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tv   France 24  LINKTV  May 26, 2022 2:30pm-3:01pm PDT

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peter: hello, and welcome to “focus on europe.” and we begin in russia, where each may, people mark the end of the second world war in europe. festivities highlight the country's role as a great liberator from nazi germany. but now, russia itself is pushing ahead with a brutal onslaught against its neighbor, ukraine. heavy fighting continues, especially in the east of the country. russian forces have stepped up their relentless attack on kharkiv, leaving ukraine's second city devastated. many smaller settlements across the east of the country are
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also in ruins. and it's impossible to count the civilian casualties. well, normal life -- joy, happiness, and laughter -- are, it seems, a thing of the past. so it's bitterly ironic that europe's largest circus, circus krone from munich, is currently hosting a number of performers from ukraine, including 30 artists who fled from the war. and when they step into the spotlight, there are dazzling skills and laughter. but when the lights come back up, there's fear and uncertainty about what the future holds for the artists themselves and their families. reporter: the bingo troupe is taking the stage by storm. with their acrobatic and dance numbers, the performers make audiences go wild in munich's circus krone. viktoria velytchko's troupe is from ukraine, where war is
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raging. but sometimes, being in the spotlight helps take her mind off her worries, if only for a little while. viktoria: out there, i'm completely concentrated on what i'm doing, on the movements, choreography, music, audience. it was hard at first. reporter: the performers were on tour when russia attacked ukraine, in the middle of the night. nothing's been the same since. viktoria: i looked at my phone in the morning and had millions of missed calls and texts. “they're bombing us.” “war has broken out.” missed calls from my whole family. i worry it could go on for a long time, for years. and i'm scared i won't see my family anytime soon. reporter: viktoria says the images from ukraine are devastating.
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her family lives in dniprorudno, about 200 kilometers from hard-hit mariupol. it's a region where the russian army now has the upper hand. viktoria's parents and both her grandmothers live in an occupied city. they don't want to be identified in photos, out of fear of the russian soldiers. at 15, viktoria left home to attend circus school in kyiv. she's spent most of her time on tour with the bingo troupe ever since. the young acrobats are like a second family. 25-year-old viktoria is the eldest -- the others affectionately call her “mom.” when she's not on-stage, viktoria is in constant phone contact with her own mom. she says she's never been as homesick as she is now. viktoria: i feel bad. everything's fine for me and
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i'm safe, but my family isn't. reporter: besides viktoria's troupe, the 10-member circus band is also from ukraine. solidarity is important for this international ensemble. since war broke out, circus krone has opened its doors here in munich to relatives and former performers. 30 new arrivals from the warzone are living here, and they're welcome to stay as long as they need to, free of charge. frank: helping each other out is a natural part of circus life. you always help. especially on tour, there are sometimes emergency situations. like right now. we're one big family. that's just the way a circus works. reporter: munich is proving to be a refuge for many, thanks in part to the circus. anna akulova has recently returned to circus krone. she worked as a dancer here for
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seven years before heading to the eastern ukrainian city of kharkiv. but a few weeks ago, she and her eight-year-old son timofey had to flee. the circus even arranged to pick her up at the polish border. anna: our lights, water, and heating went out in kharkiv. it was really cold. when the planes came with their bombs, that was the turning point for me. i knew i had to get my child out of there. reporter: the troupe is warming up for a performance. they're putting on two separate shows today. concentration is key. everyone makes a point of not talking about the war before going on stage. because viktoria and her fellow-performers fear for their country.
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viktoria: i used to have big plans in life. i always like to plan ahead. but now, all i want is for the war to end and to see my family. i want to see kyiv and my favorite people. i want them to all be alive and okay. that's the only plan i have now. i think it will happen soon. i want to believe it will. reporter: viktoria isn't about to let fear slow her down. after all, the show must go on. peter: now on a very different note, we go to the dry and often barren landscapes of western spain and portugal. where, not too long ago, whole villages were wiped off the map when they were submerged below reservoirs. now, however, low water levels
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have enabled onlookers like paco villalonga to see those same villages literally re-emerging as the waters recede. the 71-year-old can hardly believe his eyes. reporter: normally, paco villalonga would now be getting wet feet. this was once a vast reservoir. but it's been drying out, and now his old village, once submerged, has reemerged. paco: that was my grandmother's house. i spent my childhood here, with my parents, my cousins, uncles, and aunts. this was our house. reporter: this was the spanish village of aceredo, located near the portuguese border. along with the entire valley, it was flooded when the alto lindoso reservoir was created. for 30 years, the village had
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been submerged. the old village fountain is still running. paco: i remember my grandmother and a girl coming here to fetch water. the girl splashed water on her for fun. and she did the same. they kept going until both were soaking wet. it was summer, so it didn't matter. reporter: it still pains the 71-year-old that he had to leave his village. but he's also concerned by how much water levels have fallen. paco: there was always a lot of water in the region. but now climate change is having a strong impact. climate change is to blame, and that means we are to blame. we humans caused this, and we just keep going as before. reporter: alto lindoso dam was completed in 1992.
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at the time, it was deemed a great feat of engineering. portugal built it right by the border. it's still one of the country's largest hydropower plants. irene sao martinho remembers when the dam was built. she's from portugal, and understands the feelings of her spanish neighbors who had their properties flooded. but she says they have no reason to complain. irene: they were compensated. they received a lot of money, even for shanties and chicken coops. it allowed them to build big houses afterwards. reporter: paco's parents used the money to build a new home higher up. today, paco lives there alone. all that's survived of his old village are a few mementos -- photos, and his 50-year-old home videos.
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paco: will anybody give me back my childhood? the paths we hung out around, the fruit trees we stole from. these memories of childhood foolishness are etched on my memory. if you take them away, what does that make me? nobody thought about those things. reporter: the reappearance of aceredo has had a big effect in the community. javier silva runs a bar and restaurant in lobios. he says the dried-up reservoir is a real attraction. javier: we in the restaurant industry can't complain. sure, it brings back memories for the people who once lived in the village. but it's been great for business, and still is.
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reporter: richard sitranen made a special detour to see what's left of the reservoir. the danish tourist is both fascinated and shocked by the sight. richard: i never really took it into consideration how dry the weather can be, especially because even in france and spain i've noticed a lot of areas where they don't want any form of fire. don't even throw a cigarette butt out or nothing, because i guess everything will catch fire because it's so dry. reporter: the dry conditions mean fires like this one are common. as is drought. paco: we lost our history, our roots, experiences. and to see it like this -- it would have been better not to be compensated. we could have stayed, and the village would have been full of life like before. reporter: he doubts the reservoir will ever again submerge his village for such a long time.
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he plans to keep coming here, searching for traces of the past. peter: homosexuality isn't exactly banned in turkey, but homophobia is widespread, and members of the lgbtq community get little protection from discrimination. not surprisingly, given that the country's religious authorities view homosexuality as degenerate. some gay men enter into marriages of convenience with women to hide the truth. and in a new film, mustafa tells of the pain of having a long-term partner who's married to someone else. appropriately, it's called, “this is not me.” reporter: mustafa lives in tarlabasi, a poor neighborhood of istanbul. he moved here from antalya years ago. he was attracted by the anonymity and the fact that many minorities live here, including gay and trans people. mustafa says his family knows
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he's gay, but they ignore the fact. he says he can live freely in tarlabasi and he doesn't owe anybody an explanation. his neighbor also accepts him for who he is. mustafa moved to istanbul to be with his boyfriend, mehmet. but for both men, the relationship has involved a life of deceit and frustration. mustafa: mehmet grew up in a very authoritarian family. he was forced into an arranged marriage with a woman he didn't love. it was to make sure there would be offspring. reporter: what about mehmet's wife? mustafa: his wife has no idea, so she doesn't ow any parcular feelings. like mehmet, she's a closed person. she can't open herself to her environment. reporter:
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a film about mustafa and mehmet premiered at the istanbul film festival. made by directors gülsen and kacak, it triggered a controversial debate about a taboo topic in turkey. it's about gay men who marry women for the sake of appearances. from the outside, they appear to lead what society considers a normal life. in the film, mustafa and mehmet are very open about their relationship. mehmet: i met mustafa 15 years ago. wow, that's a long time. nobody close to me knows the truth. only mustafa. mustafa is my real family. reporter: though istanbul remains a liberal city by turkish
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standards, society is becoming increasingly conservative and religious. mustafa knows many gay men who don't dare leave their wives. they fear being disowned by their families, and even violence. mustafa: family and society force men to live hidden lives and to keep their homosexuality secret. they fear reactions, serious consequences. reporter: istanbul has a lively lgbtq scene, including numerous clubs. mustafa often comes here with his friends. it's a place to feel safe from the hostility of mainstream society. it took years for producer and director kader gülsen to gain the men's trust in order to make the film. she says that their hidden lives can cause trauma and
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psychological problems. kader: children are unhappy, wives too. they don't know about their husbands' parallel lives. they think perhaps that they are being cheated on, but not with other men. their marriages are in crisis, but the wives don't know that they are victims too. reporter: mustafa felt liberated after the film's premiere. and mehmet, too, has taken steps forward. mustafa: last i heard is that he wants to get a divorce. till now he's always hesitated, because of the children. reporter: mustafa hopes that soon, tre won't be any more barriers to the two of them living together. peter: during world war ii, the baltic sea in europe's northeast was the backdrop for massive fighting. as a result, the seabed off the coast of poland is a burial
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ground for countle ships. ny were carrying large quantities of fuel oil and other toxic materials. and now, mariners fear that the wrecks off the coast of poland in gdynia could cause an environmental disaster. reporter: benedykt hac, on the right, and his crew are approaching another shipwreck -- an old, sunken submarine. they scan it using sonar equipment. benedykt: we're now moving over the wreck, along the submarine's hull. there are probably about 5000 wrecks in polish waters. and we only know about 20% of the area of seafloor that belongs to poland. reporter: with 80% of the seafloor unexplored, thousands of shipwrecks could be releasing
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toxic chemicals. most of the wrecks are from world war ii. one of the most toxic wrecks was discovered by benedykt hac. the stuttgart was once an upscale passenger steamship before being repurposed into a hospital ship in hitler's navy. it sank in 1943 after being struck by american forces. benedykt: ships -- and shipwrecks -- deteriorate, too. the structure breaks apart. reporter: this sonar image shows the stuttgart shipwreck and how it's turned into a field of debris on the seafloor. but the really frightening thing is what benedykt hac found surrounding the ship. the researchers took samples of
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the afloor a brought them back up to the surface. this dredging equipment is dripping with a black, sticky substance -- oil from the stuttgart shipwreck. the oil is heavier than water, preventing it from floating to the surface. instead, it's been seeping into the ground for decades. benedykt: we're on the verge of an ecological disaster. reporter: the team found over 400,000 square meters of the seafloor to be contaminated with fuel. that's the equivalent of about 40 soccer pitches. the 80-year-old fuel shows up on the surface as a trail of oil. it's just a question of time before it washes up on beaches. benedykt: i've spent many years of my life there. i've often gone for walks on the beach, with my wife, too. and when our granddaughter
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comes to visit, we like to take her to the beach. it would be an irreplaceable loss if we couldn't go there anymore. reporter: the shipwreck explorer and his crew can't recover the toxic war debris. it's not clear who's even responsible for such a task, which would cost millions. most of the ships sunk in polish territorial waters were german. other countries along the baltic sea, like finland, sweden, and germany, have retrieved individual wrecks from their own territorial waters. but poland hasn't. benedykt hac says there's a lack of know-how, and so far, no one has taken the initiative. benedykt: there's this bad joke, people say you don't have to fry the fish from here in oil anymore, because they already contain oil. reporter:
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most people only see water when they look out to sea. benekt hac has made it his mission to show what lies beneath the surface. peter: now, when the ball gets rolling, people get really excited. i'm talking, of course, about soccer. well, one place where they're very passionate about the great game is italy. and just a year ago, that passion led to the creation of an italian national team made up of nuns. “mamma mia,” said some. but the venture got the blessing of -- you know who. reporter: sister emilia gets the game underway. this is italy's national team of nuns. it's sisters against sisters, football in the name of the lord.
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sister emilia: i love football because it strengthens the community. we're all from different orders. but here we're united as a team, and we have one mission. >> me, sister emilia, and regina against you three. ok? reporter: sister emilia has been part of the “sisters football club” for about a year. there are 18 nuns on the team, aged between 27 and 52. they train every sunday outside rome. but not everyone has permission to play. sister emilia: unfortunately, there are some orders where the mother superiors have not been shown the light by the holy spirit. some still think it's a sin to wear shorts or to play with a ball. they don't think nuns should show their legs. reporter: but the sisters know they have
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the blessing of pope francis. by playing football, they're simply following his appeal to not be “old maids,” but to engage in society. sister emilia lives in a convent close to the vatican, along with 12 others from her order. their mother superior supports their love of the beautiful game. sister eliana: i've played a lot of football in my life. i was a primary school teacher for 31 years. i played a lot with schoolchildren and the young people in the parish. i can never resist when i see a football. reporter: for her part, sister emilia was not always catholic. but she always loved football. she even played center-forward for a top-tier romanian team. she also had a fiancé, and
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preferred the stadium to church. then one day, a friend took her to mass. sister emilia: a nun gave me her hand as a peace blessing. this joy and her smile touched me so much that i suddenly felt a calling inside me. reporter: she joined a convent at the age of 20. but she never stopped playing football. for the nuns, playing in milan feels almost like a miracle. they're hoping that the god of football will be on their side for their third match. their coach has complete faith in them. morena: the sisters play with so much enthusiasm. they have such a passion for football. most were professional players. in me, they've found someone to give them a fresh opportunity to play. i think it's opened up a new world for them.
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reporter: that's certainly the case for sister annika, who was a rising star in italy's top division until her calling. sister annika: i quit my athletic career and said, “lord, i'll come to you, but one day i want to play football again.” that was 10 years ago. now, i'm finally playing again. reporter: they're facing a team of former top-tier players from monza. there'll be no special treatment for the nuns. >> we want to win. we'll play hard. reporter: after a quick prayer, it's time for kickoff. but the opposition is too strong. with some lost possessions and failing to convert their goal chances, not even divine intervention can save them from losing 15-1. they take the result in stride. for them, it's a joy to take part. peter: great stuff. it's time to blow the whistle on "focus on europe” this time
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round. for now, bye-bye, tshüss, and all the very best. ♪ [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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berlin. a warning that ukraine's fight against russian forces is going badly. towns and cities are being hit by intense shelling as moscow focuses on capturing ukraine's industrial heartland. also, olaf scholz tells the world economic forum all must be done to preserve globalization and ensure that russia loses i


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