Since the early days of the conflict in Ukraine, Pornhub, one of the largest providers of online pornographic content, has introduced special categories such as “Girls from Ukraine” or just the “hashtag” “Ukranian (women)”. At the same time Pornhub blocked users from Russia, when they tried to access the platform they were greeted with the Ukrainian flag.
The fact that on various porn sites searches for Ukrainian women and girls have increased dramatically is less odious than the information provided by a recent report that Russian soldiers who invaded Ukraine not only raped and murdered women, but filmed and then uploaded to porn sites some of this heinous activity. There have also been cases of online self-promotion where Russian soldiers have been encouraged by their wives to rape Ukrainian women, one of the most “famous” becoming Roman Boikovsky, about whom the Ukrainian intelligence claims that his wife Olga encouraged him to rape Ukrainian women on the condition that he “protects” himself during intercourse.
About borders and bridges in Southeast Europe, about the natural and human treasures waiting to be discovered: an interview with Kapka Kassabova, author of the books Border, To The Lake
Smaranda Schiopu & Vladimir Mitev
We spoke with the writer Kapka Kassabova in early March 2022, on the occasion of the Romanian translation of her book, Border. By then the war in neighbouring Ukraine had already been raging for two weeks. We talked about borders, the Balkans, war, but also about the things that unite us in this corner of the world. She reminded me, and she reminds us all, that continuing to be witnesses and offer solidarity is our collective responsibility.
Kapka Kassabova is a multifaceted writer, moving from poetry to fiction and non-fiction, yet she is probably best known for her spellbinding blend of personal and local history travel writing. Originally from Sofia, Bulgaria, she emigrated with her family to New Zealand in the late 1980s and after graduating from university, she started on her own travels and settled in the Scottish Highlands.
Choosing an occupation previously reserved for men – the travel writer – Kapka Kassabova can sit next to other authors who have made their way to Southeast Europe, such as Mary Edith Durham or Rebecca West. What makes her stand apart is her deeper connection with the mysteries of the Balkans which translate into a more nuanced understanding of the contradictions in this area.
In 2017, she published the book Border – A Journey To The Edge of Europe, awarded all over Europe. In it, Kassabova embarks on a journey along the border between Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, documenting the present and the past of the towns and villages at this southeastern end of the former Iron Curtain. Before the collapse of the USSR, many lost their lives trying to reach the dreamy West. Today, part of that border is the border between the European Union and Turkey, another line separating freedom of movement beneficiaries and refugees seeking a better world.
On each side of the current borders, the writer encounters shepherds, former border guards, traders, farmers, refugees or even human traffickers. They talk about lost lives, but also about the symbolic violence of physical boundaries and their effects across generations.
In her most recent book, To The Lake, Kapka Kassabova explores her maternal grandmother’s roots, around lakes Ohrid and Prespa, a geographically contested area, subject of international quarrels among Greece, North Macedonia and Albania.
This interview was published on 8 April 2022 at the Romanian cultural magazine Scena9.
A review of the novel The Physics of Sorrow, published in 2021 in Romanian in translation by Catalina Puiu
In the third month of autumn, sometime in November 2021, quotes from Georgi Gospodinov’s The Physics of Sorrow appeared in Romanian online social media? (Facebook). A literary critic (or something like that) expressed thoughts about the writer’s puberty and the somewhat intimate relationship between adolescent events and political ones (it so happens that right after the author’s first kiss with a girl Brezhnev died). Another quotation, taken from the novel by a university professor, refers to the year 1952, when, at some anniversary of the University of Frankfurt, Horkheimer appears not only aged but in a frivolous mood, with some carnival objects (what would Adorno say about such allegorical frivolity?).