tv Focus on Europe PBS November 21, 2015 6:00pm-6:31pm PST
damien mcguinness: hello, and a very warm welcome to "focus on europe," with some of the best human stories behind the headlines from all over europe. i damien mcguinness. am great you could join us. and on today's program -- romanians take to the streets against corruption. uncle joe's legacy in russia -- heroic or heinous? and why there's just too much monkeying round in gibraltar. but first, to romania's capital bucharest, where a tragic accident in a nightclub has left the country reeling.e a fun night out, turned into a nightmare for hundreds of people, when at the end of
october a fire broke out, turning the club into a blazing death trap. dozens were killd. and the tragedy has now sparked street protests, brought down the government and even forced the prime minister to step down. now, that's because government corruption is being blamed for the accident but one survivor , has decided not to let corrupt politicians get away with it, and he is not the only one. >> remus achim narrowly escaped the inferno in bucharest's colectiv nightclub with his life, but a number of his friends did not. now, he's joined thousands of others, protesting in the streets in front of parliament. they blame the romanian government for the tragedy. remus achim: the whole system has to go. everybody wants nothing more than the politicians to be replaced.
the system is rotten. the system is corrupt. loredana alex: it's very sad that such a terrible accident had to happen before the people understood just how bad what is happening in our country is. maybe such an extreme signal was necessary so people would finally wake up and do something about the corruption. >> the protesters eventually pressured victor ponta and his government into resigning. but they still aren't satisfied. they say the politcal establishment has lost touch with the people. youth unemployment is still high, many young people seek their fortunes abroad even if , they'd prefer to stay in romania. now, the cectiv tragedy has unleashed their long-pent-up rage. it happened just before 11:00 p.m., the night of october 30. at least 300 people were crowded
into a space approved for a maximum of 80, as an amateur video proves that remus achim shows us. a band called goodbye to gravity was just presenting their new album. remus: some of the musicians were friends of mine. this one here was my friend. and this one, and this one here, on the guitar. the last song the band played acquired a bitter irony -- "the day when we die..." the sparks from the pyrotechnics display spread to the ceiling, which was not fireproof as required by law. there was only one exit and no sprinklers. dozens died and many were critically injured. remus: i live with these images every day -- the burned people, my dead friends. these memories are very present. i'll carry them with me for the rest of my life. i'm still here, but they are no
longer here. >> it was one of the worst fire disasters in bucharest's history and it could've been avoided. the authorities were aware of the nightclub's code violations, in the club, but they did not close it down not even after , several inspections. anti-corruption expert sorin ionita describes it as a typical case of the criminal alliance between romanian politicians and shady racketeers. sorin ionita: this isn't about petty officials who took payoffs to turn a blind eye. this is obviously a whole network that even the son of the mayor was mixed up with. this is not small-scale corruption. this is about kick-back deals on a truly massive scale. >> at least 45 young romanians
paid for those kick-backs with their lives. the pavement in front of the burned-out nightclub a sea of , candles. remus achim, too, is here to pay tribute to his friends before heading off to the next demonstration. remus: the politicians think they're different from us ordinary people. they're think they're super-human. now all i want is for them to stay in their offices and leave us alone. that's all. >> again, thousands of protesters gather in front of parliament. achim says he'll keecoming until he sees a future for his country. damien: it shows just how dangerous corruption can be. i can remember when i lived in the former soviet state of georgia being quite shocked meeting people who revered joseph stalin. and that is because he was born in georgia. i even once met a man who had collected hundreds of stalin statues and built a rather bizarre private museum in honour
of the ex-soviet leader in his garden. in fact throughout the former soviet union you can still meet people who regard stalin as a hero who defeated hitler and built up the soviet state but , for many others he was a murderous dictator responsible , for the deaths of millions of people. sergey parkhomenko: a spectre is haunting the streets of moscow. actors dressed as former communist leaders lenin and stalin, earning money by entertaining tourists. but for some people, stalin is no laughing matter. >> i am commander in chief josif stalin!
sergey: saint petersburg, russia's second city. and home to a woman who is certainly opposed to any revival of nostalgia for stalin. olga miller shows us the few photos she still has of her father valentin - who stalin had murdered. he was arrested in 1937 and shot a year later. the authorities alleged he was a spy a charge that was never , proven. olga miller: either they faked his signature, or they tortured him into signing the confession. the signature looks different to the one i knew from his hand. he was then sentenced to death, and shot dead on january 18th. sergey: olga miller's niec mascha never met her grandfather. but she's followed in his footsteps, and works in a museum. valentin miller was an art historian - so the connection is both professional and personal. although his fe was rarely discussed in the family.
masha miller: all i knew about grandad was that he was arrested and never released. and i knew i wasn't to ask my father about him. the only person i could talk to was my mother. it was an unspoken family rule. sergey: khoroshevo is a village located between st. petersburg and moscow. a few months ago it hit the headlines nationwide and beyond when it opened a museum about stalin. the soviet leader was also head of the red army, and during the second world war he briefly resided in this building to review developments on the front line with his generals. the room where the meeting took place resembles something of a shrine now and one that has , recently seen a growing number of younger visitors too, says the museum director.
lidia kozlova: stalin achieved more than anyone else. in 30 years he transformed our state from the ploughshare to the nuclear bomb. and today we benefit from a lot of accomplishments that were made under his leadership. sergey: a view that some in russia find appalling. the human rights group "memorial" complains that the atrocities committed by stalin are now being belittled. journalist and activist sergey parkhomenko is determined to keep the memory of the dictator's victims alive. as for current developments, he draws similarities between the stalin regime and the current russian government. sergey parkhomenko: government leaders will say one thing, but what they do in practice is different. officially they condemn the crimes of stalin. but if you look at how minorities are treated in russia today, and the polticial opposition, i'd call that stalinism. sergey: in st. petersburg, olga
miller is taking part in a project initiated by the journalist. it is called "last address," and involves plaques placed in memory of citizens murdered by stalin. the mini-memorials mark the buildings they last lived in before being taken to their deaths. this plaque is dedicated to her father valentin miller. olga: it's just how i imagined it would look. i've been dreaming for so long of this plaque being made. sergey: a dream now becoming a part of the fabric of st. petersburg. the name of a man whose last resting place will never be known now adorns the street he called home. olga: today, we are fulfilling a hope held by our family. a hope that valentin friedrichovich mler will ner be forgotten.
sergey: almost a hundred such plaques have been mounted on facades in russia since the first went up last december. damien: one of the things i've always noticed living in different countries throughout central europe is that people often look down on their neighbours to the east. here in germany for example, you sometimes hear negative stereotypes about polish people. while in poland, it is ukrainians that sometimes get treated badly. and of course the conflict in ukraine has meant that more ukrainians than ever are heading to poland to find safety or simply a better life. but now a popular tv show might just be changing attitudes for the better. >> i'm leaving lviv 'cause i lost my job at the philharmonic. >> i'm fleeing ukraine 'cause my firm went bankrupt. >> i'm going away to earn money for my family.
>> swetlana, uljana, polina and olyia are the "girls from lviv". they have millions of polish tv viewers glued to their sets every sunday night. the koleckis have followed the ukrainians' exploits as cleaning ladies in poland from the start. ala kolecka: it's really exciting, so you just have to keep watching. there's always something happening. agnieszka kolecka: we've had ukrainian cleaning ladies ourselves, but i never considered what their stories were. >> that's precisely why "girls from lviv" has proven so popular. most poles have employed a ukrainian cleaning lady. the series shows how times have changed. not long ago many poles headed west -- to germany or the uk -- to clean other people's homes. now the poles have become wealthy and, for ukraine, exemplify western-style capitalism.
maciej strzembosz: now we're on the opposite side of the fence: we're the employers. we're rich enough to hire people from poorer countries. but really this is a comedy about the poles and how they react to foreigners. >> the series uses many stereotypes. the ukrainians are young, pretty and dependent on their polish employers. swetlana cleans for a wealthy lawyer. for her she's a good catch, but all he does is ogle her. then there's oliya, who's constantly tyrannized by her employer. poles like to watch the show because it lets them feel superior, this sociologist says. sylwia urbanska: many studies show that polish women, in particular, take advantage of the ukrainians' weakness and dependency to boost their own self-esteem. they're always finding fault with them and want to discipline them.
>> many ukrainian women find themselves in this position because they're working in poland illegally, and the series shows this. some have to take what comes -- for instance a job cleaning house in the nude. in the series polina can defend herself, but in reality that's not always possible. tatjana has lived in poland for five years. she's cleaned and babysat for folks who didn't always treat her well. tatjana: it varies. most of my experiences have been positive, but i've had a couple of really bad ones, too. they were really awful. and once i was attacked on the streets by nationalists. >> maybe "girls from lviv" will change that. if poles are sympathetic to the ukrainian tv characters they might become more accepting of their real-life counterparts. the ukrainian cleaning ladies hold up a mirror to polish society -- at least, that's the intention of the show's director.
wojciech: we need to be aware that the cleaner who's sweeping or mopping up is a human being problems of their own. >> "girls from lviv" is group therapy disguised as a tv show. it's packaged well enough that it might just work. damien: looks like a good show, though. the biggest crisis facing europe today is of course the huge flow of refugees. now most people arrive in poorer southern europe which ironically , is the region least able to help. and this is a real problem because according to eu rules, people are supposed to apply for asylum in the first european country they get to. so to get round this, some richer northern european countries, such as germany and sweden, have been trying to help, by often scrapping that rule but not switzerland, as , refugees themselves have been telling us. >> a small gathering of refugees from eritrea, protesting against being housed in an underground
bunker and against switzerland , wanting to deport them to italy under the rules of the dublin regulation. it's there where they were first registered in the eu after making the perilous journey from eastern africa. germam magos: one of our friends was told he was being sent back to italy. he tried to hang himself, but luckily someone found him in time. he's in a clinic. abraham ksawet: refugees in italy live on the streets. they have no accommodation, and nobody taking care of them. >> people risking their lives, crossing the mediterranean to reach the safe haven of europe. officially, refugees are registered at their point of arrival in the eu, such as here in italy, before having their applications for asylum processed. in practice, however, those countries on the eu's exterior
border have found themselves overwhelmed by the sheer number of people, who then often face squalid conditions. most immediately head north, primarily to germany. but some travel to switzerland, like these four young afghans, aged 17 to 19. they fled the terror of the taliban, and have already lost friends and family. after enduring an odyssey half way across the world, they are now stranded in lausanne. mohsen khoshi: we've seen so many wars in afghanistan, and i'd had enough. i wanted to go to a country without war, and i read that switzerland is neutral, and has a humanitarian policy. bassir moradi: if i'm granted asylum i want to go to school here, and get some technical training. that was not possible in afghanistan.
nijat nour: i'd like to go to school here and then be able to do something for my country. i want to go back some day and help to build a new future for afghanistan. >> a distant dream for the time being. the youngsters were registered in hungary on their way here, which is why they are now to be sent back there. they've already received their notification. nijat: in hungary they held us in a shipping container for two days with nothing to eat or drink. we couldn't move or go to the toilet. and i saw many violent incidents. it was horrible. mohsen: i never imagined they would toss food to us as if we were animals in cages. maybe it's like that in prison, but i didn't expect that in europe. i was shocked. >> but their complaints fall on deaf ears here. switzerland has largely been
spared any major influx of refugees since the summer. unlike in germany, asylum-seekers tend to be sent back immediately to the place where they were first registered in europe. so far this year the swiss authorities have returned 3,500 people to italy, 580 to germany , and to hungary. 1000 martin reichlin: we expect signatory states to keep their commitments to the refugees convention and european treaties. we're observing the situation on the ground, but believe that transfers to hungary are in principle possible. >> a practice condemned by swiss refugee support groups. they say that in hungary, in particular, refugees's rights are not respected. since september, however, the swiss government has been speeding up deportations. a number of refugees, the group tells us, have attempted suicide.
michael rodriguez: you just can't send back all these people. switzerland wants to tell the world, and especially the refugees, that they're not welcome here. they're told to go to other countries like italy, germany or hungary -- anywhere as long as , it's not switzerland. >> first they fled war. now the four young afghans are afraid of facing violence in hungary, and being treated like animals in the camps there. nijat: i'm really upset. i'm feeling ill. i can't focus my mind anymore. i have no idea what to do. >> street protests like here in geneva are unlikely to make any difference. in october's general election the right-wing swiss people's party got the most votes, with its anti-immigrant stance considered a major factor in its success.
damien: the tiny british territory of gibraltar, at the southern tip of spain, is home to europe's only wild population of monkeys. traditionally local people have been rather proud of them. but it seems there's now just too much monkey business going going -- on. they are stealing food, attacking tourists and even biting people who come too close. so there are now even suggestions that a cull might be necessary. but gibraltar's local authorities have a better idea. rather than fight the monkeys, they've decided to teach some manners. >> gibraltar -- the famous rock stands at the gateway to the atlantic - a tiny piece of the u-k on the southern tip of in stark contrast to its crisis-wracked neighbor, the seven-square-kilometer port town has a booming economy.
the british overseas territory of gibraltar has belonged to the u.k. for over 300 years. an old legend connects british rule with some of its residents. they are the barbary macaques, the only primates living in the wild anywhere in europe. the legend says, as long as they roam gibraltar, the british will rule here. brian gomila spends his leisure time off the beaten tourist paths near the apes. he knows them very well - he -- well. he even studied primatology in england. brian gomila: the monkeys to me personally mean a lot. i try not to connect too much. obviously they are wild animals in the end of the day. they are used to people in general, but certainly they are not tame. so one has to understand that there are physical boundaries. >> many tourists neither understand nor respect those physical boundaries. they don't realize that the macaques can and will bite.
sometimes, the injuries are serious. in 2012, the hospital treated 59 cases of monkey bites, many of them with stitches. the bites also carry the risk of dangerous infections. the apes have lost all fear of people. nothing is safe from them. they come all the way into the town, plunder shops, and break into apartments. ohne bauchbinde: my neigbour on the top was telling me: oh you have monkeys on the top. and she saw them eating my bread. because i left my door, my window open. they come in, see the bread and help themselves eating it.
>> the streets are no longer safe, either. the macaques can snatch handbags, wallets and cameras. anyone who tries to fight back risks getting bitten. >> i was walking down main street and i had my handbag. and there was two monkeys behind me and one went to grab the bag. >> now the government's created a special monkey police. when a troop of macaques in town get unruly, the cops drive them off with clay pellets shot from blow guns. peace is restored, and the monkeys go back to the nature reserve in the upper rock area. nearly every resident has either suffered a bite themselves or knows someone who's been bitten. brian offers tours especially for people who've been bitten and are now twice shy. he explains the macaques' nature and language. brian: when i eat, i don't look at them. if i look at them, i am afraid of them. i eat, this is mine. >> if that won't do it, rounding
the mouth says to the macaques, beat it, or i will bite you, and lunch is saved. as long as the barbary apes have their friends in high places, like the upper rock they have no , reason to leave. and britannia will continue to rule. damien: the cheeky monkeys of gibraltar. let me know what you think about that or any of the stories on today's show. always great to hear from you. i can be reached on twitter, email via the programme's website or on focus on europe's facebook page. but in the meantime, it's goodbye from me. thanks very much for watching. and look forward to seeing you next time. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] ♪
steves: venice's sleek and graceful gondolas are a symbol of the city. from the start, boats were the way to get around among the island communities of the lagoon. to navigate over shifting sandbars, the boats were flat-bottomed, and the captains stood up to see. today's boats still come with gondoliers standing up and no rudder or keel. they're built with a slight curve so that a single oar on the side propels them in a straight line.
the art of the gondola survives in the quiet back canals. in this shop, the workmen, who needed to be good with wood, were traditionally from italy's mountains. that's why they maintain a refreshing alpine feel in this delightful little corner of venice. nearby, in an artisan's workshop, visitors are welcome to observe as he provides for the city's 400 gondoliers. working with traditional tools, graceful oars are carefully planed to be true and properly balanced. and each walnut forcola, the stylized oarlock, is like a sculpture -- handcrafted, one-of-a-kind, and honoring the city's heritage.
a gondola ride is a traditional must for romantics. gondolas are moored everywhere. wait till early evening, when the crowds are gone and the light is right. find a gondolier whose personality you enjoy, settle on a price, and hop in. man: [ speaking italian ] steves: on a gondola, you glide through your own private venice, far from the hubbub of modern tourism. lonely bridges, canals without sidewalks, and reflections of once-upon-a-time grandeur.