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‘The Burning Gadulka’ by Rayko Baychev, reviewed by Judith Fagelson


The gadulka’s role in a Bulgarian folk orchestra might be compared the viola’s in a Western classical orchestra. Like the viola, it has bowed strings. Like the viola, it supports the other instruments, providing a sort of musical backbone, but doesn’t quite work as a solo instrument. And, like violists, gadulka players find themselves the…

Judith Fagelson | 10/03/2016

‘Londongrad’ – CTC’s hard-hitting new series about Russian ex-pats in the Capital, reviewed by Judith Fagelson


A comedy-drama aimed at teenagers about Russian expat life doesn’t sound like the cutting edge of television – but somehow, it is. Londongrad is a new series by the independent Russian channel CTC. At a glance, it looks like nothing revolutionary. Scratch the surface, though, and you’ll find a carefully constructed piece of work, breaking…

Judith Fagelson | 25/01/2016
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REMEMBERING BOSNIA: Sarajevo under Siege. Two books, reviewed by Judith Fagelson

In war-ravaged Bosnia in the 1990s, the UN’s largely symbolic interventions failed time and again to bring peace to the region. Partly as a result of the West’s inertia until the late stages of the war, tens of thousands of civilians lost their lives, and even more lost their homes. The siege of Sarajevo was…

Judith Fagelson | 16/12/2015
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PLAY POLAND PREVIEW: ‘Carte Blanche’ (Lusinski, 2015) reviewed by Judith Fagelson


Carte Blanche should be a moving, powerful work about triumph in the face of adversity, but it somehow falls just short of the mark. Its basic premise, inspired by the true story of Maciej Białek, has great potential. Leading character Kacper, played Andzrej Chyra, is diagnosed with a genetic condition that causes pigment to build…

Judith Fagelson | 20/11/2015
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‘Babushkas of Chernobyl’ (Morris & Bogart, 2015) reviewed by Judith Fagelson


It’s like something out of a post-apocalyptic science fiction work: a nuclear power plant explodes, leaving everything in a thirty kilometre radius officially uninhabitable. But against the odds, a hundred or so former inhabitants of the “exclusion zone” sneak illicitly back into their old homes and try to rebuild their former lives. Holly Morris and…

Judith Fagelson | 06/11/2015

Golos: Ukrainian Voices (Gavanski & Levchenko 2015) reviewed by Judith Fagelson


Bulgarian actor Dolya Gavanski and Ukrainian filmmaker Fedor Levchenko have teamed up to make Golos: Ukrainian Voices, a sensitive and insightful documentary about modern-day Ukraine. Although the film takes the Euro-Maidan demonstrations of late 2013 and 2014 as its starting point, the unrest is really just a pretext. In fact, Golos: Ukrainian Voices would be…

Judith Fagelson | 27/10/2015
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The Elixir of Freedom – Michael Moran at Ognisko Polskie, by Judith Fagelson

Michael Moran was first posted to Poland shortly after the collapse of communism, and he’s clearly grown deeply attached to the country. Born and raised in Australia, he initially felt a degree of objectivity that Europeans attempting to study Poland might not, and arrived unshackled by any preconceptions or stereotypes about the Poles. It’s interesting…

Judith Fagelson | 06/10/2015
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Sarah Hurst: ‘The Way to Ukraine’, reviewed by Judith Fagelson

“Nobody reads articles anymore,” says Sarah Hurst, bluntly. And she’s right – even this piece is written with the full knowledge that most readers will probably only skim through it. Nowadays, we’re so overloaded by information that anything more than 140 characters long can go overlooked. We’re increasingly getting our news online rather than in…

Judith Fagelson | 16/09/2015