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tv   Focus on Europe  PBS  August 27, 2016 6:00pm-6:31pm PDT

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♪ michelle: hello, and welcome to "focus on europe." i'm michelle henery. it's summer here on the continent, which for many of us means beaches, bronzing and burkinis? the head to foot swimsuit popular among a small group of devout muslim women has now been banned from three beaches in france after complaints. in one of our reports we see again how some muslim women's sartorial decisions are making the people in an austrian tourist town uncomfortable. every summer, the austrian village zell am see receives tens of thousands of arab tourists drawn by the cool temperatures and snow capped slopes. but many of the locals feel a sense of unease about these visitors.
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some complain about how the women dress and say they shouldn't walk around so covered up. we have that and much more coming up later in the show. but first we go to ukraine. ever since russia's annexation of the crimean peninsula two years ago and the subsequent military conflict in eastern ukraine, tensions have been extremely high between the two countries. the fragile ceasefire that was in place may now be crumbling amid a recent upsurge in violence. in today's report, we take a look at the situation of refugees from russia, people whose criticism of their government forced them to flee their homes and seek a new life in neighboring ukraine. reporter: little remains of alexei vetrov's former life in nizhny novorod. some pictures of demonstrations, some files on his laptop. alexei tells us that he's the one carrying the poster.
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>> nostalgia and bitterness. that's what i feel when i look at these pictures. i've had to move on. my old life is over. reporter: alexei fled russia two years ago. eventually he ended up in this hostel in kyiv, ukraine. each of the rooms is shared by 10 people. for his one and a half square meters alexei pays 40 euros a month in rent. in russia, alexei was a successful small business owner and a political activist, which landed him in jail. right now, he's headed for a charity organization in kyiv. it helps to organize aid to eastern ukraine. alexei volunteers here, helping war victims over the phone. >> what's your name, and how can i help you? reporter: we accompany alexei to the russian embassy in kyiv. alexei's been here before, to
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protest against putin. it's a place that arouses mixed feelings. >> i'm not afraid here, no. but i still feel somewhat uneasy in ukraine, becaue ukraine won't grant me asylum. they won't give me permission to stay here. reporter: alexei's application for asylum was turned down. he still doesn't understand why and believes the reasons he was given were just flimsy excuses. he's not alone in his plight. since the annexation of crimea, ukraine has approved only about 5 percent of aslyum applications from russians. next alexei pays a visit to maxym butkewytsch, a human rights activist who helps people obtain legal assistance. he's been seeing more and more russian refugees. according to the united nations, alexei meets the criteria for refugee status.
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>> paradoxically, the unhcr recognizes me as a refugee, but ukraine doesn't -- on the basis of the very same convention. reporter: maxym butkewytsch says he's heard many similar stories. ukraine's government dismisses such allegations. but its human rights ombudsman admits it's a complex situation. >> we do not have a policy of rejecting asylum applications coming from people who have fled russia. there's no such policy. but there are some difficulties associated with the current legal situation in ukraine. reporter: this legal situation also affects russians who are supporting ukraine in the conflict with russia. for the ukrainian government, they are still here illegally. these military vehicles were captured in the eastern donbass region. we meet another russian, from moscow, who calls himself iwa. he's joined a right-wing ukrainian volunteer regiment that is fighting the pro-russian separatists.
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>> i could be stopped on the street at any time, and asked for my papers. i'd have to show them my russian passport, and the way things are now, i could easily be passed on to the security services and deported. reporter: some in ukraine worry that the russian secret service might send in fake refugees. aid organizations are familiar with these fears. >> of course, we understand very well that there are some security reasons, probably, that might be the floor for the rejections on the side of the immigration service, when the applications are considered. reporter: for russians who seek aslyum in ukraine, this mix of suspicion and bureaucratic hesitation can be an insurmountable hurdle. alexei has his own explanation for why it's so hard for russians to obtain asylum status in ukraine.
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>> they have plenty of political activists of their own, so why would they want russian activists? the government sees them as a danger! reporter: alexei's only choice right now is to work as a courier. he rarely earns more than 50 or 60 euros a month. alexei says he's worn out by the constant struggle of his life here kyiv. he's now hoping to move on, and try his luck with an asylum application in some other country. michelle: not everyone thinks of hot sun and fine sand as a desirable holiday. some people find the cool weather and dazzling white snow in the alps an ideal destination, not just in winter but in the summer too. every year, many people flock to zell am see, a picturesque village, located high up in the austrian alps. it is known for its breathtaking views, crisp alpine air and its
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huge popularity with muslim tourists. about one in every three visitors is from the gulf states. the region's mild temperatures give the arab visitors some respite from the searing hundred degree and higher temperatures at home. despite the healthy profits this tourism generates, some locals complain of a culture clash. reporter: nestled in an alpine valley, zell am see. in the summer, the town is a holiday hotspot. it's especially popular with tourists from the middle east, who turn the sleepy town into a cultural melting pot. >> many of our guests are from arab states. they like our location, because of our poor weather. we can guarantee that they'll have some rain every day! reporter: that's what draws people here? >> maybe so. reporter: gulf states residents,
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it seems, are happy to escape the scorching summer heat. in fact, about a third of the tourists here come from the arab world. one visitor, an egyptian doctor who is christian, says that could have unintended consequences. >> if they are going to be the majority year after year, and this is what we see, they get married to more than one wife, to bring more and more children, so the number will be increasing more and more. and i don't know what will happen to europe after 20 years or 30 years. reporter: more than ten years ago, the local tourist board started promoting their alpine paradise to travel agencies in the middle east. today the town draws tens of thousands of visitors from arab states, and they bring their customs and traditions with them. >> i have two wives and five children. all of them is a student, nobody of them is working. just me, i'm working. and my wife, she's teacher at the school.
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>> so one wife is working as a teacher? >> yes, and the second wife is staying at home, and cooking, like this. reporter: his two wives are quickly hustled away. many of the tourists here come from saudia arabia, where violations of sharia law are punished harshly. so what draws them to the alps, of all places? >> all people is talking about this place. >> why, why is it like this? >> because it's here a nice place for nature. wait, wait. wait, can i ask some question before? >> of course. >> this is for, what is it? >> this is for german television. >> i mean, for me it's good, no problem. but maybe for my wife or my friend, they don't like that, yeah. reporter: why that is, though,
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we're not told. the nearby glacier is a winter wonderland, even in the summer. a family of holidaymakers from the gulf can spend up to 20,000 euros during a week's stay in austria. it's a boon to the local economy, but not everyone here is welcoming them with open arms. >> what i don't like is that they walk around here in their burkas, totally veiled and covered. that's not right. we have to adapt to their customs when we visit their countries, too. they're here on holiday. they aren't refugees, they're tourists. reporter: the women may be veiled or at least wear headscarves but here in the alps, far from home, they're clearly enjoying themselves. the men, too, seem to be in a holiday mood. >> we can't all have the same cultures. we have to live together, even though we have different views, different cultures, different opinions. >> is your wife here?
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>> my children and my wife, yeah. they are over there. reporter: we ask if we can interview them. >> let me ask her, if she'll accept your -- reporter: he goes over to ask. back in town there are signs in arabic, intended to help smooth out potential culture clashes and misunderstandings. but there are still complaints from some locals, especially in the service sector. >> after every trip, you have to clean your taxi. it takes thirty minutes after every trip to clean up after them. dirty. and when there are children, it's a terrible trip. no one buckles up. if they do buckle up, they undo the seat belts right on the autobahn. the children hop into the luggage space. you might be on the way, driving 180 or 160 kilometers an hour on the autobahn in germany, and you
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have to hit the brakes and yell at them. that's the type of people they are. reporter: most other locals are more reticent. we weren't able to get an interview with city officials, tourism representatives, or any of the hotels in the center of town. they want to avoid bad publicity. but barbara pillwein, who rents out holiday accomodations, tells us she no longer welcomes guests from arab countries. >> they book an apartment for a certain number of people, and then they just show up with a larger group. that's a problem for landlords and inkeepers, because our prices are set according to the stated number of residents. and our apartments aren't equipped to handle such large groups. reporter: back at home,
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temperatures reach 54 degrees celsius in the shade. here it's a refreshing 18 degrees. in the town's recreation park, the potential culture clash seems to be less of a problem. >> they're very good guests, and every year they get a bit friendlier. and they're adapting to our rules and way of doing things. so quite honestly, i also love our arab guests. they are so happy to enjoy themselves, and they also enjoy spending theiir money. reporter: visitors from the gulf spend about twice as much as other tourists. and some spend far more than that. >> we're german television. where are you from? >> we are from dubai. >> sorry i don't -- >> no, it's fine. >> who are you? >> i'm from dubai. a normal guy.
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>> you're not. >> yeah, i'm a normal guy. but you said "your highness." >> i'm not a highness. reporter: a normal guy, then, in a rolls royce. many of the visitors also make a stop by the summer toboggan run. like most everywhere these days, selfies are all the all the rage in the middle east. sometimes that can hold things up. >> sometimes the arab guests stop to take a selfie, or drop their cell phones. that leads to traffic jams, where we have to stop the toboggan run. then other guests come to us and want a second ride. so those are the kind of problems we see. reporter: local opinions clearly differ when it comes to visitors from the gulf. but there's one thing that's undisputed -- they're good for business. michelle: should tourists adhere to local norms of behavior or should the locals make a better effort to understand other cultures? let us know what you think about that by getting in touch on facebook, email or twitter.
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with the refugee crisis and terror attacks dominating headlines, tales of the economic crisis that threatened to tear the europe union apart all but disappeared. the bank crisis is however still affecting parts of the continent. italy, the eurozone's third-largest economy, is struggling with huge public debt as well as a looming crisis in its banking sector. all that has has driven thousands of small businesses into bankruptcy, for instance in the northern italian town of padua. but in our next report, we show how some enterprising employees there took matters into their own hands. reporter: solimano dal corso is under pressure. he may be the production manager here, but with 4,000 books due for delivery tomorrow, it's all hands on board.
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the 25 members of the zanardi cooperative haven't had an idle moment since they took over their company. >> if we hadn't taken things into our own hands with our cooperative, then all the machinery here would now be lying still and zanardi's would no longer exist. but because we joined together and put everything into the firm, we have breathed life into it again and things are on the up! reporter: the printing and book binding company was founded in padua in 1960 and used to employ more than 300 people. for decades, the firm used to export glossy coffee table books throughout the world. but debts started to heap up during the financial crisis. there were redundancies and the company finally went bankrupt. in 2014 the company's founder, giorgio zanardi, hanged himself in his office. >> his death was a heavy blow.
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we were all wondering how on earth we could carry on without him. we put our heads together and decided to try and make a go of it ourselves, rather than throw away his lifetime's work! reporter: twenty-five former staff members set up a co-operative and invested their own money in the insolvent company. former managing director, mario grillo was one of them -- he's currently president of the co-operative. large parts of the building still lie empty. the workers' initiative has only been able to rent a third of the space from the liquidator so far. >> all together, me included, we have invested 500,000 euros in the company. from 10,000 to 30,000 each. all of us are risking our future to some degree. if the thing goes belly up, then we'll lose all our money.
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reporter: it's 7:30 p.m. -- the end of another long day for solimano. overtime is unpaid and like everyone else, he has taken a cut in wages. the firm's survival is more important. solimano has 20,000 euros to lose. he had his unemployment benefits paid out in advance as a lump sum. you can do this in italy, if you want to set up a firm. the amount depends on your age. >> i think it was a good investment. i have to sacrifice a lot of my time for the company, but it's more fun. nowadays, everyone works full-out. people are also prepared to step in and help others, if problems arise. there is more solidarity and we have a lot more common ground. reporter: grillo is pleased to see that old customers are beginning to return. to help the buyout to get off the ground, the cooperative received a 700,000 euro loan to top up the 500,000 euros of workers' capital. it came from three regional funds.
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the cooperative association legacoop played a pivotal role. some 50 workers' buyouts have already taken place across italy, five of them in the veneto region. >> our worker buyout model has worked well in our region up to now. all of the participants have to pull together. we work together with the workers to prepare the takeover, if the company is economically viable. that means that jobs, skills and prosperity can be retained. and that's in everyone's interest. reporter: in 2015 alone, there were thirteen worker's buyouts in italy. there will be more this year. the zanardi cooperative marked its one year anniversary in january --and had a small increase in turnover to report. >> it's still pretty tough. we have to buy back more machinery and we have an awful lot of debt.
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>> it's a challenge, a gamble. and we have to do everything to make sure it pays off. >> i don't regret it. we're a good team. i would say we're a winning team. reporter: a few weeks ago, they were able to buy more machinery from the bankruptcy assets. now they can take on more orders and employ more staff. with any luck, some of them will also want to join the co-operative -- and invest in their own future. michelle: imagine losing everything you ever knew at age nine. your belongings, your friends, your family, your home. having to flee at a moment's notice from the familiar to the unfamiliar. i'm not talking about today's syrian refugees but about the germans cast out from their homes in the upheaval at the end
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of the second world war. such as those from former german territories that are now part of poland. many of the families were forced to abandon some of their most prized possessions. only now, since the fall of communism have these former refugees -- now well into old age -- been able to retrieve some treasures from their past. reporter: his childhood home must have been here somewhere. klaus thiel was nine when he had to flee his hometown, kostrzyn, which was destroyed by soviet bombers in the second world war. >> it was a brutal rupture -- from one day to the next we were nothing. reporter: nowadays, the town is part of poland. the journalist spends a lot of time here these days. he is showing two polish treasure hunters where part of his family legacy, his history, might be buried.
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>> that was the commandant's headquarters. here is my house. number 22. reporter: but little remains of it. they're trying to unearth the cellar. thiel wants to get in there. >> i have a lot of beautiful books down here. and my relatives have some real treasures down there, silver cutlery for 24 people and porcelain. and my mother had something that was very valuable back then, at least 20 jars full of potted meat. reporter: the family were forced to leave almost everything behind. the same was true of some 12 million germans who fled or were expelled as nazi germany crumbled. thiel dreams of finding a memento of the past. but it's not looking good. >> the cellar is too deeply buried. we need completely different machinery to dig here.
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>> it's a tragedy! what else can i say? reporter: the men try their luck next door. perhaps they can get into the cellar of thiel's childhood home from there. while thiel waits above ground, the professionals creep into the cellar of the former pharmacy. german soldiers were entrenched here during the battle for the town. entry is prohibited. the treasure hunters from the association called perkun could be risking their lives. >> when the bomb hit the house, the whole top story collapsed. this could give way at any moment. reporter: it's a dangerous endeavour. but thiel is pleased with the results. the treasure hunters bring him objects that belonged to the house's inhabitants -- awakening memories of his childhood more than 70 years ago. >> hutschenreuther! very expensive porcelain.
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an inkwell. and inside it a small shell brought home from the baltic. for me, each of these objects awaken emotions even if they didn't belong to my family. maybe they belonged to people i knew. reporter: the treasure seekers are unable to reach the cellar of his childhood home. thiel isn't sure whether he'll continue the hunt. but, he says, retrieving parts of his chilhood in this way is a healing process. michelle: i think that's something felt by refugees everywhere -- the need to retrieve one's past in order to move forward in the present. before we get to the end of our program, we'd like to let you know about a special series coming up in the next few weeks from our correspondent in russia. >> eastward -- stories from russia. a giant country facing giant challenges. from the black sea over the ural mountains to st.
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petersburg. we take you on a journey to sinking cities, ancient cultures -- to a nation full of contradictions. what are the dreams, fears and hopes of the russian people? join us for "eastward -- stories from russia." michelle: that's it for today. thank you for watching. we hope you enjoyed today's program and look forward to our upcoming series. don't forget that you can watch any of those reports again on our website. in the meantime it's goodbye from all of us on the "focus on europe" team. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
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steves: a selection of ferries make the 50-mile crossing between helsinki and tallinn nearly hourly. because of the ease of this delightful two-hour cruise and the variety a quick trip over to estonia adds to your nordic travels, pairing helsinki and tallinn is a natural. stepping off the boat in tallinn, the capital of estonia, you feel you've traveled a long way culturally from finland. its a mix of east and west. tallinn's nordic lutheran culture and language connect it with stockholm and helsinki,
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but two centuries of czarist russian rule and nearly 50 years as part of the soviet union have blended in a distinctly russian flavor. fins and estonians share a similar history. first, swedish domination, then russian. then independence after world war i. until 1940, the estonians were about as affluent as the fins, but then estonia was gobbled up by an expanding soviet empire and spent the decades after world war ii under communism. when the ussr fell, estonia regained its freedom, and in 2004, it joined the european union. tallinn has modernized at an astounding rate since the fall of the soviet union. its business district shines with the same glass and steel gleam you'll find in any modern city. yet nearby are the rugged and fully intact medieval walls, and the town within these ramparts has a beautifully preserved old-world ambiance. among medieval cities in the north of europe,
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none are as well preserved as tallinn. the town hall square was a marketplace through the centuries. its fine old buildings are a reminder that tallinn was once an important medieval trading center. today it's a touristy scene, full of people just having fun. through the season, each midday, cruise-ship groups congest the center as they blitz the town in the care of local guides. like many tourist zones, tallinn's is a commercial gauntlet. here there's a hokey torture museum, strolling russian dolls, medieval theme restaurants complete with touts, and enthusiastic hawkers of ye olde taste treats. woman: [ laughs ] steves: but just a couple blocks away is, for me, the real attraction of tallinn -- workaday locals enjoying real freedom and better economic times. still-ramshackle courtyards host inviting cafés.
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bistros serve organic cuisine in a chic patina of old-world-meets new. and just outside the walls, it seems there's no tourism at all. under towering ramparts, the former moat is now a park, perfect for a warm afternoon stroll.
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