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from Photographers' Blog:

From Aleppo to no man’s land

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Miratovac, Serbia

By Marko Djuirca

I had been thinking how cold it was for this time of year to need both my hoodie and my jacket. A cold, strong wind blew over the hills of no-man’s land separating Serbia from Macedonia. I stood quietly in total darkness for an hour or so until the border patrol officer, looking through his thermal camera, said: “Here they are, I think there must be 40 of them!”

Every year, the Serbian border police catches more than 10,000 migrants from Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, who are trying to reach Serbia illegally. They come from Turkey, through Greece to Macedonia and Serbia before they reach Hungary and with it, the borderless Schengen travel zone.

When I decided to follow this story, I had no idea how strong an impact it would leave on me.

Sasha, a policeman, gave me his thermal binoculars and said: “Look to the left, they are ascending uphill, you can see them beautifully, them climbing in a column one by one.” I spent a full two minutes looking at total blackness until I could make out the tiny white outlines of people hurrying through the forest. It brought back memories of looking at black-and-white film through a magnifying glass.

from Photographers' Blog:

Beware of Englishmen in Civvies

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Novi Sad, Serbia

By Marko Djurica

At the Exit Festival in Serbia’s second city Novi Sad, you won’t find any signs pointing the way to the closest place to egress, but only signs for “emergency escape.” It is intentional so that concertgoers don’t get confused that the party continues outside the fence, but I came to see it as a hidden message.

The festival is held on the grounds of Petrovaradin, a medieval fortress on the banks of the Danube River, and has been drawing crowds from the region and from Europe for over 14 years. The original festival grew out of a post-war student protest movement against the regime of former Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic. The name was meant to be a clear call for the Milosevic regime to step down and for society to leave the consequences of a terrible dark decade behind. The festival climaxed in the mid 2000s when it was recognized as one of Europe’s top ten festivals. Since then, it has all been downhill.

from Photographers' Blog:

Neither Croat, nor Serb

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Knin, Croatia

By Antonio Bronic

Ethnic conflict shook Croatia to the core during the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Today, both Serbs and Croats in the country still bear the scars – something clearly visible if you visit the areas around the southern town of Knin. Before the war broke out, most of Knin’s citizens were Serbs. When Croatia declared independence in 1991, Serbs who wanted to remain part of Yugoslavia staged a bloody rebellion, and Knin became their stronghold. The town was recaptured by the Croatian army in 1995 and the Serb population fled in the thousands, leaving behind their homes, most of which were soon torched or blown up by the Croats.

After the war ended, some of the Serbs returned and Croatian authorities promised they would receive equal assistance in rebuilding their damaged properties. But 18 years after the conflict, many are still making do with basic or temporary living arrangements. Croatia, preparing to join the European Union on July 1, has told the EU that houses for returning refugees would be constructed. I thought I would go and investigate the situation, and after a bit of research and a few phone calls, I managed to find people to talk to both in Knin and the surrounding areas.

from Photographers' Blog:

Living in a tomb

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Nis, Serbia

By Marko Djurica

Although graves are for the dead and not for the living, a man in Serbia’s southern city of Nis has chosen a tomb to live in.

Bratislav Stojanovic, 43, a Nis-born construction worker never had a regular job. He first lived in abandoned houses, but about 15 years ago he settled in the old city cemetery. Stojanovic says homeless life is difficult and that everything he owns and needs he finds in garbage containers and on the streets. He does not have much, but highly values whatever little he has.

from Global Investing:

Emerging Policy: Rate cuts proliferate

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Emerging market central banks have clearly taken to heart the recent IMF warning that there is "an alarmingly high risk"  of a deeper global growth slump.

Two central banks have cut interest rates in the past 24 hours: Brazil  extended its year-long policy easing campaign with a quarter point cut to bring interest rates to a record low 7.25 percent and the Bank of Korea (BoK) also delivered a 25 basis point cut to 2.75 percent.  All eyes now are on Singapore which is expected to ease monetary policy on Friday while Turkey could do so next week and a Polish rate cut is looking a foregone conclusion for November.

from Left field:

APOEL Nicosia and Jovanovic could prompt further Cinderella stories

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The Champions League is heading for another spectacular climax after the quarter-final clashes produced expected winners in holders Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Bayern Munich, who must be relishing the prospect of taking centre stage in the final in their own stadium on May 19.

But rather than the usual suspects who predictably reach the latter stages of the money-spinning competition every season, it was the highly unheralded outfit of APOEL Nicosia that lit up the scene this time.

from Photographers' Blog:

Srebrenica: The story that will never end

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I've been to more than one hundred mass graves, mass funerals and witnessed the long, exhaustive process of victim identification. I took pictures of bones found in caves and rivers, taken from mud, recovered from woods and mines or just left by the road.

Most of these terrible assignments were around the small, used to be forgotten at-the-end-of-the-road town called Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Belgrade derby was full of nice not nasty surprises

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I attended my first Belgrade derby on Saturday and all the preconceptions I might have had were happily blown away in the brisk Serbian wind.

The fixture is widely regarded as the most fiery and dangerous derby in world football but despite the game almost being a title decider, the sting was taken out of the occasion by Red Star ultras refusing to turn up at Partizan's stadium.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Soccer Break Friday

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SOCCER-EURO/SPAINIt’s gone quiet on the football news front though the sun’s still out in Europe as we await another weekend of unrelenting on-pitch drama in the Euro 2012 qualifiers.

Anyone out there lucky enough to be attending the Serbia v Northern Ireland match? 240 fans got the nod.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Soccer Break Wednesday

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SOCCER-EURO/Happy middle of the week to you all, and if like me you are in London where the sun is out and there is very little football to write about, you are forgiven for thinking the season is over and the grasscourt tennis season is about to kick in.

Don't look so worried, David (right). While the weather will probably change before I’ve finished writing this blog, the good news is it’s only March and there is plenty more football left. It's just this week it’s the international break.

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