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The English artist helping migrants on a Greek island

Kostas Koukoumakas

There is an unearthly silence on the isolated beach in the north of Lesvos, a Greek island in the eastern Aegean. The sun has just risen and the sea is dyed in the colours of dawn. Apart from me, there is just one other person on the beach, a man with a peculiar haircut - pudding-bowl style on top, long at the back.

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From Karl Marx to Sister Teresa

Damir Pilic

There is no doubt that Karl Marx is one of the most influential philosophers of all time. Just one illustration: in a BBC poll in 1999, he was voted “the greatest thinker of the millennium”.

In my personal life, Karl Marx has also played an important role. Without him, I probably would not have been born.


Revealing stories from notebook scribbles

Andrew Gray

Reporters on the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence are offering a glimpse into their notebooks.


The Romanian city that can only export luxury

Laura Stefanut

The old lady sitting on a street bench had the elegance of a grandmother dressed for church. She looked intrigued and somewhat amused by my question. After pausing to see whether I was joking, she replied: "You won't find a shopping mall in this city. No famous brands. People could never afford them."

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Language loss reflects changing identity of Bulgarian Roma

Zornitsa Stoilova

"How come I was born in Bulgaria and I don’t feel Bulgarian?! That’s not right." Yashar Hassan is angry. We are seated in the middle of the market in Stolipinovo, a Roma neighbourhood in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv with more than 50,000 residents. He is smoking cigarette after cigarette and his voice rises with the temperature of his words.

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A degree of hopelessness

Jeton Mehmeti

Blerim Cakolli has both a bachelor's and a master's degree from the Faculty of Law at the University of Pristina. Since he graduated with his advanced degree three years ago, he has been working full-time - not as a lawyer, but as a waiter in a restaurant.

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Hard times for Bulgaria's old arms hub

Mariya Petkova

Late last year, rumours spread through the historic Bulgarian town of Sopot that its most famous landmark, a statue of the great writer Ivan Vazov, might be sold off. The debt-laden local council was unable to pay its creditors so its property was appraised and put up for sale. As it turned out, the statue survived, although the mayor’s chair didn’t – it was sold for 74levs (about 37 euros).

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What to Expect When a Surrogate's Expecting

Jasmina Lazic

We meet in a café, after work. She welcomes me with a big smile.  As the topic is very sensitive, she asks me not to publish her real name. So we decide to call her Radmila.

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The Sex Worker and Albania's Highest Court

Lindita Cela

Pamela (a pseudonym to protect her identity) was arrested in January last year in a well-known hotel in Tirana, in bed with two businessmen and a substantial quantity of cocaine. She is 18 years old. She started working as a prostitute when she was 14.


Spiritual Awakenings

Vladimir Karaj

Faith finds ways into a country childhood in communist Albania.