.m. in a murky little border town that services trucks coming from China and heading West roughly along the same network of trade routes as the old Silk Road.  A grim situation I think you’d agree,  as we all silently contemplated a night in the bus. Finally, we found the Sunrise Guesthouse, and got a cot, and dropped unconscious.

I find that these shoots are filled with emotional and physical troughs and peaks….and sure enough the next morning we swing up.

Way up.

Awake to a stunning view of high-altitude peaks of China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan. Do unusual opening piece to camera for show in front of a little blue outdoor sink… with China in the background.

Silk Road road trip part 2 begins!

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Holly Morris
Kyrgyzstan

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Bad Roads and Blue sinks

Bad Roads and Blue sinks

After harrowing night drive over large mountain pass with bleary-eyed Kyrgyz driver who warned us against it (“roads bad!”), we arrived to no hotel.   Exhausted at 1 a.m. in a murky little border town that services trucks coming from China and heading West roughy along the same network of trade routes as the old Silk Road.  A grim situation I think you’d agree,  as we all silently contemplated a night in the bus. Finally, we found the Sunrise Guesthouse, and got a cot, and dropped unconscious.

I find that these shoots are filled with emotional and physical troughs and peaks….and sure enough the next morning we swing up.

Way up.

Awake to a stunning view of high-altitude peaks of China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan. Do unusual opening piece to camera for show in front of a little blue outdoor sink… with China in the background.

Silk Road road trip part 2 begins!

 

———————————

Holly Morris
Kyrgyzstan

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The Cash King!

All That Cash...

Marco Polo took years to travel the Silk Road. Today, I’m wishing we had even a fraction of that kind of time. Even with modern transport, wireless and a crack production team, covering this extensive ground – with all its complicated politics and lengthy border crossings – in just 16 shooting days, is challenging business.

In the program it will appear as if I’ve had a seamless, or charmingly rocky road trip but the reality is that the way is always paved by the hard, often unsung work of producers.  Let’s hear it for our producer-champ on this leg of the Silk Road – Luis Leitao!

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Holly Morris
Tashkent, Uzbekistan

———————————-

The Cash King!

All That Cash...

Marco Polo took years to travel the Silk Road. Today, I’m wishing we had even a fraction of that kind of time. Even with modern transport, wireless and a crack production team, covering this extensive ground – with all its complicated politics and lengthy border crossings – in just 16 shooting days, is challenging business.

In the program it will appear as if I’ve had a seamless, or charmingly rocky road trip but the reality is that the way is always paved by the hard, often unsung work of producers.  Let’s hear it for our producer-champ on this leg of the Silk Road – Luis Leitao!

———————————

Holly Morris
Tashkent, Uzbekistan

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