Fellows 2015

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Vladimir Karaj

Vladimir Karaj has been an editor at the Albanian newspaper Mapo since 2013.

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Fotini Barka

Fotini Barka is a freelance journalist based in Athens.

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Lindita Cela

Lindita Cela is a journalist at Ora News TV in Albania.

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Kostas Koukoumakas

Kostas Koukoumakas is a freelance journalist based in Thessaloniki, northern Greece.

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Jasmina Lazic

Jasmina Lazic is a journalist at Vreme weekly and features editor at ELLE Serbia magazine.

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Jeton Mehmeti

Jeton Mehmeti works as a policy analyst at the GAP Institute, a Kosovo think tank, and teaches at the Department of Journalism at the University of Pristina.

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Mariya Petkova

Mariya Petkova is a Bulgarian journalist covering stories in eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East.

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Damir Pilic

Damir Pilic is a journalist for Slobodna Dalmacija newspaper in Split, covering social issues.

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Laura Stefanut

Laura Stefanut is a freelance journalist based in Romania.

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Zornitsa Stoilova

Zornitsa Stoilova is a journalist and editor at the Bulgarian business publication Capital Weekly.

Topic

Topic 2015: Values

The theme for this year’s fellowship is Values. Let the topic inspire a new idea for a story. Or think of a story you’ve wanted to do and see if you can link it to the topic.

Diaries

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Spiritual Awakenings

Vladimir Karaj

Faith finds ways into a country childhood in communist Albania.

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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.

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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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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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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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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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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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Revealing stories from notebook scribbles

Andrew Gray

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

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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.

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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.

Stories

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Fashion Victims: Even in EU, Garment Workers Face Tough Conditions

Laura Stefanut

Women in Romania and Bulgaria endure low pay, long hours and gruelling work to make clothes for luxury Western brands.

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Behind the Scenes at the Museums: Disarray in Athens and Belgrade

Fotini Barka

The saga behind a much-delayed showcase for contemporary art reflects many of modern Greece's woes — and has parallels with a troubled project in Serbia.

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Vicious Circle: Albanian Victims Struggle to Escape Shadow of Sex Trade

Lindita Cela

Abused by gangsters, disowned by their families and let down by the state, women who were trafficked as sex slaves face an uphill battle to build new lives.

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The Roma and the Radicals: Bulgaria’s Alleged ISIS Support Base

Zornitsa Stoilova

Accusations that a charismatic imam and his followers have spread ISIS propaganda and assisted jihadists reveal a deeper story about a marginalised community

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War Gains: Bulgarian Arms Add Fuel to Middle East Conflicts

Maryia Petkova

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the US have bought millions of dollars of Bulgarian weaponry, much of it likely destined for the war in Syria, a BIRN investigation reveals

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Love Thy Neighbour: The church and the refugees

Kostas Koukoumakas

Priests in the Balkans are among those helping the thousands reaching Europe's shores — even as some of their colleagues raise fears about the arrival of large numbers of Muslims

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Tolerance Test: Radicalisation Poses Challenge for Albania

Vladimir Karaj

Is a long tradition of religious coexistence at risk from the rise of a strain of Islam openly hostile to other faiths?

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Red Revival: The Fall and Rise of Karl Marx

Damir Pilic

Meet the academics whose devotion to Marxism cost them their jobs in the 1990s — and the thinkers driving Marx back up the political agenda across Europe today.

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Motherhood on Ice: Women Face Egg-Freezing Quandary

Jasmina Lazic

Women in the West are being encouraged to freeze their eggs to have a better chance of conceiving later in life. Will the procedure catch on in Serbia and Croatia?

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"Diploma Factories": Kosovo and Albania Churn Out Graduates with Few Prospects

Jeton Mehmeti

More and more young people are getting university degrees but many end up jobless or in low-skilled work